Thursday, October 29, 2009

Getting Started in Farm-Scale Biodiesel Production Webinar

Are you interested in making your farm even more sustainable by producing your own biodiesel?

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) will host "Getting Started in Farm-Scale Biodiesel Production" webinar on November 5. The webinar will begin at 11 a.m MST (I am pretty sure this will be 1 pm EST- correct me if I'm wrong!) and will last for 60 minutes.

The presenters for the webinar are Al Kurki and Rich Dana, biodiesel specialists with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).

The presenters will present the basics of biodiesel production and show home brewers the precautions to take to avoid potential problems associated with poor-quality fuel.

Other topics to be presented include:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of biodiesel;
  • The chemistry of biodiesel and step-by-step instructions to make your own fuel;
  • Types, prices and trade-offs of biodiesel processors and equipment;
  • Oilseed production and processing; and
  • Examples of farmers and ranchers making their own fuel.

Please register in advance at

Strawberry Plugs Needed

This in from Dr. Barclay Poling:

Dear Growers and Agents,

I was contacted earlier today by Mark Seitz (Area Specialized Agent, Jones County), who has a strawberry producer needing several thousand plugs of Camarosa or Chandler (for replant).

Mark's contact information: (please call or email Mark and he will get you in touch with the grower)

work: 252-448-9621
mobile: 252-670-9836
work fax: 252-448-1243

If you have any leads, please get in touch with Mark.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Important: Postively I.D. the Insects on Your Farm

This week in my Transitioning/Beginning Organic Production class we talked about insects. We had 2 great presenters. First up was Diane Almond from Honey Bees and Heather Farm in Fletcher. Diane discussed pollinators and the importance of maintaining pollinator habitats on your farm or garden. Diane's talk had me on the edge of my seat!

Second up was Amanda Stone, agriculture agent in Buncombe County who works with the Green Industry. Amanda's presentation included, not only a peek into her insect collection, but insect management techniques in organic systems, which includes increasing biodiversity, employing cultural methods and mechanical means and finally the use of OMRI-approved materials. One aspect of Amanda's discussion was the importance of scouting. Scouting for insects, mites and disease problems is the foundation for Integrated Pest Management or IPM. Scouting for insects on your farm lets you know what is on your crops, when they arrive, how many are present and if there has been changes in severity of infestation, and will help you to decide whether or not to take action.

Interestingly, this week a grower sent me some pictures of a "worm" he found in his Napa Cabbage. Because I had never seen this before, we sent the images to the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic. We got results just a day or so later!

Syrphid fly maggot (larva) found on Napa Cabbage. Photo courtesy of Michael Porterfield.

Syrphid fly maggot (larva) found on Napa Cabbage. Photo courtesy of Michael Porterfield.

The entomologist at NCSU informed us that it was the larva of a syrphid fly (some call these hover flies or flower flies - check our Debbie Roos photo an adult and some other incredible photos of syrphid flies and larvae).

The syrphid fly is actually a good guy, a beneficial insect, in the farm or garden! When syphids are present, you can just about guarantee there are aphids present as well. Syrphid larvae can do a remarkable job of cleaning up low aphid populations. Each larva can consume up to 400 aphids during their development!

Syrphid fly larvae do not cause damage to the plant. Syrphid fly larvae may cause a problem if they are present on your crops at the time of sale. At the point of sale, essentially all insects are considered "insect contamination". For folks selling directly to consumers, education may be the key to overcoming this notion. For growers who are not selling directly, know the level of contamination that your market will tolerate.

It was a great thing that the grower was scouting his fields! As a result, the grower was able to positively identify the larvae and decide whether or not to take action. We also learned more about biocontrol on the farm and syrphid fly and aphid relationships.

Please take the time to scout your fields as often as possible, you will learn a lot about your crops!

**Special thanks to Dr. Mark Abney for doing a bang up job identifying the syrphid fly and to Michael Porterfield for taking these great images!**

Monday, October 5, 2009

Farm City Day 2009 a Success!

The first Saturday in October marks Farm City Day, an annual event started in 1955 by the NC Cooperative Extension Service and Kiwanis International to raise awareness of the dependence of farm people and city people on one another for products and services essential to modern living. Farm City Day was designed to create a mutual understanding of farm and city life and to encourage cooperation and exchange of ideas between the two groups with the goal of creating appreciation and good will.

