Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are You Selling Transplants This Year? Do You Know the Rules?

Tomato transplants we grew for heirloom tomato trials

This past week I've talked with several local farmers who plan to sell vegetable transplants at tailgate markets, to fellow farmers, and to stores.  This is a great way to make many unusual varieties available to local gardeners and farmers.  But are you aware that there are state nursery rules that might apply to you?  You may need to obtain a nursery certificate and have your plants inspected by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA).  If you think this might apply to you, please read on.

These rules are for all annual transplants.  This includes vegetables, flowers, and herbs that don't overwinter.

If you grow transplants and sell them in North Carolina for home garden or any other non-commercial use, you are exempt from the inspection and certification requirements.

If you sell transplants for commercial use in NC, that means a farmer or anyone else in NC who intends to resell the transplants or the fruit, flowers, etc. produced from them, you must be inspected and you will probably need to be certified as a nursery.  If you are selling to a local farmer within a 30 mile radius of where you produced the transplants and he/she has personal knowledge of the conditions under which they were grown, you are exempt from these rules.

If you intend to ship the transplants out of the state, you need to check the requirements of the importing state to determine if a certificate of inspection is required.

If you determine that your plants need to be inspected, you will probably need to get a nursery certificate, too.  You will be certified as a REGISTERED nursery (less than one acre in size and does not sell outside the state) or as a CERTIFIED nursery (one or more acres in size or sells outside the state).  It costs $20 per year to be a registered nursery and $100 or more per year to be a certified nursery. 

The nursery rules are extensive and somewhat confusing and I'm not going to try to spell them all out for you here.  If you think you might need to be inspected, please call the plant protection specialist for your area. 

The plant protection specialists and the areas they cover are all listed on this website:

Here is the nursery regulatory services page:

And here is the page about vegetable transplants:

So what happens if you don't follow these rules and an NCDA inspector finds out?
A stop-sale will be issued and your plants can be confiscated and destroyed.

Why do these rules exist?
These rules were established to prevent the spread of diseases and insects on transplants and to help ensure that commercial farmers purchase healthy plants of the varieties they intended to purchase.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NC Organic Farmers: Participate in Graduate Student Interview & Possibly Win $50!

Cover crop research at Mills River

Chelsi Crawford is a graduate student working with Dr. Julie Grossman in Soil Science to determine from which sources farmers learn about cover cropping and how they translate that knowledge into practice on farm. She is in search of NC organic (certified or non-certified) farmers who use cover crops, regardless of cropping system, scale of operation, or experience with farming. This study will produce some interesting information about sources of information for organic farmers in North Carolina as well as how decisions are made with regard to the use of cover crops. As compensation, she will enter each participant into a drawing for $50 and two SARE publications entitled Building Soils for Better Crops and Managing Cover Crops Profitably.

She is scheduling brief (30-45 min.) on-farm interviews across NC.  If you are interested in participating in the study, please contact her at: or (919) 219-9497.
Thanks for helping our graduate students.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Herbicide Carryover in Manure, Compost and Hay-Think Before Using

Aged or composted manure is a great soil amendment.
Last year we had a problem statewide with herbicide damage in gardens and on organic farms as a result of manure and composted manure with herbicidal activity.  This was the result of herbicides used in the growing of the hay that passed through the animal basically intact and was still active in the manure, even after composting.  I'm not going to get into all the details here, but you can read about it in an article I posted under "Late Breaking News" on  Please don't think you are immune from this potential problem.  If you use manure or old hay, ask what herbicides were used, if any, and compare them to those on the list in the publication.

I will be speaking on this topic at the Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference in Timonium, Maryland on Thursday.  This is a animal nutrition conference, and I will be totally out of my element.  I probably won't know a sole, but I am looking forward to learning more about feeding horses and cattle (I have the former and plan to get the latter soon).  I will also enjoy meeting a whole new group of people.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Can I Grow Wasabi in Western North Carolina?

