Governor Pat McCrory issued an official proclamation declaring Sept. 16–20 Farm Safety and Health Week.
Agriculture and agribusiness combined are a top industry in North Carolina, providing more than $77 billion in revenue with $14.9 billion directly coming from farm production, according to the governor’s statement.
The governor’s proclamation came at the urging of the Agromedicine Institute. The institute is a partly state-funded, nonprofit research facility at East Carolina University that works in conjunction with North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agriculture and Tech University.
According to Robin Tutor, the institute’s director, North Carolina’s average fatality rate in the agriculture industry is 7.5 times greater than the average fatality rate in any other industry. (Agriculture includes farming, fishing and forestry.)
“North Carolina has not had such a proclamation in the past,” she says, citing the Midwest as creating National Farm Safety and Health Week. “This is such an important issue in our state. We need to raise awareness not just with our officials, but also with the public.”
Farmworker groups, representing migrant and American labor, welcomed the proclamation with caution.
NC Field, a farmworker advocacy organization based in Kinston, N.C., is represented on the Agromedicine Institute’s board. The group released a statement Wednesday in response to the governor’s proclamation. It highlights a labor force excluded from the proclamation: children.
Melissa Bailey, former director of NC Field, says she sees families in Lenoir County “so poor that they can’t pay rent and utilities without a twelve-year-old’s help in the second most dangerous job in the U.S.”
NC Field’s statistics show that in 2013, more than 100 children within a 60-mile radius of Kinston were actively employed tobacco workers. Their ages ranged from 10 to 18.
“Most were employed by labor contractors and many worked unlimited hours and days legally due to the federal agricultural exemption for child labor,” the group’s statement said.
North Carolina leads the nation in tobacco production. The crop puts younger laborers at greater risk of falling ill.
Twenty-one-year-old Yesenia Cuello, a U.S. citizen, worked the fields every summer as a teenager to help her single mother care for herself and her younger siblings. She mostly worked in tobacco, with the occasional work in sweet potato fields, where she saw a child as young as 9 years old working with the adults.
“No child should be exposed to those conditions,” she says.
She developed frequent susceptibility to heat stroke working long hours in the summer. Her younger sisters, she says, would vomit almost every day after work.
Nicotine absorbed through the skin in a day’s work is equivalent to smoking 36 cigarettes, says the NC Field statement. Green tobacco sickness is a common ailment with tobacco workers, and is often fatal.
Cuello now serves as president of NC Field’s Poder Juvenil Campesino (Rural Youth Power), a group of youth farmworkers pushing for change in child labor policy. She is also studying to be a nurse.
After a story about child labor ran in the INDY in 2012, the Department of Labor agreed to meet with NC Field and other farmworker advocacy groups. However, there hasn’t been a shift in policy or acknowledgement of child labor issues. The Governor’s recent statement also excluded any mention.
“Even as state and federal agencies fund ‘adolescent tobacco prevention’ curriculums and we require a minimum age of eighteen to purchase tobacco products, rural children continue to be at risk in working environments that are unethical and dangerous,” says NC Field’s statement.
“People should know who harvests their food and their tobacco,” Cuello says. “I worry about my mother’s health, and about the children working in the fields to help support their families. That’s just wrong to me. I wish the state government would take more initiative in making some changes, especially about kids working in the fields.”
Durham's Ninth Street Bakery was officially acquired today by baker Ari Berenbaum.
Ninth Street Bakery was originally founded by four partners in 1981. Among them, owner Frank Ferrell, who, along with his family, operates the bakery at its current 136 E. Chapel Hill St. location.
"We are all extremely excited about this opportunity," Berenbaum tells the INDY. "The Ferrell family has been very kind to us in allowing us to take up their mantelpiece. We look forward to carrying on the Ninth Street tradition—in effect, to modernize a brand while retaining its integrity."
Berenbaum previously served as the bakery's head bread baker and production manager. Since January 2011, he has operated Berenbaum's Bakery, specializing in Jewish breads and vegan baked goods. Berenbaum's can be found at Durham Central Park on Saturday mornings, and the vegan sweet and savory hand pies are offered at a few local coffee shops.
