Monday, August 31, 2009

Hops Tour a Success!

Over 100 people attended the first ever Hops Farm and Brewery Tour on Saturday coordinated by the NC Cooperative Extension Service. Small farms agent, Melinda Roberts, organized the event which consisted of a two farm tour at Landfair Farm and Hop'n Blueberry Farm and a tour of a local microbrewery, Pisgah Brewing Company.

The day started at Landfair Farms, where Julie Jenson and her tireless crew cultivate approximately 1,300 hops bines. The hops varieties they grow include, Cascade, Willamete, Brewers Gold and others.

The crowd came eager to learn, despite the early threat of rain.

Dr. Jeanine Davis (read more about the tour on her new blog!) discussed the efforts she has been taking to advance our knowledge of hops production in WNC. Dr. Davis also discussed that with new crops we have a lot to learn and a lot of challenges to face- but that is what makes hops fun and exciting. She also stressed that it is important that growers communicate with one another and take notes because we have a lot to learn.

The crowd listened attentively.

Next Chris Reedy, local beer and hops enthusiast, discussed his efforts to start a guild for hops growers. After the tour Chris founded the Eastern Hops Guild. This will be just the type of organization that Dr. Davis discussed. A group of individuals with the common goal to forward the hops industry here in WNC.

Next, Julie Jenson, the proprietor of Landfair Farms, discussed the farm. Julie explained her passion for farming and her desire to grow the hops at Landfair Farms organically. Though, she did explain that there are many challenges with growing a new crop, including lots of learning!

After the presentation, participants had time to roam through the hop yard and form connections with other interested individuals. I had a great time with the folks in this picture discussing diseases, insects and site selection. My first question is always "What beer do you like to drink?"

Folks then enjoyed lunch at Landfair Farms. Chef in Motion provided delicious sandwiches and dessert. These folks enjoyed the food and meeting the resident pooches.

Next, we were off to Black Mountain to Hop'n Blueberry Farm owned by Van Burnett. Van is a 2009 WNC AgOptions Grant Recipient. Van was also featured in the Black Mountain News.

Here is Van and Melinda welcoming the crowd to Hop'n Blueberry Farm!

Van, always animated, explained his hop yard and all the hard work he has put into it. Below, he explains his high tech harvesting equipment (a canvas tote bag).

Here Van show the participants how his trellis is on a winch system so that he can lower the bines for harvesting. Despite his fears, the bines do not get entangled when he lowers them.

Here you can see Van's hop yard and all of the people that were in attendance. Some of the varieties that Van grows include Chinook, Centennial and Nugget.

You reap what you sow! Below is dried hops from Van's harvest. He has tried a few different methods, vacuum sealing, freezing, air drying.

Hops in the hand is worth two in the...

Finally, we were off to Pisgah Brewing Company located nearby in Black Mountain.

And we got to sample three beers 1. Endless Summer Ale 2. India Pale Ale and 3. Belgian Amber.

Dave, the man in charge and exuberant tour guide, explained that Pisgah Brewing Company desires to remain a small microbrewery and to purchase local hops and as many local ingredients as possible. Dave also explained the brewing process and showed the participants his set-up.

Well the day had to end somewhere. This participant enjoyed the hops and brewery tour day so much, that his day ended with dancing a little jig.

It ended up being a beautiful day!

To learn more about hops production, visit the following sites:

North Carolina Specialty Crops Site
Oregon Crop Profile on Hops
Organic Hop Production
Hop Production in New England

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tomato Workshop This Friday!!

Tomato Workshop:

Highlighting Studies on Growing Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

And Growing Tomatoes with a Microbially Active Biochar Product

When: August 21, 2009 10:00 AM

Where: Mountain Research Station, Waynesville, NC
Directions at:

The Studies:

Organic Production of Heirloom and Heirloom-type Hybrid Tomatoes by Jeanine Davis and Dilip Panthee
Farmers and gardeners have been very interested in the organic heirloom tomato studies that we have conducted at this research station since 2004. This year, 11 heirloom tomato varieties and 9 new heirloom-type hybrids are being grown with an organic insect and disease control strategy that we have developed from results from the previous years’ studies. For the first time, we are growing these indeterminate tomatoes on a high-stake, string and weave system instead of a standard trellis system. There will also be a taste test to compare all the varieties.

Assessing the Effects of Fertilizer Rates and Carbon-based Soil Inoculants on Tomato Growth and Yield by Jeanine Davis
Everyone is talking about biochar and how it can improve crop yields, remediate soils, reduce fertilizer use, sequester carbon, and as a byproduct of its manufacturing, be a source of an alternative fuel. This study is one of several in the Southeast testing CHARGROW, a biochar product inoculated with beneficial soil microorganisms. Different formulations of the product were used to grow the transplants at two rates. The plants are being grown under three fertilizer regimes. Organic disease and insect control products are currently being used. A member of the Carbon Char Group will be present to discuss biochar and CHARGROW.

Tomato Sandwiches Provided: Back by popular demand-free tomato sandwiches! Make your own sandwich-we’ll provide the tomatoes, bread and mayonnaise. Chips and tea will round out this light lunch.

Come Prepared: This is an outdoors workshop. We will have canopies set up, tables, and chairs. If we have heavy rain, we will move inside for the taste tests and lunch.