One year old wasabi plant in western NC

There is a rising interest in growing wasabi, again.  Yes, we can grow it in western North Carolina.  Here is a little information about it from a project I was involved in, Washington State University, and some other websites.

In 2002, Randy Collins, extension agent in Graham County, led a wasabi growing project working with an organic farmer there.  Here is what I wrote about that project:

Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) is an aquatic perennial plant that is highly prized for the culinary use of its root. The rhizome has a hot flavor similar to horseradish, and is eaten freshly grated or ground into a paste. Wasabi is commonly used in sushi restaurants worldwide; the antibacterial properties of the root make it an excellent condiment for raw fish. While the majority of the wasabi used in the United States is imported, the climate in certain areas of western North Carolina is remarkably similar to that of Japan, and likely suitable for the cultivation of this plant. Demand consistently exceeds supply for this crop, and restaurants are willing to pay top dollar for it (as much as fifteen dollars per fresh root). Given the established market and appropriate climate for growing this plant, wasabi is a potential niche cash crop for western NC.  The wasabi plants were grown in a clean mountain stream.  Many of the varieties succumbed to disease, including Phytopthora rot in the roots and Rhizoctonia rot in the crowns. Disease was less prevalent in the more heavily shaded areas of the test plot, suggesting that additional shade may alleviate some of the conditions that foster disease.  The plants that survived that first year are still growing now.  The plants for this project were provided from a tissue culture project at Clemson University.  The varieties were numbered, thus we do not know what the variety names are of the ones that survived.  The take home message from this project is that wasabi will grow here, but when buying wasabi plants, look for resistance to the diseases we encountered.

Several other people have tried growing wasabi in the mountains with varying degrees of success. All that I am aware of grew them in natural streams and springs.  This eft them very vulnerable to droughts and floods.  I suggest that new growers look at production systems that would give them more control over water flow.  The publications below give some examples.

There is commercial production of wasabi in Washington state and Washington State University has done research on growing wasabi and published some good production information. I suggest you consult this guide: Growing Wasabi in the Pacific Northwest:

Here is a detailed wasabi growing project report from Tasmania:

There is a Carolinas' based wasabi company, Real Wasabi that manufacturers all kinds of wasabi products.  The headquarters is in SC and the wasabi farm is in NC:

It can be challenging to find wasabi plants for sale.  I have seen them at herb festivals and tailgate markets.  Here are some commercial online sources for them:
Mountain Gardens (garden scale)
Pacific Coast Wasabi (commercial scale & contract growing)
Pacific Farms (plants unavailable at time of this post; but check back)
Richters  (garden scale)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Opportunity to See FRESH, the movie on March 11

You are invited to attend FRESH the movie on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 7 p.m. at The Carolina Cinema, 1640 Hendersonville Road, Asheville, NC.

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for the future of our food and our planet.

Among several main characters, FRESH feature urban farmer, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilema: and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy. 72 minutes.

Watch the trailer for FRESH at .

A discussion of the movie’s ideas will follow the showing. There will be subsequent showing on March 21 at 5 p.m.

This movie is hosted by CELESTE GRAY, with contributions by CHARLOTTE STREET COMPUTERS. Sponsored by The ORGANIC GROWER’S SCHOOL, and GRASS TO GREENS. For more information contact Celeste Gray at 828-275-5648 or

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ramps Season is Almost Here

I noticed that some of the ramps we have planted on the research station are just starting to emerge from under the leaf litter and scattered patches of snow.  That and the few blooming crocuses are a sure sign that spring is almost here in the southern mountains of western North Carolina.  Ramps have a long and colorful history in the Appalachian mountains.  They have long been valued as an early spring tonic after a long winter without fresh fruits and vegetables.  They are now the centerpiece of dozens of fundraiser festivals held from North Carolina to Pennsylvania.  

