Thursday, April 10, 2014

Medicinal Herb Buyers Looking for Experienced Farmers

There is an unmet demand for US grown medicinal herbs of all kinds. Traditionally, the majority of these herbs were sourced from overseas, but the new Good Manufacturing Practices and existing and proposed Food Safety rules and guidelines are forcing buyers to source from the US. The problem is, there aren’t enough experienced growers. Since late last summer we have held three workshops in WNC for potential growers to meet with buyers. Some of these are among the biggest medicinal herb buyers in the country. These workshops have been very well attended, but most of the attendees are new farmers. That is very exciting and we are doing all we can to assist them, but some of these buyers need herbs grown right now, on a large scale by experienced farmers.

Some of these herbs are grown in the woods and take several years to reach harvestable stage. Once planted, they don’t require much input. Others are field grown annual or two year crop herbs that could be worked into a rotation with vegetables, corn, tobacco, or grain crops. There are several buyers that have emailed me this week looking for farmers. If you are interested in talking with one of them, please drop me an email at

In my program we have conducted research and educational programming on production of medicinal herbs for many years, so we know quite a bit about growing them.  Some of the buyers do, too. That said, these medicinal herbs are still “new crops”, so we can’t provide the detailed production information and problem solving support as we (NC Cooperative Extension) can for vegetables, tobacco, and field crops. But prices are going up for these herbs, so it might be an opportunity for some of you.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Week Full of Biodynamic Events with Harald Hoven

Harald Hoven is a renowned international lecturer and founder and director of Raphael Gardens at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA. The Gardens are a teaching site and have been certified Biodynamic by Demeter since 2004. Harald’s special interest is Agricultural Individuality…a holistic approach whereby a farmer or gardener tries to supply all their gardening and farming needs internally.
Tuesday, April 15: Introduction to Biodynamic Gardening
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm at Treska’s Porch, Highland Lake Cove, 215 Rhett Drive, Flat Rock, NC. Cost: $20 for the workshop. This experiential workshop is designed for people unfamiliar with biodynamics, but interested in learning more. All are welcome. Come prepared to walk and work in the garden and learn about composting!

A dinner, hosted by Pat Hart and Kerry Lindsey follows at 6PM. Donations of money for the dinner are appreciated. Please RSVP for the workshop and dinner by April 12:

Pat Hart ( or 952-334-4510). Payment due at the event.

Wednesday, April 16: One-on-one conversations or site visits
8:00 am - 4:00 pm. If you are interested in having some one-on-one time with Harald Hoven at your farm or garden or an agreed on meeting place, please call Jim Smith to schedule it. Contact Jim at 864-313-5106 or Price will be determined depending on location of visit and length of time of the visit.

Wednesday, April 16: The Fundamentals of Biodynamics
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm. This evening session is being arranged by Ashevillage and will take place in Asheville. Details to be announced later.

Friday, April 18: Biodynamic Farming Principles and Applications
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, 455 Research Drive, Mills River, NC. This workshop is focused for farmers and gardeners who have some knowledge of Biodynamics but is open to all who want to attend. Topics to be covered include transitioning from organic to biodynamic, how to handle not having animals on the farm, making compost, biodynamic preparation, and the relationship of the soil to human health and well-being. Interaction with the audience is encouraged and expected. Weather permitting, an outside compost demonstration will be included. Please pre-register on EventBrite ( Cost: $10. Contact Alison Dressler for more information at or 828-684-3562.

Saturday, April 19: Visit a Farm Transitioning from Organic to Biodynamic
10:00 am – 1:00 pm. New Moon Farm, address, Fairview, NC. Gregg Adams is transitioning his long-term organic farm to biodynamics and is currently gathering materials for making a Biodynamic compost. There will be a walk-about and discussion about the transition. To carpool over to the farm, please meet at 9:30 am in the Food Lion parking lot on Hwy 74 (1350 Charlotte Hwy, Fairview, NC), across the street from Fairview Elementary School. RSVP to Jim Smith 864-313-5106 or

The organizing committee for these events: Jim Smith (Earth & Spirit Design), Pat Hart (Highland Lake Cove), Jeanine Davis (North Carolina State University), and Harald Hoven (Rudolf Steiner College).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bloodroot Growing Workshop in April

My research assistants, Margaret Bloomquist and Alison Dressler, will be offering a bloodroot growing workshop at the NC Arboretum in Asheville on April 15th. They just recently completed a large bloodroot propagation study, so they are experienced and eager to share their knowledge. Details can be found on the NC Arboretum registration page . This class is being offered by the NC Arboretum and there is a fee.

