Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Red Root Natives Nursery-A Local Source for Native Woodland Botanical Plants

I have been receiving many inquiries lately about where to buy native medicinal herb seeds and plants. So over the next few months I will tell you about some of the nurseries that I am familiar with. Please know there are many out there and I can tell you about all of them! If I miss one of your favorites, please tell me so I can get to know them, too.

I like to promote our local agricultural businesses and this one gives me particular pleasure to do so. Jean Harrison runs Red Root Natives Nursery in Asheville, NC. Jean is a long-time friend who was also my employee for a time. I have enjoyed watching her life journey from researcher to extension agent to nurserywoman. What I find very special about her nursery is that she offers so many of the plants that my staff and I work with on a daily basis, grow in our woodland demonstration gardens, provide information on through our website, and that I cover in my book 'Growing and Marketing Ginseng Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals'.

Jean has done an incredible job growing these plants; some of which are quite challenging to germinate and grow in a nursery setting. Her training as a plant pathologist, extensive experience working with other plant growers, and love of native plants give her an edge over many other nurseries. The picture above of goldenseal is from her website. I encourage you to stop by and see what she has to offer. Also, check out her events tab and find out where she will be next spring so you can select your plants and talk with her personally.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why is Jeanine Davis at NC State University Interested in Biodynamic Agriculture?

Photo courtesy of Susan Bryson



As I prepare a proposal to train extension agents and other agricultural educators/professionals about Biodynamic farming, I am getting questions about why I am spending my precious time on this "mysterious" form of farming. Here is a short piece I wrote to address this question last year:

There is a rising demand for biodynamic food in the United States. Much of this demand is being led by Whole Foods (Brady, 2013) who has asked some of the manufacturers of the brands they carry to create Biodynamic lines of their products. In April 2013, Demeter, the organic and Biodynamic certifying organization, met with the Whole Foods Grocery Team and Marketing staff in Austin, TX to update the Biodynamic Business Development Initiative. Large organic processing companies, such as Brad’s Raw Foods and Amy’s Kitchen, that have close relationships with Whole Foods are responding by seeking Biodynamic farmers to grow their ingredients. Both of these processors have approached us about conducting research on Biodynamic agriculture and working with local farmers to produce Biodynamic vegetables.

Biodynamic agriculture is popular in many other countries, most notably Germany, Italy, India, and the United Kingdom (Paull, 2011; Phillips and Rodriguez, 2006). Demeter certifies thousands of Biodynamic farms around the world including 1,431 farms (168,508 acres) in Germany, 325 farms (22,246 acres) in Italy, 131 farms (17,766 acres) in Egypt, and 111 farms (2,759 acres) in the United States (Demeter, 2013).  Biodynamics in the United States is really in its infancy. The only main stream Biodynamic products widely available to consumers here are wines.  In August 2013, Jeanine Davis and representatives from Demeter, Brad’s Raw Foods, and Rodale Institute held a Biodynamic conference at the NC State University facility in western North Carolina. Over 100 farmers, agricultural educators, and university administrators attended the conference. A follow up survey indicated a high level of interest among the farming community in producing Biodynamic crops on a wholesale level.

Biodynamic agriculture is based on the teachings of the Austrian writer, educator, and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. He introduced the concept to the public in the 1920’s. “Steiner came to the conclusion that western civilization would increasingly bring destruction to itself and the earth if it did not begin to incorporate an objective understanding of the spiritual world and its interrelationship with the physical world.” (Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 2013b). “Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health. Most Biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture.” (Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 2013a).

Although there has been a fair amount of research on Biodynamic agriculture starting in the 1920’s, much of it does not meet the current standards for rigorous, scientifically valid, refereed research. Much of it is also focused on compost and soil factors, with less on plant yield, quality, and disease and insect resistance (Turinek et al., 2009). Because much of the research was conducted in countries outside of North America, there is also skepticism about its validity here. A very recent review of Biodynamic agriculture concludes with the following statements, “Scientific testing of biodynamic preparations is limited and the evidence that addition of these preparations improves plant or soil quality in an organically managed landscape is still in debate, but many organic practices, commonly used in organic and biodynamic farming systems, are scientifically testable and can result in improved soil and plant health parameters. The academic world needs to address the explosion of pseudoscientific beliefs and help non-academicians become more discerning learners, but at the same time it must be open to a more holistic approach in the study of agricultural systems.” (Ponzio et al., 2013).

