Friday, January 9, 2015

First Regional NC and VA Hops Conference March 14, 2015

The First Regional NC-VA Hops Conference

March 14, 2015 at Forsyth County Center, Winston-Salem, NC

preceded by a Beginning Hop Grower Session on March 13

Register: HERE

Join us for the first regional North Carolina and Virginia Hops Conference with a special pre-conference event for beginning growers.

THE MAIN EVENT: The conference will run from 9 am to 5:30 pm on Saturday (March 14) with registration opening at 8 am. The conference is designed to bring together a large number of regional hop growers and brewers to help continue to grow the Southeastern hops industry. We have a great start, but to continue to advance, hop growers need to better understand the needs of brewers they want to sell to and the regional brewers need to understand the challenges facing hop growers in the Southeast. Working together we can avoid many frustrations and disappointments and build a strong, vibrant industry. Our keynote speaker is Steve Miller, Cornell University hops specialist. Other speakers include experienced growers, local craft breweries, researchers from North Carolina and Virginia, and other industry representatives. We are putting the program together now and information will be updated on the EventBrite page as speakers and their presentations are confirmed. Lunch will be served.
FOR BEGINNING HOP GROWERS: A special pre-conference event will be held on Friday afternoon (March 13) from 2:00 to 6:00 pm with registration opening at 1:00 pm. Learn how to grow hops from experienced growers in the region.

Instructors: Rita Pelczar and John Wright of Blue Ridge Hops in western North Carolina. Rita and John are two of the most experienced hop growers in North Carolina and are also, to the best of my knowledge, the only certified organic hop growers in the state. They are also excellent teachers and willingly, and with some humor, share their experiences growing and selling hops. Their business website is David Goode of Piedmont Hops. David and his partner, Steve Brown grow hops in Virginia and North Carolina. They started growing hops as a hobby for their own brewing, but by 2012 had turned it into a business venture. They are focused on expansion and determined to make hops an established commodity in the region. The business website is
WHO IS PUTTING ON THIS EVENT: This event is co-chaired by Jeanine Davis, hops researcher and extension specialist at NC State University and Stan Driver, co-chair of the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative and owner of HootnHoller Hops. The program committee includes Sebastian Wolfrum, Brewmill brewmaster; Mary Jac Brennan Forsyth County Extension agent; Sean O'Keefe, brewing science researcher at Virginia Tech University; Ken Hurley, beer chemist at Virginia Tech University; Laban Rutto, hops researcher at Virginia State University; Rita Pelczar and John Wright of Blue Ridge Hops, Seth Cohen, brewing scientist at Appalachian State University, Margo Metzger, director of the NC Craft Brewers Guild, Cassidy Rasnick, director of the VA Brewers Guild, and Holly Scoggins, horticulturist at Virginia Tech University.
REGISTRATION INFORMATION: There are early bird and regular registration rates for the Saturday day long conference and the Friday afternoon beginning hop grower session. There will be a lunch on Saturday for everyone who registers through Eventbrite by March 7. Lunch or seating is not guaranteed for people who register at the door at the day of the event. SEATING IS LIMITED! Information on space availability will be noted here. Register HERE.
EXHIBITORS: There is room for 15 exhibitors to have tables in the hallways. Tables will be provided. Please note: this is not a big professional conference center with pipe and drape and such. You will have a single six foot table in a hallway. Space is tight, as in close together. Please plan accordingly. Exhibitors must also register for the Saturday event. You are welcome to set up on Friday afternoon from 2 pm to 6 pm for the Saturday event or you can set up on Saturday morning between 7:30 am and 8:30 am. Exhibitors must register by March 7.
SPONSORS: We welcome sponsors to help us put on the best conference possible. Sponsors will receive one free registration for Friday and Saturday, will be recognized here and on all promotional materials and the program, and will have several minutes to say a few words and show up to three slides at the event on Saturday. Please be prepared to provide a high quality resolution logo for all promotional material. If you would like to show slides on Saturday, those must be provided to Jeanine Davis ( by March 7. Sponsors may sign up until March 7th, but the sooner you register your sponsorship, the more promotional materials you will be included in. Because exhibitor space is so limited, please register for exhibit space separately if desired.
MOTELS: We are working on arranging a block of motel rooms for that weekend. More information will be posted when it is available.

