Friday, May 28, 2010

Plea for Support to Prevent More Cuts at NC State University

Dear Friends of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
The NC House of Representatives is proposing to cut the 16 campus University System by approximately $225 million (see  This could result in more than a 10% reduction in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University.  If this reduction would occur, we would have to eliminate more than 250 positions which would severely reduce our ability to serve our clientele and their communities throughout the state.  If you have any concerns about this reduction, please contact members of the NC House of Representatives personally, by telephone or email.  The link for the House members is below for your convenience.

Sylvia Blankenship, Associate Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, NC State University

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Organic Wheat Field Day, Wild Herb Weekend & Medicinal Plant Symposium

Here are some events I thought you might be interested in.  They are in chronological order:

NC-Grown Organic Wheat-from field to bread

June 17, 2010, 9:00 am to 10:30 am
Mountain Research Station, Waynesville, NC
The North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project in conjunction with CFSA and NCTTFC, will host NC-Grown Organic Wheat—from field to bread. USDA-ARS wheat breeder Dr. David Marshall will provide an overview of the bread wheat trials planted at the station, and will discuss varieties of hard wheat that grow well in NC and their quality components. Organic crop consultant Sharon Funderburk will follow Dr. Marshall’s talk, providing organic methods in addressing fertility concerns and/or other issues that can be addressed in the field to ensure a food quality crop. Molly Hamilton, Extension Assistant, NCSU, will give an overview of the North Carolina Organic Grain Project and the services they provide. And lastly, Jennifer Lapidus, project coordinator of the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project will discuss the project, its timeline, its bakers, and the mill.

This workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is requested. To register for the workshop, go to: and register at the on-line store. Directions can be found at

Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies Annual Symposium
June 26, 2010

Tai Sophia Institute, Laurel, MD
Cultivating economic growth, cultural appreciation, and sustainability in Appalachia through medicinal plant research and outreach. Confirmed panelists include: Phyllis D. Light, 4th Generation Appalachian Herbalist, Amjad Hassan, MD, author “Folk Medicine of Appalachia”, Dr. Kevin Spelman, Herbalist and research scientist, Dr. Jeanine Davis, NC State University, Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center, Dr. Martin J Spiering, Center Advanced Research Biotechnology ,UMBI. In addition, there will be updates on black cohosh and ginseng research and medicinal plant walks. FREE!! Box lunch included. Continental breakfast at 7:30am. Symposium runs from 8:30-5pm. Pre-registration is required at: For more info contact ACES Outreach Coordinator, Mimi Hernandez at 301-687-3136.

Wild Herb Weekend
July 23-25, 2010
Valle Crucis, NC
The NC Herb Association's Wild Herb Weekend is coming up on July 23-25. This is an amazing weekend in the beautiful high mountain location of Valle Crucis. Our keynote speaker is herbalist Patricia Kyritsi Howell ( There will be something for everyone at this intimate, little conference. Whether you grow herbs for a hobby, use herbs for healing, or want to start a commercial herb (or hops) operation, you will find many interesting sessions and hands-on workshops and plant walks to participate in. Space is limited, so register soon. Detailed information available at

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Be Prepared for Late Blight & Herbicide Carryover on Manure and Compost

 Late Blight Precautions for 2010:

Late blight lesions on our tomatoes in 2009

A more advanced case of late blight in our heirloom tomato trials in 2009 .

Tomato growers, especially organic growers, late blight has been detected in Louisiana and Florida. It is suspected that it came in on transplants sold at some big box stores. Here's the article: This is not to alarm anyone. To the best of my knowledge we don't have it in North Carolina. Yet. But you should be prepared for it to arrive. So come up with your game plan and purchase, or at least identify and locate, whatever materials you intend to use. Also, try to buy locally produced transplants! Here is a great article from the University of Mass. Extension on late blight and what to expect this year. I strongly advise that you read it: Meg McGrath at Cornell also wrote a very helpful article on her blog. It includes a list of tomato varieties, including heirlooms, that have exhibited some resistance:

Use of Manure & Composted Manure in Gardens & on Farms:
A gardener gathering aged horse manure to add to his garden.

Herbicide carryover in manure and compost is still a problem. Educate yourself so you don't suffer any damage while using some of the best soil amendments around. A newly updated and expanded bulletin has been posted at: Area extension agent, Sue Colucci, posted how to do a bioassay for herbicide carryover on her blog. She used an actual case that she worked on this spring for it:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Raleigh News & Observer Did an Article on Our Hops Project

Hop yard in Haywood County, second season

The Raleigh News & Observer newspaper did an article on our hops project today.  Check it out at  See more information on this project and growing hops in North Carolina by clicking on the "hops" label in the right hand column on this blog.