The bakery and cafe's mission is "to provide organic, healthy products." Its website highlights an environmentally minded business ethos, stating, "We are not only responsible, we are responsive." The bakery currently distributes its breads and pastries to 21 local supermarkets and seven coffee shops, much of it delivered via a veggie-fueled van.
In 1992, Ninth Street Bakery moved its baking operations from Ninth Street to the old Herald-Sun newspaper production facility downtown, now the bakery and retail cafe's current Chapel Hill Street location. The bakery's Ninth Street location was closed in 1996 (and is now occupied by Elmo's Diner).
Most recently, Berenbaum teamed up with Ninth Street Bakery cafe chef Matt Props to host their Day One vegan pop-up dinners at the restaurant at least once a month. The cafe serves lunch six days a week and dinner on Tuesday and Saturday nights.
"Matt will be able to build out the vegan options on the permanent lunch menu, expand the daily specials menu, continue vegan dinners on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and possibly more nights based on demand," says Berenbaum.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, Ninth Street Bakery will celebrate 32 years of business, from 5 to 9 p.m. According to today's press release, the celebration dinner will be "a symbolic passing of the torch. More details to follow."
Pub crawls, food tours, a rolling party, a night of gallivanting: Downtown restaurateurs and entrepreneurs Seth Gross and Martha Philpott King are launching Biker Bar NC, a 14-seat human-powered bicycle with riders facing one another around a center bar area while a bike captain steers, brakes and provides a guided tour along your route. The bar route begins and ends at Bull City Burger and Brewery, 107 E. Parrish St.
You supply the beer or wine (none of the hard stuff, though) and the Biker Bar provides the driver. Prices and policies are on the bar's FAQ page.
Raleigh has a similar venture, the Trolley Pub Raleigh, which departs from the Warehouse District on West Street.
The inaugural ride is Saturday, Aug. 24, at 11:15 a.m. with celebrity guest riders Mayor Bill Bell and Frank Stasio, host of WUNC's "The State of Things."
The remaining 12 seats are being auctioned off with all of the proceeds going to the John Avery Boys and Girls Club of Durham. Bid now at www.biddingforgood.com/bikerbarnc.
This is the latest venture from the BCBB team; this fall, they plan to open Pompieri Pizza around the corner at City Hall Plaza.
"I tried but I could not find a way ... " So sang Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry on "Remake/Remodel" from the band's 1972 album.
In that spirit, we say adios to The Roxy, an upscale bar on West Main Street near the Brightleaf District, closed Saturday night, shortly after it had gone on a two-week hiatus for summer vacation.
The owners announced the closing on The Roxy's Facebook page, noting that within the next six weeks the establishment will become Triangle Pint and Plate, with help from new partners at the Triangle Brewing Company.
The Roxy opened two years ago, with visions of being an upscale cocktail bar and party space.
Ashley Christensen pre-ordered a copy of Smoke & Pickles, a book by her friend Edward Lee, so she could be among the first to read it.
“You’re immediately engaged based on what a great storyteller he is,” Christensen says of Lee, who she met a few years ago through the Southern Foodways Alliance. “He’s a brilliant writer. His food is beautiful, thoughtful and bold. Those are things that, in combination, create something very special.”
Christensen said she was struck by Lee’s honesty in sharing so many personal stories and how they shaped him as a chef. “As chefs and restaurateurs, you are always on display,” says Christensen, who has welcomed hundreds of strangers to her Raleigh home for fundraising events. “I believe the book will make a lot of people think differently about how they approach the process, about not keeping the public and readers at arm’s length.”
Christensen intends to use a similar approach with her first book. She hopes to sign with an agent this week, a crucial step in getting the project to a top publishing house.
“Ed's and my books will be very different, but I want to share stories as he does to show how my thought process works,” she says. “I learned to cook by throwing dinner parties. It will be based on how that can explode into other things we can make.”
Christensen has been working hard to document the recipes that dazzle diners at Poole’s, Beasley’s Chicken+Honey and Chuck’s. Some already have been featured in food magazines.