We have a webpage devoted to ramps at  There you will find a short production leaflet, links to festival listings, and sources of ramp seeds and bulbs so you can grow your own.  More detailed information is included in the book I coauthored with Scott Persons entitled Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal, and Other Woodland Medicinals.  It is available through the publisher, or various online booksellers.  Another great book is Having Your Ramps and Eating Them, Too by Glen Facemire.  You can order it through his website

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Join Us at the Organic Growers School This Weekend

 17th Annual Organic Growers School will be held this weekend, March 6 & 7, 2010 at University of North Carolina Asheville.  For about the past ten years it was held at Blue Ridge Community College, but we've moved this year to a bigger venue.  We are excited about that, but a little nervous.  It will also be our second year as a two day event.

There will be over 60 classes on farming, gardening, cooking, policy making, organic certification, and sustainable living.  There will be a seed swap and a great tradeshow.  New this year will be three salons on Saturday evening in downtown Asheville on a variety of topics. 

I organized the track on hot new crops.  That is Track H and will include sessions on both days on how to grow truffles, hops, mountain muscadine grapes, and mushrooms.  Should be interesting.

To learn more, visit

Monday, March 1, 2010

WNC Forest Products Project Request for Proposals

WNC Forest Products Cooperative
Production and Marketing Project

Request for Proposals
February 26, 2010

Summary: Land-of-Sky Regional Council seeks proposals from forest producers to improve the marketing or production methods for their forest-based businesses. We are particularly interested in proposals that involve several forest producers working together to reach new markets or to produce their forest products more efficiently. This project is supported by the US Forest Service Southern Research Station with American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding so the main project focus will be hiring forest producers to improve their enterprises. Funds are not available for major equipment purchases. Proposals are due by 5:00 pm on March 31, 2010. The total budget to fund proposals under this request is $1 million. The maximum amount for any proposal is $100,000.

Background Information: Refer to:  and select “WNC Forest Products Cooperative Marketing” in the center of the page for the Plan of Work for the project issuing this request for proposals. Background information on the project is contained in that document and also examples of promising approaches.

Jobs, Not Equipment or Consultants: A principal goal of this request is to find underemployed or unemployed forest workers with creative ideas about improving their forest enterprises. In contrast to major equipment purchases or substantial consultant work, we will hire forest producers to do research, explore alternate approaches to production or marketing, or to strengthen market connections. Successful proposals will use most of the requested funds to employ forest producers in improving their businesses.

Eligible forest producers: For the purposes of this request, forest producers are persons engaged in businesses which grow, harvest, process, market, or use timber and non-timber forest products. They may include forest land owners, timber harvesters, mill operators, forest product wholesalers, builders using forest products, forest food producers, growers or harvesters of woodland herbs, forest farmers, and other individuals or organizations involved in the supply chain between western North Carolina forests and consumers of forest products. Producers may include formal marketing cooperatives or informal groups of producers that are interested in cooperating for more efficient production or marketing. Both timber and non-timber forest products will be included in this definition. Field-produced tree species such as container ornamentals, fruit orchards, and Christmas trees will not be included. Funds are not available for major equipment purchases.

Examples of Eligible Expenses:
Forest producer salaries up to $20/hr
Incidental supplies and equipment of less than 5% of the total proposal amount
Travel expenses for project-related travel
Communication expenses such as long distance telephone calls

Examples of Ineligible Expenses:
Large equipment purchases (more than $1000)
Consulting expenses exceeding 5% of the total proposal

Hypothetical Example: A group of loggers in Madison and Yancey Counties works independently and makes a reasonable living hauling large diameter wood to the local log yard. Some smaller diameter wood finds its way into the market but the return is poor and as a result landowners are rarely interested in improving their stands by removing smaller trees. These loggers see marketing that smaller wood as an opportunity to improve their profit margin but they need to find a way to make it pay a better return. They also believe that more efficient timber harvest operations and avoiding expensive equipment sitting idle may offer ways to improve their profits.