Sponsors to date:


Where can I contact the organizer with any questions? Address your questions to Please put "Hops Conference" in the subject line.
Is my registration/ticket transferrable? Yes. Please notify and put "Hops Conference" in the subject line.
What is the refund policy? Registration for the conference or beginning growers session is non-refundable. If you are unable to attend, you can transfer your registration to another person or we will be happy to send you documentation so that your registration fee can be recorded as a tax-deductible contribution to the hops research in Jeanine Davis' program at NC State University.
What are the fees? The fees you see listed cover the EventBrite services and credit card processing services.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Health Concerns for Hop Growers and Processors-What You Need to Know

There is so much excitement around growing hops in the eastern US. We all know they are a bit of a challenge to grow in this region, but farmers are doing a fantastic job. I have recently learned about a situation, however, that none of us are talking about. That is the health risks of hop dust. So, my colleagues at Michigan State University have arranged a free webinar through which we can all learn how to protect our lungs while growing, harvesting, drying, and processing hops. Here are the details:

Hop harvest and processing safety webinar
Your Lungs, Your Life:  Respiratory disease in hop growing and processing

uesday, January 13, 2015
1 PM, Eastern Standard Time (10AM PST, 11AM MST, 12PM CST)
Hosts: Erin Lizotte and Rob Sirrine, Michigan State University Extension

Join us for this one-hour webinar with Carolyn Whitaker and Dr. Dave Bonauto from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program.  In this webinar you will learn how to keep your lungs healthy while growing and processing hops.  We will cover what to watch for, when to see a doctor, hop jobs associated with respiratory disease, and what you can do to protect yourself and employees.
The SHARP Program is an occupational health research group interested in preventing workplace injuries and disease.  Carolyn Reeb-Whitaker (MS, CIH) has worked at SHARP as a certified industrial hygienist for the past 13 years.  She administers Washington’s work-related asthma surveillance program and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Washington. David K Bonauto (MD, MPH) is the research director at SHARP, where he has worked as an occupational medicine physician for the past 14 years.  He earned his MD degree from Columbia University in 1993.  His research interests include occupational surveillance, chemical related illness, injury epidemiology, and work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
No registration is required and the program is free.  Simply click the following link five minutes before the webinar is scheduled to begin Please sign in as a guest using your first name and state of residence.  You will need a computer with internet access, a web browser (e.g. Explorer, Safari) and speakers.  Don’t worry if you aren’t available on January 13th, we will record the webinar and make it available via 
MSU Extension programs and material are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or veteran status. Accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by calling Erin Lizotte at 231-944-6504, requests will be met when possible.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Reflections on the Biodynamic and Sustainable Agriculture Conferences

I have an amazing staff composed of Margaret Bloomquist, Luping Qu, Lijing Zhou, Reuben Travis, Kelly Gaskill, and Cameron Farlow. Nowadays my time is mostly filled with writing grants, managing grants, and other administrative duties, so the really good work in my program is done by these six people and my graduate students, Jennifer Crumley and Adam Johnson. Starting today, I am going to highlight more of their activities by having them write some of the blog posts from time to time. The first one here is a report from Margaret, Kelly, and Reuben on two recent conferences they attended. We welcome your feedback on this.

November with Alternative Crops and Organics Team
Winter has arrived here in Western North Carolina, and our team is busy in our hive at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center analyzing data, writing reports from this past season’s fieldwork, and working towards new and continuing projects for the seasons ahead. November was ripe with end-of-harvest energy across the region. We had the pleasure of attending two conferences back to back mid-month: The Carolina Farm Stewardship’s 29th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Greenville, SC, and the 2014 Biodynamic Conference in Louisville, KY.  Generous support from North Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCSARE), and from the Biodynamic Association provided scholarships for two of our Research Assistants at each conference – much thanks!
Read on for more on each conference and a review of this year’s SAC from our own Kelly Gaskill.

