Monday, June 25, 2012

Two Opportunities to Visit the NC State Research Hop Yards-with UPDATES!!!

This year you will have the opportunity to visit both the Raleigh and Mills River based research hop yards.  (if your browser cuts off part of the flyers, just click on them to view them fully).

The first will be an "Open House" at the Mills River hop yard close to the Asheville Airport. This is not a full-fledged field day but an opportunity to view the ten varieties in their second year of growth before we start harvesting them.  The differences between varieties is pretty dramatic this year. We have experienced Downy Mildew, spider mites, and now Japanese beetles and how the varieties have reacted have been quite different.  Jeanine Davis and Kelly Gaskill will be present to answer your questions.

This open house will take place on Thursday, July 5 from 5 PM to 7 PM at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station at 74 Research Drive in Mills River, NC 28759.  (Directions:
From Interstate 26, take Exit #40 (the Asheville Regional Airport exit). At the top of the exit ramp turn toward the airport onto NC Hwy 280. Just past the end of the airport runway, the highway curves to the right. Turn right at the first road after the runway onto Old Fanning Bridge Road. After ~1 mile you will cross the French Broad river. The research station is on the right but directly across the street there will be signs directing you left onto Butler Farm Road. Follow signs out to the hop yard.

This project is funded by the a USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant administered through the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The second event will be a full-fledged field day at the Raleigh hop yard near the NC State University campus.  It will include indoor lectures followed by a tour of the hop yard.  Topics to be covered will include variety selection, planting tips, trellis designs, nutrient management, pest/disease issues, harvesting and drying cones, basic economic analysis, and more. 

This field day will take place Saturday, July 14 from 9 AM to 12 PM at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory.  Directions.  Meet at the pole barn.  We just got word from the farm crew that they'll be working on the main road to the station on the day of the field day.  So, you won't be able to go down Chi Road that day.  Please go down Inwood Road (a slightly more roundabout route) and we will meet at the 'J Edward Booth' building (parking adjacent) instead of at the pole barn.  This is a larger nicer building anyway.

Here's the farm map with all those roads listed on them:

There will be signs posted directing people around.

This project is funded by the GoldenLeaf Foundation and the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant administered through the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Want to understand soil fertility in organic systems?

If you have never heard a lecture by Dr. Mark Schonbeck and you want to learn more about soil fertility, compost, soil tests, and cover crops in organic production systems, this is a not to be missed opportunity!  And it is happening this Saturday, so sign-up now.

P.S. It is worth it just to see the Mills River Educational Farm!

(if your browser is cutting off part of the text in the announcement below, double click on it to see it separately)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Organic Training Farm Tour

Our advanced organic training, with educators from NC, AL, and AR, started out this morning at New Sprout Farm in Black Mountain. Michael Porterfield explained how they produce certified organic produce on a large scale and get their products in local supermarkets such as Ingles.

After several hours at New Sprout Farm we headed over to Black Bird Cafe in Black Mountain for a delightful lunch on their patio. I had a delicious open-faced turkey sandwich with melted brie. Yum.

Our next farm visit was at Red Wing Farm where the farmers, Beth and Christopher, impressed our group with all they grow and accomplish on their small farm. They produce lots of bedding plants, vegetables and herbs in the spring, and all kinds of vegetables during the growing season. With the help of several interns, they manage to grow beautiful produce, dairy goats, chickens, and ducks.

Our final visit was to Cane Creek Asparagus Co. & CSA. Glenda amazed us all as she explained how only her and her husband farm enough vegetables to serve a 80 family CSA. That's all they do and they take great pride in doing it properly.

We completed our day with a most delightful and delicious dinner at Laurey's in Asheville. Juicy fried chicken breasts, a very tasty sweetpotato dish, cole slaw, biscuits, fruit salad and their signature brownies. It was wonderful.

Now to rest up for another full day tomorrow.

The Three State Organic Training Has Begun

With funding from Southern SARE obtained by Tuskegee University, we have embarked on the advanced organic training for agricultural educators from North Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas.  The beginning level training last year was organized by Leonard Githnji at Tuskegee and held in Alabama. I organized this advanced level training for the Asheville, NC area.  Many of the participants arrived late this afternoon, so we started our training with an introductory session and wonderful dinner at Posana Cafe in Asheville.

I have been planning this training for months and had all my farm visits and restaurants lined up way in advance, when last Saturday the restaurant that was supposed to serve us tonight backed out with the stupid excuse of "I didn't realize it was Father's Day." I put a desperate plea out on Facebook and one of the farms we are going to visit suggested I try Posana. I sent them an email Saturday night, and Chef Peter got right back with me. Even though our budget was quite limited, he was enthusiastic about working with us.  Thank you, Peter!

Thirty-two of us arrived tonight at 6 pm and you can see what a beautiful room they had us in. The service was wonderful, the setting attractive and comfortable, and the entire experience was perfectly delightful. The chef put together a special menu just for our group with about 85% of the food coming from local farmers!
The presentation of the food was beautiful and all the dishes were delicious.  I had the Sunny Creek Farms Bibb Salad with tender lettuce and the thinnest slices of crunchy big radishes. My entree was the Sunburst Farms Trout with the best cheddar grits I've ever had, sweet roasted cauliflower, and a delightful tomato butter. But the dish that made the whole group go "ahhhhh!" was the pecan chiffon cake with peach mousse. Oh my. It was light as a cloud, subtly flavored, and lightly sweetened. It was the best cake I can ever remember having.

Chef Peter gave a short presentation to our group, explaining how he sources from local farmers, the challenges and opportunities of buying local, and the relationships he's built. The group had lots of questions which he most graciously answered. 

All in all, it was a wonderful way to start our training and I am excited about the upcoming two days. And, I will be making plans for my husband and I to return soon to Posana's for dinner!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How the NC Component of the East Coast Broccoli Project is Looking

Just wanted to share a few pictures from the North Carolina trials of the East Coast Broccoli Project.  We have been busy planting our expanded Phase I trials which include many new breeding lines that we are evaluating for western North Carolina conditions. We also have a smaller selection of varieties and breeding lines that we are planting out over many dates to see how they respond under ideal and not so ideal broccoli growing conditions, i.e., heat and cold.

First Step Farm is growing all our transplants for this project and the plants are always beautiful. Thanks, guys!  After we bring the plants to the field, we sort out the plants for each plot into paper bags marked with the plot number.

Then we organize the bags in the order they need to go into the field.

Then we set the bags alongside the plots where the plants need to be transplanted (not a bad place to work, huh?  This is the Mountain Research Station in Waynseville, NC).

One person walks alongside and hands the plants in the bag to the two people riding on the waterwheel transplanter. We are setting double rows into raised beds with white-on-black plastic mulch and drip-irrigation.

Here are plants that were set a few weeks ago.

And some older plants. Everything looks great because of my dedicated staff (thanks, ladies!) and the staff of the Mountain Research Station.

This project is led by Cornell University and is funded by a USDA-SCRI grant.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wort & Yeast blogs on NC Malt Making and Hop Growing

The blog "Wort & Yeast" did a "Bringing it Home" piece this week on Riverbend Malt House and an interview with yours truly on the NC Hops Research Project. Heres the link.