Is your farm prepared for an emergency???

How will I water my livestock if I have no power?  If there is a flood, how will I move my animals to higher ground?  Where should I go in my field should a tornado occur?

Though these questions may seem simple, without a solid thought-out plan behind them, one might find themselves, and their farm, unprepared for emergencies.  Being that 44% of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are found in the south, it is important for these important economic centers to have emergency plans in place.  Being prepared involves knowing your risks and developing emergency plans to use during and after these events.  By being prepared, you minimize the impact on your family, farm, business, pets, and livestock.

There are a variety of emergencies to consider such as:

Natural Disasters



Severe Thunderstorms


Excessive Heat


Severe Winter Storms

Biological Emergencies


Pandemic Influenza

Foreign Animal Diseases

Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases

Emerging Crop Diseases and Pests

Food Safety Recalls

Technological Threats


Bio- and Agro-terrorism

Agrochemical Issues

Power Outages


Here in Polk County we are most likely to be affected by extreme heat, cold weather, power outages, flooding, severe thunderstorms, and possibly a tornado.  Still, having a comprehensive plan developed that addresses any potential risks is the best way to go.

Preparing your farm for an emergency requires the following:

  1. Figure out what disasters and/or hazards are most likely to occur in your area.
  2. Find out how you will be warned of an emergency.  Stay alert for emergency broadcasts; listen for NOAA weather radio alerts; and/or check for news on the radio, tv, or internet.
  3. Put together a  Family Emergency Supply Kit. 
  4. Draw a farm site map.  Include: buildings and structures, access routes, barriers, locations of livestock, locations of all hazardous substances, and electrical shutoff locations.
  5. Make a list of your farm Inventory: livestock, crops, machinery/equipment, and hazardous substances.
  6. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers: local and state veterinarian, county extension service, local emergency management, and your insurance agent.
  7. Make a list of suppliers/businesses providing services for your farm.  For example: your livestock or milk transporter, feed delivery service, fuel delivery, etc.
  8. Contact your insurance agent.  Be sure to review your coverage and get additional coverage for “all hazzard” situations (e.g. flood, hail)
  9. Stockpile supplies needed to protect your farm during an emergency.  Such as sandbags, plywood for windows, extra fuel, fire extinguishers, a gas powered generator, safe supply of food for your livestock, hand tools, wire and rope, etc.
  10. Identify areas to relocate animals if needed.  Be sure to take into account all livestock and horses, equipment, feed, grain, hay, and agrochemicals.
  11. Remove or secure any loose equipment or materials.
  12. Prepare your farm employees.  Be sure all employees are aware or the farm emergency plan as well as the know the location of shelter-in-place and evacuation sites.  Be sure to keep a record with the contact information for all employees.

Plans should also be established specifically for livestock, which would include keeping an up-to-date inventory of all animals, their location, records of ownership, immunization and testing records, as well as planing safe evacuation routes, alternative shelter, and emergency stores of food, water, medicine, and other necessary supplies.

This serves as an introduction to emergency preparedness on a farm.  For more information here is a list of resources to utilize while developing your farm emergency plan:

Newsletter from Polk Cooperative Extension

If you are not signed up for the Polk Extension newsletter, now is a great time. Check out this month’s newsletter below – lots of great info.

Sign up for the newsletter by calling Extension at 894-8218.

Lawn Seeding Time
Labor Day signals a time for action to homeowners that need to seed or reseed their lawn. Ninety-five percent of all lawns in Polk County are Tall Fescue. Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass lawns are more successful when planted during the month of September. For bare ground or a complete renovation, use 6 pounds of seed per every 1,000 square feet. If you are over-seeding an existing lawn, reduce that amount to 3 pounds of seed per every 1,000 square feet of lawn area.

Tree ID Class September 30th
Ever wonder what type of native trees are growing on your property? If you have, then you’ll want to participate in the Tree Identification Class at the Raymond Fitness Trail behind St. Luke’s Hospital. Polk County Cooperative Extension and the NC Forest Service are co-sponsoring the event beginning at 10am, Tuesday, September 30th. A handout will be available for folks who call the Polk County Extension office at 894-8218 and register for the class. (A rain date has been set for Friday, October 3rd at the same time).

Sweet Autumn Clematis


One quick trip around Polk County and one will see wild vines growing on trees and shrubs with small, fragrant white flowers in late August and early September. Locally there are two different species of fall blooming Clematis. We estimate 70 percent are an Asian relative that can be somewhat weedy. The second fall flowering Clematis called the Virgin’s Bower Clematis is a native flowering vine, also with white fragrant flowers.

