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Agriculture is Diverse Growth Industry in Moore County

Agriculture is a profitable enterprise that makes up 20 percent of Moore County’s economic output.  From historic cash crops like tobacco and peaches, to modern interests like organic grapes and poultry, Moore County has a wealth of farming.

Here are some current statistics:

  • 89,375 acres in farmland
  • 122 acres — average farm size
  • 242 producers selling in local markets
  • $10 million in gross sales of local foods by producers
  • $150 million in market value of Moore County agricultural products

“Agriculture is a really big tent,” Debbie Hamrick, director of specialty crops for the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation, said. “And all kinds of agriculture are valuable.”

Livestock production in Moore County ranks 27th in the state, with local livestock sales represent about 91 percent of the agricultural products sold.

At Horse Creek Farm in Eagle Springs, Steve Hussey and his son, Ryan, raise grass-fed cattle in the field and organic vegetables in a year-round high tunnel-style greenhouse.

With an eye on improving their beef production, the Husseys have begun to overseed their pasture with rye, clover and turnip seeds. The intent is to both improve the soil and increase the typical weight gain of their cattle over the winter.

They’ve also created a rustic wedding venue on their scenic 600-acre family farm.

“We are trying to be sustainable with everything we do,” Hussey said.

Misty Morning Ranch is an ostrich farm in Robbins owned by Ryan and Gaby Olufs.

Considered a healthier alternative for red meat, ostrich is a niche product that has appealed to some of the area’s finest chefs and restaurants. The Olufs also process their birds for oil to be used in cosmetics, leather and cure bones for dog treats. The giant ostrich eggs are sold for consumption and also decorative purposes.

Farm manager Stuart Gamarro, Gaby’s uncle, said they hope to raise 100 baby ostriches next year. They’ve also added a breeding pair of rheas, another flightless bird.

Key Packing Company in Robbins was established 43 years ago by Gilbert and Elizabeth Key.  It is Moore County’s only meat packing plant.

The business serves local farmers and hunters putting food on their own table, in addition to commercial meat handlers for the marketplace.

Located on Maness Road, the packing plant also has a small retail area where customers can purchase fresh hamburger meat, steaks, country ham and bacon, and hoop cheese.

Four Oaks Farm is a 90-acre family enterprise in Glendon run by Michael and Adam Seawell.

Here the brothers raise free-range pork, poultry, seasonal produce including watermelons and sweet potatoes, and cut flowers. They grow corn to feed their chickens and rye to feed the goats. Come spring, their poultry litter is spread over the fields as fertilizer.

“It is good to see that small family farms are able to contribute food for themselves, residents and commercial restaurants. What is unique about our community is this diversity,” said State Rep. Jamie Boles, whose House District 59 represents much of Moore County.

(Original story by Laura Douglass, The Pilot)

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