Tony Melton Receives Order of the Palmetto

This week, long time Clemson Extension Agent Tony Melton was presented the state’s highest civilian honor for his unrivaled service to the citizens and farming community of South Carolina. Senator Kent Williams presented the Order of The Palmetto at a small ceremony in Florence on Wednesday attended by family, close friends, and a few of the farmers Tony has devoted his life to serving.

During the ceremony, Tony was repeatedly described as a role model, hard-working, and, most of all, humble. “This [award] is one deserved. This is not given. This is earned the old-fashioned way.” said Sen. Williams.

Tony Melton was presented the Order of The Palmetto by Sen. Kent Williams. Tony is joined here by his wife Mitzi and Clemson Extension Director Tom Dobbins. Photo from Jonathan Windham.

After a 40-year carrer with Clemson Extension, Tony retired earlier this summer to focus on his health. In addition to his work with fruit and vegetable farmers in the Pee Dee, Tony was a frequent guest on SCETV’s Making It Grow and was well respected in the community for his home gardening expertise.

Tony and Mitzi are flanked by just a few of the farmers that have been impacted by Tony’s life-long dedication and hard work. Photo from Jonathan Windham.

In September, a garden was established at the entrance of the Pee Dee Research and Education Center (REC) in honor of Tony.

Input Wanted for Fruit and Vegetable Meeting Planning

Clemson Extension has created a short, anonymous survey to help plan for future commercial fruit and vegetable meetings. The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete and no personal or identifying information will be collected. Your responses will be used to make Extension meetings more useful and enjoyable for those who attend. Please take a few minutes to share your opinions with us.

Click here to complete the survey.

SC Farmer Named to Fruit Grower News’ 40 Under 40

From the Fruit Grower News.

Corey Harmon of Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, SC has been named to the Fruit Grower News’ 40 under 40 Class of 2021. The Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Awards honor 40 outstanding individuals making their marks in the industry.

Corey Harmon of Titan Farms. Photo from Fruit Grower News.

Corey has been with Titan Farms since 2015. In that time, he has taken over as vegetable manager and has taken great pride in trying to advance the program through trial partnerships with the mindset of a more sustainable future for agriculture. As a second-generation farmer, he appreciates that every day is different and that every obstacle is a new opportunity to learn new management techniques and practices. Corey is also a huge supporter of Clemson Extension, with whom he has partnered on numerous research trials.

These 40 young professionals represent the best in the industry. The Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2021 will be honored at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO, and recognized in the October 2021 issues of Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News.

Congratulations, Corey!

Tony Melton Retires After Long Career with Clemson

Long-time Horticulture Agent Tony Melton retired earlier this month, finishing out a 40-year career with Clemson University. Tony is best known for his passion for working with fruit and vegetable growers in the Pee Dee Region, as well as his frequent appearances on SCETV’s Making It Grow.

Tony first began his career with Clemson University in 1980 in the Horticulture Department before earning his Master’s degree in Horticulture and becoming an Extension Agent in 1989. He attributes his passion for horticulture to the time he spent working with the McLeod family of McBee, SC in his teens. To honor his dedication, the McLeods later created and funded a Clemson University scholarship in Tony’s name.

In addition to his work with the farming community, Tony worked closely with the Master Gardeners in the Pee Dee and wrote weekly articles for the Florence Morning News. He was also involved in fruit and vegetable research, managing 20 acres of research plots at the Pee Dee Research and Educations Center in Darlington. As part of this work, Tony was recently awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant to develop heat tolerant butter beans.

Throughout his career, Tony has earned numerous awards including the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Clemson Alumni Association, the County Agent of the Year from the SC Beekeeper Association, and the Distinguished Service Award from the SC Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Tony is well respected by his peers and is known for his love of work and staying busy. He’s even been known to show up on farms before the sun comes up. His kind-hearted personality and vast knowledge will be greatly missed as we all wish Tony well in this next chapter. Thanks for everything you’ve done and the impact you’ve made, Tony!

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 Reopened

From Clemson Agribusiness Agent Kevin Burkett.

Beginning April 5th, USDA Farm Service Agency began accepting new and modified CFAP 2 applications. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on March 24 the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin providing additional financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and producers impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions. This is part of a larger effort to reach a greater share of farming operations and improve USDA pandemic assistance.  