The weather was beautiful again this year! As a result there was a great crowd of people that came out to Jackson Park to take part in the festivities. This year our Henderson County Cooperative Extension office decided to reward the children that visited all of our informational booths. They received a card listing activities and after they completed each the activities they received a stamp. After gaining all of the stamps, the kids were entered into a drawing for some great prizes.

The NC Cooperative Extension Activity Card that the kids had to complete to be eligible to win a prize.

For my activity, I wanted the kids to learn about science and agriculture. To make this effective, I decided that the kids needed to get their hands dirty. So, I had each of them plant a pumpkin seed. I know it is late in the season to be planting pumpkins, but that isn't the point. Plus, I made it clear that they needed to have their seedling survive throughout the winter and transplant it into the garden next spring. I know what you're thinking, "Fat chance". But, maybe a few will actually do it.

My Farm City Day Booth. Teaching kids about agriculture in Henderson County.

The soil the kids used to plant their pumpkin seed and a description of how a seed grows into a plant.

I made the kids reach into the pumpkin to get their seed. One little girl said matter-of-factly, "that is the most perfect place for those pumpkin seeds."

This little boy was very proud of his pumpkin seed.

Overall, 96 kids planted a pumpkin seed!

Some of the most memorable comments I received from the kids about planting a seed included my first visitor, a little boy, who was very hesitant to get into the soil. He told his mother, "I don't want to get my hands dirty". Well... farming is not for everyone.

Another classic comment was from a little boy that was attending with his dad. After planting his seed he said, "I really like this, Dad". I thought that was just too sweet.

I also had a small pumpkin and gourd patch that I let the kids enjoy. They really like the small sized pumpkins and the pumpkins with the "goosebumps".

A father and daughter enjoy the pumpkins. I love how this little girl is holding her pumpkin seed in one hand as she plays with the pumpkin with the other!

Oh, I forgot to mention my praying mantis! I was lucky to catch it on Thursday. It was clinging to the side of the office and I had to get it to show off to the kids at Farm City Day. They loved it!

I took the opportunity with the praying mantis to teach the kids about beneficial insects.

One of the most exiting things was when we caught a large katydid and put it in the praying mantis's cage. She must have been hungry because within a few seconds she caught the kaydid and started eating.

Starting, of course, with the head!

She methodically devoured the katydid. Ripping one leg off at a time to suck out the contents and then crunch on.

Sounds gruesome, but the kids really enjoyed this! I was surprised to hear about all the people that have seen praying mantises this Fall.

Overall, it was a great day! Thanks to my co-workers who made the NC Cooperative Extension activity cards a hit.

A special thanks to the Farm City Day organizers for another successful year!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Haywood County Fair

The Haywood County Fair began this week in Waynesville. The fair features carnival rides, camel rides, square dancing, live, local music, tractor pulls, local craft exhibits, livestock shows, bingo and more!

This year I was involved with the fruit, vegetable and horticultural competition. I was impressed with the entries, especially this late in the season and after all of the rain we have been experiencing. Jim, a fair volunteer who has been involved for many years, has been keeping track of the number of entries in the vegetable and plant and flower competition. Jim calculated that vegetable entries were down more than 11% and flower and plant entries were down more than 21% from last year!

Still, the entries were outstanding and it was very hard for the judges to decide on winners.

This year the top prizes in the vegetable competition went to...

Blue Rosette: Hardneck garlic

Red Rosette: Herb bouquet with basil, sage, rosemary, parsley and more

White Rosette: Potatoes

Some honorable mentions were beautiful pink tomatoes (no pic- sorry!),

Oxheart carrot,

Braided carrots,

A fingerling potato shaped like a puffin,

American chestnuts,

and a 1-pound apple!

In the Plant and Flower competition the top prizes went to...

Blue Rosette: A perfect lavender rose, with not a spot of black spot!

Red Rosette: Angel Wing Begonia

White Rosette: A stunning Wildflower Basket

Some honorable mentions in this category were:

A festive vegetable arrangement,

and a gorgeous Dahlia Basket!

The Haywood County Fair runs from Sept 29 - Oct 4. Go check out the fun!