Please ignore the Hops Field Day Announcement that some of you recently received

Those of you who subscribe to my blog received an email from me within the past 24 hours telling you about a hops field day in July 2013.  That is a real post but it is from last year. I have no idea what triggered that email. It was a surprise to me when I received it!  There will be a hops field day in 2014, but we are not ready to announce it yet. Sorry for the confusion this has caused some people.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Two Workshops in One Day: Organic Broccoli Production and Variety Trial Results preceeded by Organic Variety Trials, Seed Saving, and Breeding

We are offering two organic workshops back to back on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, 455 Research Drive, Mills River, NC. (Directions)

WNC Organic Broccoli Production: Variety Trial Results, Opportunity to Do Some On-farm Tests, and Grower Discussion
Time: 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm
At this workshop we will present the results from the Organic Participatory Broccoli Variety trials conducted on the certified organic unit at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. Learn which varieties grew best and tasted best during the most challenging growing season we have had in a very long time. We also have funds to support three on-farm tests to see how the better varieties perform on working farms: we will supply seeds and a small honorarium. We hope to recruit those cooperators at this workshop. There will also be a general discussion and share session about organic broccoli production in WNC; opportunities, challenges, and research needs. Lunch will be provided for growers who attend both workshops. The research and workshop are supported by the Organic Farming Research Foundation. If you plan to attend the broccoli workshop, please drop an email to There is no cost for this afternoon workshop.

On-Farm Variety Trials, Seed Production and Plant Breeding: A Primer for Organic Vegetable Growers in North Carolina
Time: 8:30 am to 1:00 pm
This workshop will feature John Navazio, Ph.D., of the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), Senior Scientist for OSA and Organic Seed Specialist for Washington State University Extension. This workshop will introduce growers to the principles of designing, conducting and evaluating on-farm variety trials using basic scientific methods. We will discuss choosing appropriate varieties, integrating trials into your current production, and crop traits to consider for trial assessment. Learn the basics of reproductive biology, harvest timing and seed cleaning using vegetable crop examples that are best suited for seed production in the varied climates of North Carolina. Crops discussed will include collards, kale, crowder peas, melons, cucumbers, squash, peppers, and tomatoes. We will cover classical breeding methods that can be used to enhance varietal adaptation to your cultural practices as well as environmental and market challenges.
While open to anyone, content will be aimed at growers who have strong baseline knowledge in sustainable vegetable production. We also welcome extension personnel and those providing technical assistance in the agricultural field. 

Cost for the morning workshop: $10.   Registration: Online at CFSA's online store First-time registrants in this system simply create a guest user name and password by clicking the "New Visitor Registration" link when prompted to login. If you are a current CFSA member you should already be in the system with your login name being your primary email. Click the "Forgot your password?" link to have it reset it and send you an email with a new one.
Snacks, coffee and beverages will be provided throughout the morning along with a number of take-home publications on pertinent workshop topics. Contact the following people for any questions regarding… registration: Anna Dobbs,, 919-542-2402 and workshop content and day-of support: Eric Soderholm,, 252-482-0696 (o), 301-221-7119 (m). Funding for the morning workshop comes from a USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant administered through the NCDA.

These workshops are brought to you by staff from Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and staff in Jeanine Davis' program at NC State University.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Workshop in March to Meet Buyer from Mountain Rose Herbs, and More!

Mountain Rose Herbs ( ), a much-loved and respected medicinal herb supply company (I have six big bags of their herbs sitting in my office right now!) wants to buy medicinal herbs grown and sustainably wild-harvested from our Southeast region with a particular interest in our native botanicals. Brian Russell, the buyer, will be attending the Organic Growers School ( ) on March 8 and 9 in Asheville, so we have taken the opportunity to put together an afternoon workshop on Friday, March 7th so interested growers and wild-harvesters can meet Brian, learn what he would like to buy from this area, and what you need to do to sell to him. It will give him a chance to learn what we have to offer. There will also be presentations by Joe-Ann McCoy from the N.C. Arboretum on how to make a voucher, by Sarah Schober on what the Bionetwork Natural Products Laboratory has to offer you, and by Jennifer Flynn on the Blue Ridge Naturally Brand (something Mountain Rose is very interested in). I might say a few words, too.

Space is limited, so register now on EventBrite at: The event will be held at the Haynes Conference Center on the AB-Tech Enka Campus near Asheville (an address and map will be posted soon).


Monday, February 17, 2014

Reminder: Winter Vegetable Conference in Asheville is This Week!

Just in case you missed the earlier announcements and calendar listings, I wanted to remind you that the annual Winter Vegetable Conference will be held on Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 19 and 20) at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, NC. This is the largest commercial vegetable growers event in the region with presentations by university researchers, extension specialists, industry reps, farmers, and others. The program will include presentations on disease management in the vegetable field and packing house, new consumer trends, herbicide carryover, how new 2,4-D tolerant corn and cotton may impact vegetable growers, stink bug control, tomato grafting, tomato breeding, pesticide impacts on honeybees, blue pumpkin and spaghetti squash cultivar trials, and considerations for soil nutrient management after an extremely wet year. Pesticide credits will be offered. There will also be a trade show and a silent auction that supports student scholarships. There will be a sponsored social at 5:00 pm on Wednesday and a sponsored lunch and awards program at noon on Thursday.

(Please note, this is a conference for all vegetable growers; so fertility, disease, insect, and weed management recommendations will include conventional and organic appropriate methods and products with an emphasis on conventional methods.)

Dates:                                   February 19th and 20th, 2014
Times:                                   9:30 am on Wednesday through lunch on Thursday
Location:                              Crowne Plaza Resort, Asheville, NC
Costs:                                    Registration at the door is $35.