Monday, May 10, 2010

East Coast Broccoli Production Coming: Visit with Us Tomorrow

Photo from University of Illinois Extension

Tomorrow, Tuesday May 11, 2010, Dr. Thomas Bjorkman, Cornell University and Dr. Mark Farnham, USDA, will be visiting the Mountain Research Station and the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station to start planning for our big broccoli project which will start in September (see notice below). We need to decide which research station we would like to do the variety testing on and would like to start talking to growers, extension agents, marketing specialists, regional agronomists, agricultural non-profits, and other interested parties. If you are curious about this project, interested in growing broccoli on a wholesale level, willing to help make this all a reality, or wanting to express an opinion about it, you are welcome to join us. You will have two opportunities to visit with us at Waynesville and Mills River. Those times are in bold in the agenda below:

Tuesday, May 11:

8:00 am- 8:30 am        Thomas and Mark will arrive at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center to meet Jeanine
8:30 am- 9:30 am        Drive to the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville
9:30 am-11:00 am       Tour the Mountain Research Station and visit with station personnel
11:00 am-12:00 pm     Be in the Mtn. Research Station office (Waynesville) to visit with extension agents, growers, etc. and discuss the project
12:00 pm- 1:30 pm      Return to Mills River, getting lunch along the way
1:30 pm- 3:00 pm        Tour the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Mills River
3:00 pm- 5:00 pm        Be in the Research Conference Room at the Mtn. Horticultural Crops  Research & Extension Center (Mills River) to visit with extension agents, growers, etc.

Original notice sent on 4/30/10:
The official announcement isn't out yet, so don't go broadcasting this on newsletters or websites yet, but we just got word that a $3.1 million federal grant has been funded to develop an east coast broccoli industry. There are many universities, breeders, and private industry involved in this five year project. Cornell is the lead institution and I am overseeing the North Carolina component, which is focused in western NC. This is a big project!

I'm writing you because it is important for us to start getting farmers interested and involved in this project right away. Although the variety trials and information will be useful for everyone, we are looking for involvement of farmers who want to grow broccoli on a wholesale level. This fall I will "practice" growing some broccoli at the Waynesville research station. Next spring we will start growing very large variety trials on the station in Waynesville or Mills River. In 2012 we will start with on-farm trials.

On May 11, the project director from Cornell and one of the breeders from USDA are coming here to see our Waynesville and Mills River research stations. We welcome you and any other farmers who may be interested in growing broccoli to stop by when we are at those stations. I will send out an agenda as soon as we have one. Please spread the word. Information on that visit and the project will be posted regularly on my blog.

This is an opportunity I am very excited about. There is a HUGE demand for broccoli, but it doesn't come from the east coast. The research team has identified western NC as a critical region to help supply broccoli from the east coast in the effort to create an almost year round supply. You know we can grow great broccoli here. This is the just the kind of higher-value, wholesale crop that I think we need for WNC.

Please let me know if you are interested. Even if you can't make it out on May 11, we will keep you informed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Had a Great Time at the Mills River Tailgate Market

Bought wonderful lettuce from Paul Shoemaker.
On Saturday, May 8th, my husband and I attended the opening day of the 2010 Mills River tailgate market season.  This is the closest tailgate market to where we live in Henderson County.  It is a fairly new market; this is the second year.  There wasn't a crowd of vendors there, but there was just about everything you could want for this time of the season!
Fresh baked goods for sale.

There were coffee cakes and cupcakes; jams, jellies and preserves; green onions, kale, chard, lettuce, and radishes; eggs and trout; live chickens; sun and shade loving perennials; straw and organic fertilizer; and more.  
The Brittains were selling fresh trout and eggs.
The tailgate market will be open every Saturday from 8 AM to Noon.  I urge you to come out and support your local farmers and buy some fresh, locally grown food.  The lettuce, trout, kale, coffee cake, and pear jam that we bought are all wonderful!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Where to Get Information on Growing Hops in North Carolina

April morning in a Haywood County hop yard.
There are small hop yards being established all across North Carolina. As people start growing hops they find there is not a lot of information on how to grow hops commercially in the Southeast. Problems with insects, diseases, and soil fertility are common.  Fortunately, there is a team of people at NC State working on hops and creating a body of information to help. Here is where you can find some answers:
  • Sue Colucci, area agent in Henderson, Haywood and Buncombe counties, has a wonderful blog page devoted to hops. It is new, but it is already packed with information. Here is the link:
  • I have information on hops on my FAQ on at and regularly post updates on our hops research project on this blog at You can quickly find the hops information here by clicking on "hops" under the labels in the right sidebar.
  • Rob Austin, Research Associate in Soil Science, has built a blog for our GoldenLeaf Foundation funded hops research project and he is putting lots of photos on there that you might find helpful. You can access that at
  • Chris Reedy, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, has a blog for the new Eastern Hops Guild. He is trying to get eastern hops growers networked to exchange information, develop markets, and have purchasing power, etc.  Follow his blog at
  • In the very near future, we also hope to see recommendations for hops when you send in your soil samples to the NCDA labs!  A big thank you to them for all their help.
Hope this helps you all!