Biodynamic Conference 2014, Louisville KY
Biodynamic Research: At this year’s Biodynamic Conference, we met with Sara Weber, Director of Research for the Biodynamic Association, Walter Goldstein of the Mandaavin Institute, Hugh Lovell, author of Quantum Agriculture, and Steve Divers from the Horticulture Department of University of Kentucky. We exchanged updates on national and regional research efforts, and discussed potential collaboration. How wonderful for our program to connect with these other passionate researchers and to hear the exciting specifics of their efforts! Here are links to some of the collaborative projects that Dr. Goldstein and Sara Weber discussed:,
Workshops and Networking: This year’s Biodynamic Conference theme was called “Farming for Health: Exploring the Intimate Connections between the Health of Soil, Plants, Animals, and People.”  We connected with friends and colleagues from up and down the eastern seaboard, and attended a variety of keynote lectures and educational workshops including engaging topics such as Connection of Soil Health and Human Health, Biodynamic Solutions to Pest Problems, Biodynamic control of Wooly Adelgid for Eastern Hemlock trees, Health from the Ground Up, Farm-based Education, Healing Plants / Healing Gardens, Soil /Food /Health Connection, No-till Permaculture Solutions for Staple Crop Production, The Emerging Biodynamic Marketplace, and more!
Farmers, Doctors, and Academics: Speakers and conference participants included doctors, farmers, soil scientists, educators, herbalists, business owners, students, professors, gardeners, ecologists, beekeepers, nutritionists, entrepreneurs, researchers, winemakers, and academics. It was a wonderfully diverse and inspired group of people. There is growing recognition of the important connection between farming practices and human health, expressed in the growing demand for organic and biodynamic foods in the marketplace.  Dr. Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian scientist, philosopher, and founder of Biodynamic Agriculture, was among the first westerners to see that the inevitable loss of soil vitality that would follow the post-war reductionist agricultural practices dominating the American agricultural landscape would lead to significant imbalances. He was also among the first to elaborate on the effects this would have on the vitality of the human organism.
Ecological awareness is common rhetoric among many graduating university students from a variety of disciplines. Scientific understanding of the interconnectedness that we see echoed and expressed through Biodynamic practices is well-established through research in the fields of Ecology and Quantum Physics. “Sustainability” is one of the latest buzzwords in contemporary mainstream American culture, and the global organic foods market is expected to grow to $104.7 billion in 2015.
This growing interest and awareness was certainly evident in this year’s conference turn-out! There were several hundred attendees of all different ages, with a substantial showing of young people, some of whom were both students and farm apprentices.  
Where from here? In response to this growing demand, and to establish practical and regionally applicable information regarding biodynamic agricultural practices, our program continues to seek funding to do Biodynamic research, and we seek to provide farmers of the southeast with the information needed to meet the growing consumer demand for biodynamic food.  
For more information about this year’s conference and the Biodynamic Association visit
-By Reuben Travis and Margaret Bloomquist 2014

