Photo courtesy of NC Cooperative Extension
A Staff Report
In a surprising turn of events for North Carolina’s agriculture scene, the state is seeing the emergence of sesame fields across rural landscapes, standing tall among traditional crops like tobacco, corn, cotton, and soybeans. Brandon Herring, Public Information Officer for NCDA&CS Public Affairs, has raised a thought-provoking question: “Would you ever imagine that sesame, which goes into tahini and hummus, etc., could be on the way to being a standard crop in North Carolina?”
This year marks a significant milestone, as sesame fields have sprouted in 16 North Carolina counties, with harvesting set to begin in the next one to three weeks. The remarkable part? These sesame fields have grown from virtually zero acres last year to a substantial 2,259 acres this year, thanks to innovative agricultural research that is now bearing fruit.
The sudden rise of sesame farming in North Carolina offers a promising outlook for farmers and the state’s economy as a whole. If successfully cultivated, sesame could provide a new source of income for farmers, potentially leading to the establishment of processing, packing, and shipping facilities. This expansion of the sesame industry could significantly boost the state’s economy, which already heavily relies on agriculture. Currently, agriculture and agribusiness have an annual economic impact of $103.2 billion in North Carolina.
The inception of sesame farming in North Carolina is credited to the diligent efforts of a team of researchers from N.C. State University. These researchers conducted field trials at the state’s agricultural research stations and discovered that sesame could thrive in North Carolina’s climate, potentially outperforming traditional sesame-growing states like Texas and Oklahoma. The research results provided a compelling case for the viability of sesame farming in the state.
The demand for sesame products, including tahini and sesame oil, is notably high in the United States. America currently consumes more sesame than it produces, leading to significant imports. The introduction of sesame farming in North Carolina has the potential to not only meet domestic demand but also contribute to the state’s export market, thus fostering positive economic development.
Despite ongoing research, the promise of sesame farming led many farmers in both North and South Carolina to jump on board this year. Their enthusiasm reflects the confidence they have in the crop’s potential and underscores the importance of staying ahead in the evolving agricultural landscape.
For those eager to delve deeper into this intriguing development, there are four farmers who participated in on-farm trials as part of the researcher’s program this year. According to Brandon Herring, these farmers, located in Bladen, Moore, Gates, and Sampson counties, provide valuable insights into their experiences with sesame farming.
Read Brandon Herring’s article, “Research may lead to more N.C. sesame fields,” to find out more.
Sesame farming has already extended its reach across several North Carolina counties this year, with varying acreages. From Anson to Wilson County, farmers are experimenting with this newfound crop, marking a significant shift in the state’s agricultural profile.
Local N.C. State Extension offices, also known as Cooperative Extension offices, can help connect interested parties with the farmers growing sesame in their area. Additionally, funding from the state budget allocated to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, particularly the New and Emerging Crops Program, has played a crucial role in supporting the research that has made this venture possible.
The rise of sesame farming in North Carolina is not only an exciting development for the agricultural community but also a testament to the innovation and adaptability of farmers in the face of changing market dynamics. As harvesting season approaches, all eyes are on this promising crop that could reshape North Carolina’s agricultural landscape and contribute significantly to its economy.
Read more and view the photo courtesy of NC Cooperative Extension at: https://craven.ces.ncsu.edu/2023/08/is-sesame-a-viable-option-for-eastern-north-carolina/