“Like Ed, my goal will not people telling people how to measure,” she says. “I want to teach them how to think about cooking, the history of how food got here and why the relationship between chefs, farmers and artisan providers is so important.”
Lee, a three-time runner-up for James Beard honors will be celebrated Wednesday evening by Chef Colin Bedford with a special dinner at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $85, which includes dinner, a beer tasting, gratuity and a signed copy of Smoke & Pickles.
Jill Warren Lucas is a freelance food writer who blogs at Eating My Words. Follow her at @jwlucasnc.
Good news for foodies in the Triangle: Chapel Hill's Town Council has cut fees and amended rules to make the town more food truck friendly. With new policies, the council hopes more food trucks will come find their home on the hill.
Currently only one food truck—Baguettaboutit, which sells North Carolina-made sausage tucked in French baguettes—is approved to sell in Chapel Hill.
This likely will change after Monday night’s meeting, at which council members unanimously agreed to reduce the annual regulatory fee for food trucks from $600 to $200. They also approved measures allowing trucks to provide catering services and to participate in special events and markets in town.
“We realize that we have limited places in town where we were allowing food trucks, and we wanted to make it available anywhere they could be appropriate,” Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said.
Before they can roll in Chapel Hill, food truck owners must navigate through the red tape of forms and fees. Annual regulatory fees cover on-site inspections making sure that food trucks follow zoning, health and safety laws. The trucks also face an annual $25 business license fee and a one-time $118 zoning compliance fee to sell in a given location. Ideally, property owners pay this zoning cost, but food truck owners may be responsible for the bill if they want to sell in lots where owners won’t pay.
For food truck markets or “rodeos,” event organizers will be charged $200 for inspections, but the fee is waived for nonprofits such as churches and schools.
These new rules will be a game-changer for Tracy Livers, an owner of Olde North State BBQ food truck and catering business, who attended the meeting to advocate for food trucks. When the council set the regulatory fee at $600 in 2012, Livers stopped bringing her food truck to Chapel Hill. With the fee cut, Livers plans to return, and she anticipates other food trucks will join her.
Livers said the new rules reflect a changing attitude toward food trucks in Chapel Hill. “I think as a whole, when we first started, it was a new concept and people were kind of scared about food trucks,” she said. “But now that they realize we are inspected by the health department, in general people have become more comfortable with food trucks.”
Livers currently sells in Durham, Raleigh, Cary, Saxapahaw, Pittsboro and Morrisville, and she sees a need for food trucks in Chapel Hill. “There are places that food trucks can go where restaurants can’t, like to swimming pools that don’t have food, and to community and neighborhood parties and fundraisers,” she said.
Yet as Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison notes, Chapel Hill can’t compete with bigger cities that have more space for food trucks, with ample parking lots and wider sidewalks.
“There are a thousand more places for food trucks in Durham,” Harrison said. “Durham is six times the size of Chapel Hill and people don’t realize that. You could fit a whole other Chapel Hill in Durham and not even notice.”
Still, Councilman Lee Storrow said he hopes the reduced fees and new opportunities for markets will still make Chapel Hill a more competitive destination for food trucks.
“I think they bring vibrancy and energy to urban settings and give consumers options,” Storrow said. “In this difficult economic climate, they give entrepreneurs innovative ways to start new businesses and get their feet wet in a market.”
Jill Warren Lucas, who writes about food for INDY Week and her blog Eating My Words, is the only home cook in the South invited to join The New York Times' Julia Moskin for an online chat as part of the Recipe Lab series.
The event will be streamed live Wednesday, May 15, at 8 p.m. It focuses on a specific recipe in the new cookbook The Way to Fry by Norman King, a lifelong Southerner and Test Kitchen pro at Southern Living magazine.
Among a string of historic storefronts on Durham's East Main Street—torn down and rebuilt during the Prohibition era—the new Bar Lusconi is luring modern drinkers into a new era of beer and wine.
Narrowly tucked into 117B E. Main St., Bar Lusconi presented a thriving and casual soft opening last night.
It is the second bar by Timothy Neill and Jesse Gerstl, owners of the slick, unmarked speakeasy, Peccadillo, in Carrboro, which opened less than two years ago.