29th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Greenville, SC   
A big thanks goes out to Carolina Farm Stewardship Association for putting on a wonderful conference!  Jeanine Davis and Research Assistants, Kelly Gaskill and Margaret Bloomquist, traveled to Greenville for three days of research networking, regional meetings, and fantastic workshops. We began with Hugh Lovell’s Introduction to Biodynamics Intensive. If you haven’t checked out Hugh’s book Quantum Agriculture – its good holiday time reading. Quantum agriculture presents the interplay of soil, water, plant nutrition, biochemistry, physics, and more in a unique perspective. His book provides an engaging way for the left-brained scientist types to delve into deeper topics and arenas such as biodynamic agriculture.
Regional and National Collaborations. The Sustainable Agriculture Conference is an opportunity to connect with our regional and national partners from CFSA, Organic Seed Alliance, Cornell University, and of course all of our regions farmers and policy influencers that make our work possible and meaningful. Meetings and discussions relating to the multi-state Organic Cucurbit Breeding Project (USDA-NIFA Sponsored), Western North Carolina Participatory Organic Broccoli Project (Funded by Organic Farming Research Foundation), and the Organic Participatory Tomato Breeding Project (Funded by USDA-OREI) were highlights as well.
Memorable Sessions at SAC. Practical workshops we attended included: Farm Mechanization for Increased Efficiency, for medium sized vegetable and grain farms, Organic Soil Fertility with Oxford University’s Daniel Parson, and an informative workshop on Post-Harvest Handling by CFSA’s Patricia Tripp – very relevant to our research and regional farmers in light of GAPs and pending FSMA regulations.
Check out the CFSA’s website for more information on this year’s conference and opportunities to download material you may have missed:
A memorable keynote jumpstarted this year’s conference, Mark Sheppard – the king of Restoration Agriculture - his experience and practical management to infuse permaculture into a financially viable farm and lifestyle within a framework for healthy local economies brought enthusiasm to the conference attendees (see more on Mark Sheppard below in Kelly Gaskill’s reflections).
-By Margaret Bloomquist 2014
Personal review of the SAC from Research Assistant Kelly Gaskill:
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference is always a favorite of mine. One of those great events where you are reminded that hard working dedicated farmers have support through an abundance of networks. Here we get to gather with a part of the population that wants to invest in the well-being and success of small scale farmers in any way we know how. Here we share similar values around healthy choices for our bodies and our planet. This is where people come together to honor, support, learn, and educate. We share stories, triumphs and heartaches, disasters and accomplishments felt in a single growing season or a life time of doing what we love. An event like this offers a common bond, a wealth of opportunity, a networking system to any person interested in food growing and consuming in a wholesome way.
Excitement for me came in the form of the keynote speaker- Mark Sheppard of New Forest Farm- a permaculturist with a large voice, witty sense of humor and the ability to seemingly offend and inspire everyone in the room within a single evening. He called us out- telling us to act on our ideas and stop merely talking about how to change the world. He’s right, we don’t need to agree with everyone all the time but we sure do need to get along with one another to make things happen. He is one of the many at this event doing amazing things.
I’m also pleased to report the frequency in which I heard presenters emphasize the importance of healing the earth with agriculture. To me, this is the way. Considering that industrialized agriculture has inflicted great damage to our earth, why not grow food in a healing, nurturing way that helps maintain a healthy balance for all life on the planet? Examples of where I saw this theory in action included Chuck Marsh’s Innovative Horticultural Strategies for a New Permaculture Century, Daniel Parson’s Ecological Pest Management: Encouraging Beneficial Insects to Control Your Pests and Hugh Lovel’s Introduction to Biodynamics.
So how will I be a doer? For starters, the fence I just built to keep my dog from the neighbor’s ever tempting compost pile was built from found objects and inspiration by Chuck Marsh. Old twine, discarded bamboo and lots of downed limbs worked well, so well that she became a doer, too- by finding a new path to the goods. Some dogs will keep you on your toes!
Planting flowers to encourage a diversity of insects is so fun and rewarding- Daniel Parson encouraged this practice to the fullest. Getting to know which insects I’m dealing with and which flowers to plant encourages me to get to know both of these life forms even better.  In the past few years I have been planting farmscaping around our hop yard to increase biodiversity, attract beneficial insects, feed pollinators, create habitat, experiment with varying seeding strategies, and display beautiful bouquets in my home. Taking time to get to know my surroundings is so rewarding.
In sum, I am excited to be a part of the growing network of support for our local farmers and food systems. The momentum is growing and events like the SAC are good examples of creating and strengthening connection, collaboration and expansion of the local foods movement while caring for the earth.
-By Kelly Gaskill 2014

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.