How can you tell the difference? The foliage on the two vines are totally different. The image on the right is the native Virgin’s Bower Clematis leaf. These can be found growing in sunny abandoned fields and often on woodland edges. This is a great vine and not as aggressive as the Asian Autumn Clematis.

Growing Garlic
In WNC the best time to plant garlic cloves is mid-September to early October. Space cloves 2 to 6 inches apart in the row. It is critical that garlic be transplanted in the fall because cold weather is needed for good bulb development. Recommended hard-neck varieties for our area are: German Extra Hardy, Chesnok Red, Music, and Spanish Roja. Soft-neck recommended varieties are: California Early and New York White Neck.

Research in NC has demonstrated that hard-neck garlic produces superior yields and possess more winter hardiness. This September try your hand at producing your own deliciously fresh garlic!
Planting Cover Crops

One garden task not practiced enough in Polk County is the use of cover crops. Cover crops or “green manure” crops help improve garden soils in many ways. Legumes such as Crimson Clover, Hairy Vetch and Austrian Winter Pea should be seeded in September. Small grains such as Rye, Barley, and Triticale can be planted as late as October 25th. We are mentioning it now so you can locate a source of seed.

Goldenrod vs Ragweed

Photo: Ohio State University archives

Fall is allergy season and many people blame their sniffles and sneezing on Goldenrod. Unfortunately Goldenrod is getting falsely accused. Goldenrod pollen is heavy and doesn’t float freely in the air. Ragweed on the other hand blooms at the same time (see photo) and its pollen goes everywhere. Worst of all, in Polk County, we have both common Ragweed (pictured), and Giant Ragweed.

Got Blackberry Problems?
Wild blackberry plants will pop up in abandoned fields and hillsides without any encouragement. Often these thorny plants become a woody weed in need of control. If you experience this problem, treat the blackberry foliage and canes with 1 1/2 percent solution of a herbicide with glyphosate such as Round-Up. Applied to wild blackberry in September, Round-Up will surprise you next spring, the plants won’t sprout. (note: spray with caution since glyphosate will also kill your pasture grasses if sprayed).
Orangestriped Oakworm Arrival

Here today, gone tomorrow, is an accurate way to describe the foliage on several species of oak trees in Polk County. Last week there were no Orangestriped Oakworms observed. In seven days they have denuded several Willow Oaks and numerous Red Oak species including: Pin Oak, Scarlet Oak, Northern Red Oak, Black Oak, and Southern Red Oak.

If the trees are small (under 15 feet) or newly planted, you should spray the Oaks with an approved insecticide containing Acephate, Spinasad, Bifenthrin, or Sevin. Dipel is an organic product that is an option when the worms are small. Note: sometimes the worm’s stripes are yellow, orange, and on occasion green.
Native Blue Ageratum

Last month we told you about the Japanese Anemone. This month we have another underrated fall blooming perennial. Native Ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum) has sky blue flowers in September on plants 18 to 30 inches in height. It is a vigorous plant that spreads by rhizomes and can become weedy in ideal growing conditions. This herbaceous native is often found in moist soils along streams, ponds, and ditches. It will grow in full sun to partial shade and continues to flower until frost. Great for the novice gardener to try, and best of all it is pretty!

4-H Barbeque Supper
BBQ pit at 4-H Center, Columbus, NC
Mark your calendar for Friday, October 24th for it will be the date of the Fall 4-H BBQ supper. Slow cooked chicken prepared over an open pit with our special sauce, or slow roasted roast beef cooked in its own juices. Get your tickets now for there are no tickets sold at the door. They can be purchased from Dot or Sarah at the Extension Office.
Feed Fescue Now
If you own pasture or have a cool season lawn (most are), then mid-September through mid-October is the ideal time to fertilize both. You may need to raise the soil pH by adding lime, but the only way to know for sure is with a soil test. Typical fertilizer rates are 1 pound of nitrogen for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. Without a soil test, read and follow the directions on your turf fertilizer label, or apply 10 pounds of 10-10-10 per 1,000 square feet. For pastures take a soil test today to determine what you need!
Pink Muhly Grass

A North American native, Pink Muhly Grass sounds too good to be true. Long-lived with little to no insect or disease pests, this ornamental grass is perfect for  the low maintenance sunny garden. Starting this month, delicate plumes of flower panicles create a striking pink haze above the foliage. Muhly Grass tolerates heat, humidity, and poor soil.
Tell a Friend
Please feel free to forward the newsletter to your other gardening friends. If they would like to receive the letter, ask them to contact the Cooperative Extension Center in Columbus at (828) 894-8218.

John Vining
Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for insuring that the extended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label, Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact an agent of the North Carolina Extension Service in your county.