Feeding the Holidays

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Last year, President Joe Biden gave a “Presidential Pardon” to Chocolate and Chip, two North Carolina-raised turkeys. Chocolate and Chip will spend the rest of their second-chance lives pursuing higher education degrees in Poultry Science as they become the newest residents of North Carolina State University. NC State is nationally recognized as a top poultry production and research university and is one of only six universities in the United States with a  poultry department. This is the first time NC State University will house a “Presidentially Pardoned” turkey. 

General Manager Ronnie Parker raised Chocolate and Chip in Monroe, North Carolina, at Circle S Ranch farms. Mr. Parker is a 4th Generation Farmer and the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation. Circle S Ranch raises over 9.5 million turkeys annually. This is a drop in the bucket of a 90-billion-dollar North Carolina industry. North Carolina is one of the largest turkey-producing states in the Country, second only to  Minnesota. North Carolina raises over 30 million of the 216.5 million turkeys annually. 

I am one of the many people who would rather skip the turkey and have a juicy slice of ham. North Carolina is also the 2nd largest pork producer in the nation, producing 8 million hogs and pigs annually. There are many variations of pork dishes during the holiday season: ham, pork loin, pulled pork, bacon, and even baked beans and collards. All of these dishes use a different part of the pig, providing delicious and unique flavors that form the backbone of the dish. 

North Carolina represents much more than just the main dish during the holiday season. We also provide delicious side dishes such as sweet potato pie and casserole. North Carolina produces 64% of all the sweet potatoes in the United States. A whopping 1.8 billion pounds of sweet potatoes are harvested in North Carolina annually. For me, Thanksgiving and Christmas wouldn’t be complete without sweet potatoes smothered in brown sugar and marshmallows.

Traditionally, in my family, the day after Thanksgiving isn’t used for shopping for presents but for what the presents will sit under a Christmas Tree. We use fresh-cut pine trees from a local tree farm. Christmas trees and sustainably and locally sourced wreaths are a great option to adorn your house. For every Christmas cut in the United States, 1-3 trees are planted to replace and grow for 4- 15 years. Christmas trees are also biodegradable, and many States and Counties have tree recycling programs, often using them to mulch community gardens, roundabouts, and walkways. It may surprise many of you that NC is a contender for the top spot for another Holiday tradition. We are the number two Christmas tree producing States and have produced the White House Christmas 13 times since 1971. 

North Carolina is often overlooked in national agriculture because we don’t have large amber grain fields like the Midwest. Still, we produce many essential items for holiday traditions: turkey, pork, sweet potatoes, and Christmas trees. Without North Carolina farmers, your favorite dish or holiday tradition would not be possible.