With the rising demand for Biodynamic products in the United States, this is the appropriate time to scientifically test Biodynamic practices, compare Biodynamic production with organic production, and determine if farmers can make a profit growing Biodynamic produce. Currently, Brad’s Raw Foods purchases about 35,000 pounds of organic kale each week. With Whole Foods Market putting a consumer spotlight on products containing Biodynamic ingredients, Brad’s has agreed to make a Biodynamic line, with the intent to transition the entire product line as soon as supply can meet demand. Realizing the challenges facing growers trying to make the transition, they are willing to purchase kale from our cooperating farmers and eventually from a large number of organic growers transitioning to Biodynamic production.

Many certified organic growers in western NC are interested in Biodynamic production because it appears to be a much lower-input systems approach than organic agriculture. It is also supposed to be more economical and make better use of on-farm wastes. Biodynamic farming is a form of organic farming that is often looked at as “going another step further” in producing an environmentally sound production system. The wider adoption of Biodynamic practices in agricultural systems in the United States could potentially provide expanded high-value market opportunities for farmers; reduce the use of manufactured fertilizers and pesticides, both organic and conventional; and have a positive social impact because of the community engagement aspects of making preparations and sharing equipment and manures.

Jim Fullmer from Demeter wrote “As a Biodynamic farmer, and Director of Demeter in the USA, it is clear that there are wonderful opportunities for Biodynamic products in the US. National retailers, such as Whole Foods, now seek Demeter certified Biodynamic products and the current domestic supply of produce and ingredients does not meet the current demand. The concept of a Biodynamic farming system is not a new and, in fact, is over 90 years old and practiced worldwide. In addition to the tenants of certified organic agriculture core to the Biodynamic method is the idea of a farm being a self-sustaining system that generates its inputs out of the life of the farming system itself rather than being dependent on importing such inputs from outside. Such a concept not only avoids dependence on extracting natural resource, it also generates new natural resource on a local level. Such a system not only generates high value in the marketplace for the farmer it also has strong social value due to its efficiency in producing food and its focus on more than just maintaining natural resource but also creating it. Over the past 90 years there has been research done on Biodynamic farming systems all over the globe. Much of it in different languages and decades old. There has been a small amount of peer reviewed research done in the US but much more is needed in order to better understand and to educate on this historic and international approach to agricultural production.”

Literature:
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association. 2013a. What is biodynamics? Accessed on November 10, 2013. https://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html .

Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association. 2013b. Who was Rudolf Steiner? Accessed on November 10, 2013. https://www.biodynamics.com/steiner.html .

Brady, P. 2013. Biodynamic FAQ. Whole Foods Blog. Accessed on November 10, 2013. https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/biodynamic-faq.
                            
Demeter International. 2013. Statistics. Accessed on November 10, 2013. http://www.demeter.net/statistics .

Paull, J. 2011. Organics Olympiad 2011: Global Indices of Leadership in Organic Agriculture. J.Social and Development Sciences 1(4):144-150. Accessed November 10, 2013. http://orgprints.org/18860/1/Paull2011OlympiadJSDS.pdf .

Phillips, J.C. and L.P. Rodriguez. 2006. Beyond Organic: An Overview of Biodynamic Agriculture with Case Examples. Selected paper prepared for presentation at the American Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting, Long Beach, California, July 23– 26, 2006. Accessed November 10, 2013. http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/21036/1/sp06ph02.pdf.

Ponzio, C., R. Gangatharan, and D. Neri. 2013. Organic and biodynamic agriculture: A review in relation to sustainability. Int. J. Plant Soil Science 2(1):95-110.

Reeve, J., L. Carpenter-Boggs, J.P. Reganold, A.L. York, and W.F. Brinton. 2010. Influence of biodynamic preparations on compost development and resultant compost extracts on wheat seedling growth. Bioresource Tech 101(13):5658-5666.

Reganold, J. 1995. Soil quality and profitability of biodynamic and conventional farming systems: A review. Am. J. Alt. Ag. 10(01):36-45.

Turinek, M., S. Grobelnik-Mlaka, M. Bavec, and F. Bavec. 2009. Biodynamic agriculture research progress and priorities. Renewable Ag. and Food Systems 24(02):146-154.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Grow 'Green Gold' (ginseng) and Pictures from a Fun Medicinal Herb Workshop


Last month I wrote a little blog piece for the publisher New Society on How to Grow Ginseng. Several of you mentioned that you hadn't seen it, so here is a direct link to the article: How to Grow Ginseng 'Green Gold'.