For More Information: Please call Terri Schell at 828-684-3562 or email her at

Funding: Funding for these two projects was provided by Brandt Consolidated ( and a member of the Carbon Char Group (

Who is Conducting These Studies: These studies are being conducted by Dr. Jeanine Davis, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, and Dr. Dilip Panthee, Assistant Professor, in the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University. They are located at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC. The Mountain Research Station maintains the research plots and provides technical support for the projects.

There is word that some representative from Ingles Supermarket plan to attend the workshop. The representatives would like to meet with local farmers with an emphasis on "organic" and "local". Ingles is making a big effort to buy local, so you might want to rearrange your schedule to attend!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Field Day a (Rainy) Success!

Yesterday over 175 people attended the Annual Fresh Market Tomato and Vegetable Field Day at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River.

This annual event is an opportunity for faculty and students from NCSU to show off their research on the station.

Here are some highlights:

Dr. Frank Louws, Rob Welker and Cary Rivard discussed their research on soilborne disease control using fumigants and tomato grafting on resistant rootstock.

Dr. Ron Gehl discussed the use of black plastic, no-till and bare ground production of pumpkin, squash and gourds.

Dr. Chris Gunter explained the upcoming legislation on Food Safety and discussed his research on the use of chlorination in irrigation water with the goal of decreasing coliforms.

Dr. Jeanine Davis discussed organic heirloom and heirloom-type hybrid tomato production and the use of a microbially active Biochar product. Dr. Davis will be presenting more of this information on 21 August at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. Visit Dr. Davis's event calendar for more details.

And then the storm came...

The field day was moved indoors. Researchers of the plots that the participants didn't get to visit discussed their results under shelter.

Luckily, the storm blew over and we had a wonderful Pig Pickin' at Lake Julian.

To review the entire program visit:

If you would like a copy of the brochure from the field day, including data and results, please email me and I would be happy to send you a copy.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

WNC Growers Testify: The Future of Specialty Crops For Small Family Farmers

I am extremely proud to share the following post with you.

Three WNC growers testified before Congress on July 30 about the 2008 Farm Bill regarding the Specialty Crops Program. Each grower expressed the need to protect small, family farms. They voiced their opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the current Farm Bill, as well as other government programs. The growers, which represent vegetable and fruit growers in WNC, discussed food safety, crop insurance, the importance of research and the challenges of being a small farmer. Each grower represented WNC and small farms very well!

Read the Hendersonville Times-News article: Area Farmer Headed to Congress.

I have posted each growers' testimony below (Thanks to YouTube) for you to view.

I would like to thank each of these gentlemen for their eloquent words and for representing the farmers of WNC. I would also like to thank Congressman Heath Shuler, who represents the 11th District of NC and acts as the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade.

This is a very important topic for growers in WNC and it is exciting to see our fellow growers voicing their opinions in Washington!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Late Blight Confirmed on Tomatoes In Henderson County

Late blight was confirmed in the plant pathology lab today at the research station in Mills River. The sample came from a field in Henderson County. Reports of the disease will most likely start popping up all over WNC.

Review my last post on Late Blight and Dr. Kelly Ivors Factsheet on Tomato Late Blight for details on the pathogen.

Conventional growers are advised to use a chlorothalonil product or Revus Top (mandidpropamid + difenoconazole) if late blight is not detected in the planting as a protectant. If late blight is confirmed in your planting, a combination of Presidio (fluopicolide) tank mixed with chlorothalonil is recommended. Other effecacious products labeled for late blight on tomato include: Curzate (cymoxanil) and Tanos (famoxadone + cymoxanil).

Organic growers are urged to use preventative sprays to manage late blight because the disease can progress very quickly. Do not wait to see disease to treat! Recommended control involves: Copper + Serenade (Bacillus subtilis QST 713, labeled for late blight suppression only) alternated with Copper + Sonata (Bacillus pumulis QST 2808).

Good luck!

Monday, August 3, 2009

4-H Camp: From Farm to Fork

The Haywood County 4-H program put on a day camp, themed "From Farm to Fork", last week for kids ages 6-12. Campers learned all about food production through field trips and hands-on projects. The camp was sponsored by the Haywood County Farm Bureau. Campers spent time at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, traveled to a fish farm, spent time with a couple of vegetable growers, visited a local tailgate market, learned about bees and soil and much more.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending a day with the campers when they visited Haywood's Historic Farmers Market, a commercial vegetable production field and the The Ten Acre Garden and produce stand. Despite a drizzly morning, the afternoon cleared up and campers were able to enjoy a day of learning, fun and food.

At the Haywood Historic Farmers Market, the kids sampled beans, baked goods and goat's milk. Vendors explained what they grow or make and discussed the importance of local foods.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this beautiful and bountiful basket that a shopper had assembled from multiple vendors at the market. Stunning!

We traveled to a commercial vegetable field (that was a little muddy!) where farmer John taught the campers about tomato varieties, drip irrigation, the importance of a plant's roots, suckering tomato plants and the day to day of a full-time farmer.

After lunch we traveled to the Ten Acre Garden, where farmer Danny showed us his diversity of crops, from flowers to heirloom tomatoes to cantaloupe to beans to tomatillos to brussels sprouts!

The campers even got to pick some beans!

And sample some blackberries. I couldn't resist this picture of blackberry stains! This same camper took the time to shell the bean he picked, remove a seed and plant it in the soil. Very precious!

The campers really enjoyed learning about everything "From Farm to Fork"! Bravo to Nick Reynolds, Haywood County 4-H Agent, the Haywood County Farm Bureau and all the others who made the camp a smashing success!

To learn more about Haywood County 4-H visit their blog!