Farming

Avian Flu & the Poultry Industry

Jun 22, 2015

You may have noticed that your eggs cost a little more than they did a few weeks back. Those higher prices are associated with the Avian Flu outbreak that's moving from the Midwest. But it potentially could impact a lot more than the cost of eggs.
 

In 2002 an Avian Flu strain devastated Virginia’s poultry industry and led to the destruction of millions of birds. With this latest strain, just ONE Midwest farm surpassed that number. Virginia State Veterinarian Richard Wilkes says Virginia experts went to assist and assess the situation.

Farmers markets in this country are growing. New ones are springing up all over Virginia.  These community markets are morphing into more than just places to buy fresh local produce.  They’re becoming places to hang out, eat, drink, shop, and more.

Ten  years ago, there were around 80 farmers markets operating in all of Virginia.  Today it’s 3 times that.

“Now we’ve got between 200 and 250. I say between 5: because the numbers keep changing, new markets are coming on.”

One third of America’s farmers are now over 65 years of age, creating an opportunity for younger people to enter the field, and some of the newcomers will - no doubt - be women.  Already, 14% of U.S. farmers are female, among them a Gordonsville resident who has written a book designed to help others master the skills needed to work the land. 

When Audrey Levatino decided to grow cut flowers for Charlottesville’s farmers market, herbs and specialty crops for local chefs, she wasn’t sure what she was getting into.  One friend warned it was something like becoming a mother.

For two years, the state of Virginia has been begging cattle farmers to keep animals out of streams on their property - offering to pay the full cost of fencing to prevent pollution of rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. 

Irvin White raises cattle in Central Virginia - calling recently weaned calves to the feeding trough as part of his evening routine.  From the beginning, he’s seen good reason to fence his farms - to keep cows out of the streams where they like to drink and cool off when the weather turns warm.  After all, those streams are loaded with bacteria.

A recent survey showed 28% of Virginians have a hard time getting fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities.  What’s more, half of kids said they would head for a fast food restaurant or convenience store if given $5 for food. 

To counter those problems, a group of teachers is taking Richmond kids to the farm, where they dance, sing and discover the wonders of compost. 

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