On October 22, I gave a full day workshop on growing medicinal herbs at Duke Gardens in Durham, NC. What a fun day that was! The attendees were engaged and full of questions and the hostess was a delight. I hope they ask me back again because I certainly enjoyed the experience.
We made an Echinacea tincture using E. purpurea and E. pallida. We also propagated bloodroot and seeded some herbs in pots to grow indoors for the winter.
If you are interested in having one of these workshops done for your club or organization, just let me know. In addition to myself, some of my staff also offer educational and entertaining workshops on a variety of medicinal herbs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Goldenseal Cultivation Workshop at NC Arboretum-Register Now!

Goldenseal Cultivation Workshop

Instructor: Margaret Bloomquist
Tuesday, September 23; 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The North Carolina Arboretum in Bent Creek
$77 Member/$87 Non-member

Limit: 30 students


Goldenseal is a Western North Carolina native plant and popular herbal medicine. In this hands-on class you will learn about goldenseal’s history, uses, native habitat, and how to grow goldenseal. Participants will propagate goldenseal rhizomes to take home. Wear clothing for the outdoor component of class. Golden-seal rhizomes, media, pots, labels, reference materials, and handouts will be provided.

Teacher: Margaret Bloomquist. Margaret is a research assistant with the Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River. She has been working in Dr. Jeanine Davis' Alternative Crops and Organics Program for several years, on woodland botanicals, Chinese herbs, hops, organic broccoli, and many other projects. She recently completed a project helping Cherokee basketmakers grow bloodroot for dye. Margaret holds a degree in sustainable agriculture and rural community development from the University of British Columbia and Makerere University. She is constantly accumulating additional knowledge and continuing education through her research positions and personal interests; including topics in communication, education, plant medicine, marketing, regulations and organic agriculture.

Registration closes on Tuesday and space is limited, so REGISTER HERE NOW.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Organic Broccoli Harvest and Post-Harvest Field Event-Sept. 11

Harvest and Post-harvest Handling of Broccoli in Western North Carolina
Participatory Organic Broccoli Field Demo
Hosted by Miller Bros Organic Farm in Marble, NC
 
When:                September 11, 2014 
                          10 am to 12 pm is the Organic Broccoli Harvest
                          12 pm to 2 pm is the Post-harvest Demo and Discussion

Want to come?
Please RSVP to Margaret_Bloomquist@ncsu.edu, 828-684-3562 ext 257. This is important so she has your contact information in case of a change due to weather or the crop.

There is no charge for this event. Wear appropriate field attire and bring a bag lunch.

Please join us in the effort to move our regional broccoli industry forward.

This event is funded, in part, by grants from the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the USDA SCRI program (the Eastern Broccoli Project).


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Non-timber Forest Products Fall Webinar Series Starts this Week!


A group of federal, state, and non-profit partners have teamed together to offer a webinar series on forest farming. I will be kicking off the series on Thursday, August 21 from 2:00 to 3:00 with an overview of what you can cultivate and wild-harvest in the woods for profit or your own use. This first hour long interactive presentation is just to whet your appetite for the more in-depth presentations to follow in the coming weeks.

The webinar series is being hosted by the American Tree Farm System. That is where the webinars will be posted if you want to watch them later, too. You can access that site and register at Webinar Series for Forest Owners.

My presentation is called "From Ginseng to Mushrooms: Goodies from Your Woods.
Here is a flyer with the rest of the presentations. Open it up and enlarge it to read the details.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Organic Cucurbit Variety Trial and Seed Saving Field Day

Organic Cucurbit Variety Trial and Seed Saving Field Day

August 12, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Mountain Research Station in Waynesville
Registration - $10, includes field day and lunch

An organic variety trial of melons, squash and cucumbers is being conducted in cooperation with researchers in NY, NC, and AL.  The trial was developed to study variety resistance to Downy Mildew, Striped Cucumber Beetles and viruses and will provide information and germplasm for the breeding of resistant varieties specifically for organic farmers. 

At this field day we will share the initial results from this project and tour the research plots in the morning. After lunch we will help build your skills and knowledge around seed breeding, saving, and processing.  

This project is funded through the USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative and is coordinated by Cornell University in partnership with the Organic Seed Alliance, NCSU, and Auburn University.  Click on the link below to find out more details and to register for the event.
EventBrite registration

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