03/13/07 — County farmers gather to recognize this year's local top crop producers

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County farmers gather to recognize this year's local top crop producers

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 13, 2007 1:52 PM

Coming off one of Wayne County's most productive years -- especially with grains -- the Wayne County Farmers Association held its annual banquet Monday night to honor local growers.

The largest wheat producer in the county last year, Warren Davis, set a Wayne County record and totaled the second-highest amount in state history with his 428.4 bushels.

North Carolina Cooperative extension agent Kevin Johnson told the crowd of more than 60 farmers at the Wayne Center that last year was a fabulous year for wheat -- and the proof was in the numbers.

Brad West of West Farms accepted the second-place prize in wheat yield with 303.55 bushels. Steve Hooks was the third-highest producer with 103.23 bushels.

Last year was also an incredible year for corn, Johnson said. Matt Sanderson produced a new Wayne County record with 261.41 bushels. Sanderson also won first place for yielding 52.93 bushels of soy beans.

But other area farmers were not far behind Sanderson's corn yield total. Bryant Worley Farms produced 203 bushels and Harrell Overman won second place with 221 bushels. Bryant Worley Farms also received an award for its 47.22 bushels of soy beans last year.

The Farmers Association also recognized local students who could one day improve agriculture in Wayne.

"Education is the key to continuing agriculture, especially in the years to come," Farmers Association President Keith Waller said.

This year, the association presented three $500 scholarships. Laura Howell, a senior at Eastern Wayne High School, plans to attend North Carolina State University in the fall to study horticulture. Andrew Lancaster, a senior at Charles B. Aycock High School, is also planning on attending N.C. State. The final recipient was Ryan Craig Riley, who is currently enrolled in the agriculture program at Wayne Community College.

The association also honored those who spent their time making sure that county farmers produced the best yields possible. McClenny Farms conducted last year's stink bug tests. Many variety tests were taken last year by area farmers. Sanderson Farms conducted the wheat tests. The corn tests were done by Benny Barwick. Paul Daw did the cotton tests, and Waller Farms conducted the soy bean variety tests. Bryant Worley Farms were honored for its soy bean plant population tests.

But the evening was not all about yields, seeds and fertilizers.

"We want to use these events to discuss the issues that are important to area farmers. In years past, we've talked about skin cancer because farmers are more exposed to the sun," Johnson said.

This year, Rebecca Mendenall, a physician assistant at Western Wayne Medical Center, discussed the risks of heart disease and how residents can protect themselves from heart attacks and live a healthier life.

Heart disease is the "No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States over age 55," Mrs. Mendenall said. Heart disease can stem from family history, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Some behaviors that can increase blood pressure and cholesterol include smoking tobacco and even eating breakfast.

"Fat in the normal eastern North Carolina diet starts at breakfast with the biscuits and sausage and bacon," Mrs. Mendenall said.

The more those kinds of food are eaten, it is more likely that a person's blood pressure will increase. The target blood pressure is 120/80, but people want to make sure their blood pressure stays under 130/80. As blood pressure increases to a level such as 140/90, Mrs. Mendenall said the risk of having a heart attack doubles.

Wayne County residents also need to control their cholesterol. People want to have less than 200 in total cholesterol and less than 150 in triglycerides, Mrs. Mendenall said.

But not all of the indicators are inside the body, she added. A person's waist circumference can say a lot about his or her health. Women should have a waist that measures less than 35 inches and a man's should be less than 40 inches.

Some of the signs of heart and vascular disease include chest pains that include a squeezing or tight feeling instead of a sharp pain. Mrs. Mendenall said sharp pains are usually associated with muscular or skeletal problems.

Shortness of breath is also an indicator -- especially if it gets worse when that person is active. A person should also see a doctor if he or she experiences swelling in the legs, cramped calf muscles when walking, numbness in the legs or feet and persistent headaches, heartburn or dizziness, Mrs. Mendenall said.

People can lower their risk for heart disease by getting an annual physical and discussing their family history and risk factors with a doctor. Also, a baby aspirin daily is enough to thin the blood and prevent clots in the coronary arteries. People should also avoid fried foods and walk for at least 30 minutes daily four or five times a week, she said.