USDA reopened CFAP 2 signup for all eligible producers beginning April 5, 2021. The CFAP 2 signup period has reopened as part of USDA’s new Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. The original application period for CFAP 2 was September 21 through December 11, 2020. A deadline for signup for the reopened CFAP 2 has not been announced. Many common South Carolina fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and herb crops are eligible.

Note: Participation in CFAP 1 is NOT required for assistance through CFAP 2.

More information for specialty crop producers.

Apply for CFAP 2.

Is There A Shortage of Vegetable Seed This Spring?

From Clemson Plant Pathologist Dr. Tony Keinath.

Last week I listened to a panel assembled by The National Garden Bureau discuss this topic. Panelists included employees from Johnny’s, Seminis (Bayer), Harris, Syngenta, Jung, and Botanical Interests seed companies. The short answer to the seed shortage question was yes, 3 to 7% of cultivars—especially cultivars new for this season—may be out of stock. A website often doesn’t show how soon seed will be restocked. Restocking may take only a week if seed still available in a warehouse, or buyers may have to wait 3 to 9 months until the next seed crop is harvested.

The reasons for the seed shortage were mainly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including labor shortages of dock workers to unload shipments of seed produced in Asia and workers at seed processing facilities in rural areas. Another reason is the 3-year timeframe seed producers use when they decide how many acres of a given cultivar to plant. Increased demands for vegetable and flower seeds of 100% and 70%, respectively, mean existing seed stocks are being used up faster than expected in 2020-2021.

Several panelists suggested buyers substitute similar cultivars for out-of-stock cultivars. For growers in the South purchasing seed for vegetable crops, it’s important to find a cultivar with a similar harvest date. In the spring, heat-sensitive crops like beans and radishes need to mature quickly for optimum yields and quality. In the fall, earliness may be important for cold-sensitive cucumbers and squash. Be sure to substitute another early maturing cultivar if the desired early cultivar is not available.

Finally, a tip I heard: carrot seed is likely to be in short supply in 2022, because carrot is a biennial that flowers in the second year of growth (if not eaten before then!).

COVID-19 Ag Impact Survey Re-Lauch

Earlier in 2020 we asked fruit and vegetable producers to respond to a short survey on their experiences with COVID 19. As the pandemic is ongoing and we are close to starting a new season, we are re-launching the survey to understand what happened over the last full year and what changes are being implemented going into 2021. If you responded to the earlier survey, we appreciate your input and are asking for your response to this survey as well. Click the graphic below or scan the QR code with your phone to access the survey.

Once analyzed, the results will be available online. All survey results are anonymous and will be shown as aggregated results. We hope the results benefit producers, Extension, government, and other participants in agriculture. The greater the response, the more accurate and useful the information will be. We appreciate your time and feedback. Please contact us with any questions or concerns related to the survey.

Kevin Burkett

Kburke5@clemson.edu

540-239-4602

2021 Value Added Producer Grants from the USDA

The USDA is accepting applications for Value Added Producer Grants. The applications are due by March 22, 2021. Click below for the application templates.

According to the application, “The purpose of the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program is to help U.S. agricultural producers enter into value-added activities.  Awards may be made for either economic planning or working capital activities related to the processing and/or marketing of valued-added agricultural products.  The maximum grant amount for a planning grant is $75,000 and the maximum grant amount for a working capital grant is $250,000.”

Kyle Player of the SCDA ACRE program has planned a Value Added Producer Grant Webinar for January 7, 2021 from 3-4 pm. This will be a great webinar for learning about eligibility and applying for the grant. Click on the flier below for more information.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2

From the Farm Service Agency.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 for Specialty Crop Producers

More than 230 fruit, vegetable, horticulture, and tree nut commodities are eligible for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) along with honey, maple sap, floriculture and nursery crops. Check to see if the crops you grow are eligible through our Eligible Commodities Finder on farmers.gov/cfap.

Don’t miss a “beet” and apply for CFAP 2 by December 11, 2020, through your local USDA Farm Service Agency.

Learn more at farmers.gov/cfap or call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance.