In 2008 there were 52,500 farms in North Carolina. Of those farms, 38 percent had annual sales of more than $10,000. Many of the remainder were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres); crops were grown on 58 percent of the land. The rest was divided between pasture and woodlots. Chickens and broilers and hogs outranked all other agricultural products as sources of farm income, accounting for three-fifths of total farm sales in 1997 and nine-tenths of all livestock sales. North Carolina ranked first among the states in production of turkeys, second in hogs, and fourth in broilers (young chickens used for meat). During the 1990s huge hog farm operations began to dominate the rural countryside of the inner Coastal Plain.
Tobacco growing was the dominant and best-known agricultural activity in the state for many years. It is still the leading crop, but in 1997 tobacco accounted for only one-seventh of total agricultural sales. Soybeans are the most widely grown crop in North Carolina, accounting for almost one-quarter of the harvested crop acreage, and corn is the second leading crop by acreage planted. Cotton, the state’s leading crop as late as 1952, went through a period of decline, but has become more important since the early 1980s. Greenhouse and nursery items are now the second most valuable crop group in the state’s agricultural economy. The Atlantic Coastal Plain is North Carolina’s leading agricultural region. It has nearly three-fifths of the state’s cropland.
About three-fifths of North Carolina’s tobacco acreage is in the Coastal Plain. In the inner Coastal Plain, where sandy well-drained soil is plentiful, the state’s tobacco crop is most abundant.
Over wide areas it is grown on practically every farm. Tobacco acreage is rigidly controlled by a government quota system. Practically all Coastal Plain tobacco is the bright leaf flue-cured kind, which is used almost exclusively for cigarettes.
Nearly three-fourths of North Carolina’s corn acreage is in the Coastal Plain. Most of the state’s peanuts are raised in the northeastern part of the plain. This peanut-growing region extends into Virginia and is one of the leading peanut areas in the nation. Soybeans, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, and a wide variety of vegetables are much more important in the Coastal Plain than in other regions of North Carolina. Truck farming is significant in the Morehead City and Wilmington areas. Faison, in Duplin County, is one of the largest wholesale produce markets in the nation. The Sandhills is the state’s main peach-producing area.
The Piedmont is less important than the Atlantic Coastal Plain as a farming region. The heavily textured red clays and clay loams are adapted to a variety of grains, hay crops, and pasture, but they are not well suited to high-value cash crops. Soil erosion is a problem, but much of the hillier land that was badly eroded is now used for profitable livestock raising.
The Piedmont grows all the major crops found in the Coastal Plain, except peanuts. Tobacco, largely bright leaf but also some burley, is the leading money crop. The scale of production and acreage quotas are much smaller than in the Coastal Plain, but farming methods are similar. The Piedmont produces most of the state’s cotton crop, mainly in the southern Piedmont.
Corn leads all Piedmont crops in acreage. It is grown on most farms and is used mainly to feed stock. Among small grains, winter wheat is grown largely as a cash crop. The growing of oats is second and barley a distant third. Lespedeza leads all hay crops.
The Piedmont produces many of the state’s cattle, with about equal numbers of beef and dairy animals. High-quality Hereford, Angus, and other beef cattle are raised on many large livestock farms. However, small farms produce most of the beef. The mountains contain the least important farming region. Most mountain farming is carried on in valleys, coves, and basins.
Alluvial soils, covering narrow ribbons of floodplains along swift streams, are very restricted in total area. However, these soils are highly productive when they escape flooding. The largest and best-developed agricultural area of the region is the Asheville Basin. The Waynesville Basin and other smaller basins, coves, and valleys are also important.
As in the Atlantic Coastal Plain and in the Piedmont, tobacco is the leading cash crop of the mountains. Almost all of the tobacco is the air-cured burley kind. The crop is widely grown but on a small scale. In many areas it is the chief source of farm income. Corn is grown on practically all mountain farms. Most of it is fed to cattle and poultry, but the Asheville Basin grows a considerable amount of corn as a cash crop. Several varieties of hay crops are harvested in the region. The Asheville Basin grows vegetables and many flowers, particularly gladiolus. Apples are also widely grown. Orchards usually occupy slopes well above the valley floors. There are also vineyards, the most famous of which are at the Biltmore Estate near Asheville. In addition to cattle raising, the mountain region produces most of the state’s sheep. Both broilers and laying hens give the mountains a significant poultry industry. Farms in the Asheville Basin produce hatching eggs, which are shipped out by air to markets in other states and overseas. "North Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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