With a well-curated repertoire of international beer and wine, Neill aims to "get the best beer and wine possible," paying close attention to the more obscure.
"Basically, some of our smaller distributors say, 'we have only 10 cases of this,' and we'll just snap them up."
Modest simplicity determines both bar concepts. Just as Peccadillo has become the coy neighborhood bar in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Durham residents can expect to be charmed by Bar Lusconi's hospitality and cozy, candle-lit ambiance.
"Tim does a really great job at making you feel like you've been invited over to someone's home," says Lewis Norton, a longtime bartender in downtown Raleigh who came to the opening. "Except it's more comfortable than that, because it's less of a ceremony. There's an art to making your customer feel that way."
Bartender Dean James noted that the short bar at the back of the narrow, 600-square-foot space is tight, encouraging that personal connection to each customer.
Last night, he and Neill poured wine tableside for service industry friends and curious new customers lounging along the wooden drink rail and at the few, high four-top tables.
Glasses included a 2007 Bender Pinot Noir from Germany ("It's the last of it, so drink up," Neill commented to customers) and an Italian Lini Lambrusco, a full, tangy, sparkling red.
Neill says wine prices start at $42 a bottle, finishing at $86, with beer at $7 a glass and closing out at $27.
Tall, bare walls reveal rustic splotches of white and pale blue, their original red finish still intact as a wide border at the top, leading to a tin ceiling.
"You find the space before the concept is in place," Neill says. "We fell in love with the ceilings, it was all just super beautiful."
The original wood floors contained water damage. What remained of the salvaged wood were tawny, weathered slabs to build the bar, drink rail and all tables. Underneath, a speckled, burgundy red floor was polished and left intact.
As for the name, it is not a deliberate pun alluding to Italy's scandalous former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
"I named the bar after Jesse's cat [the late Lusconi]," Neill jokes. "He wasn't even very fond of him, and I find it hilarious."
Bar Lusconi is open Wednesday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The best barbecue joints often boast piles: a cord of wood, visible by the side of the restaurant; a heap of slaw, ready to cool pepper-spiked pork; a mess of banana pudding, to finish things off.
At yesterday's private viewing of The Pit, a barbecue restaurant scheduled to open this July at Durham's former 7UP bottling plant, the piles were different. Old sinks, toilets and pipes filled one side of the warehouse in the Central Park district. Computer monitors were stacked in another, and a 7UP vending machine peeked from behind an oversized board. But among all the mess was barbecue, which steamed on a table in the center of the space.
The event was part of Preservation Durham's quarterly "Hidden Durham" series, which gives members a look at various spots under renovation. "We're the cool kids that get you behind the scenes," says Executive Director Wendy Hillis. Approximately 80 members toured the facility yesterday with representatives from Alliance Architecture, Empire Hardhat Construction and Empire Properties, which owns The Pit in Raleigh that cooks whole hogs.
"There were 10,000 water bottles everywhere," Alliance's John Warasila said, describing the building when they first acquired it. He stood in front of a plan for the new space, which depicted a rooftop deck in addition to a patio on the Rigsbee Avenue side of the building.
"We want to be part of the street scene," he explained, referring to the mass of folks who regularly spill onto Rigsbee from Fullsteam brewery and Motorco Music Hall for the food trucks that gather nearby.
With that in mind, several attendees voiced concerns about parking in the area. According to Warasila, The Pit will offer valet service, as it does in Raleigh.
Compared with its Raleigh counterpart, Durham's location will boast a bigger kitchen to take on regional catering orders. Additional plans include a private dining area and a bar near the entrance on Rigsbee.
As the tour revealed, there's still a great deal of work to be done, including leveling a concrete floor that currently has an 18-inch slope. Several beams overhead will also be raised and replaced.
"When will you open?" one man asked the renovation team while eyeing the space. "July," Warasila confidently answered.
"What year?" the man quipped back. But soon after, he joined others for a bite of a barbecue sandwich.
If you work in tourism or the food business in Durham, the phones may have already started ringing.
Durham was named the Tastiest Town in the South by Southern Living , which announced the winner of the contest this morning.
Now, if the Bull City could only make a decent bagel.