A facilitator and several of the group members talk with technical experts and solicit suggestions on how to proceed. Guided by this advice the logger group develops a proposal that describes dividing the group into teams to explore solutions. One team is proposed to look at ways to share equipment and to bring in the latest new devices to speed up their harvest operations. Another team will examine FSC Certification and starts working with a group of landowners that may be interested in working with their logger group. A third team will arrange a meeting with the Green Building Council to find interested builders and to understand the specifications needed for high value wood products. A fourth team will explore ways to add value to their products by “putting a face on it.” They will work with marketing experts to brand a line of locally grown, sustainably harvested wood that green-oriented customers around Asheville are willing to support.

(Note: A proposal in response to this request might describe a process similar to the one in bold above that these hypothetical loggers developed. Below is how that project might proceed if the proposal is selected for funding.)

After this first phase described above, the teams will report back and the logger group proposes a pilot project. The pilot is largely successful and two years later the group has sold three logging trucks and two skidders to help finance a forwarder to haul small diameter wood to the deck more quickly. They finish the certification process for over 200 acres of forest land needing stand improvement. A newly unveiled web portal offers a line of certified framing timbers, trim and flooring that will go into houses within a hundred miles of where it is harvested.

After the project most of the logger group continues to meet at monthly breakfast meetings. Several of them are business partners using shared equipment and they all benefit from the opportunity to share thoughts with their peers in the forest industry.

Characteristics of Successful Proposals: Successful proposals will include some or all of the following characteristics:
1. employ several underemployed or unemployed forest workers
2. involve a group of Western North Carolina forest producers
3. improve the profitability of multiple forest-based enterprise in WNC
4. improve the marketing of forest products, particularly to local or regional markets
5. improve the economic, environmental or community sustainability of forest enterprises
6. increase the level of collaboration and cooperation between forest producers or between producers and their customers
7. lead to more efficient use of equipment, personnel, or marketing resources
8. seek support for efforts not currently supported by other programs
9. include a plan for long term economic viability once stimulus support is complete

Forest Stimulus Project Support for Producer Groups: Project staff is available to help in facilitating meetings, finding technical advisors, and providing marketing assistance. Cooperating Organization in this project are:
The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (
The Land-of-Sky Regional Council (
The Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center of NCSU (
The NC Division of Forest Resources ( and
The Southern Forest Network ( ).

Please describe in your proposal any assistance that you may need from these or other government or nonprofit organizations to carry out your proposed project.

Public Meetings to Clarify this Request for Proposals: Three public meetings will be held as described below to clarify this request and to answer questions.

Boone – La Quinta Inn & Suites 165 Highway 105 Extension Boone, NC 28607
Phone: 1-828-262-1234 for directions
March 16, 2010 from 4:00-6:00

Asheville – at Land-of-Sky Regional Council
339 Leicester Highway Asheville 28806
March 17, 2010 from 3:30-5:30
Directions at:

Cherokee – at Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall
545 Tsali Blvd. Cherokee, NC 28719
March 18, 2010 from 4:00-6:00
Directions to Cherokee Meeting: Take I-40 west to exit 27 (Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). Continue west on U.S. 74 past Waynesville, Sylva, and Dillsboro to exit 74, Cherokee. U.S.Hwy 441 will take you into Cherokee. Turn right at the “T” intersection juncture with Hwy 19. You will see the Oconaluftee River ahead. Just before you reach the river, turn left on Tsali Blvd. The Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds and Exhibit Hall will be on your left in approximately ¼ mile. Enter the Fairgrounds through the small walking gate at the parking lot and proceed ahead to the large Exhibit hall building.

Proposal Format: Proposals may not exceed 4000 words including any appendices and may be submitted in electronic or printed form. Electronic proposals must be readable by Microsoft Word. The proposal will include the following sections as well as others as needed:
• Cover page with contact information including the name of a principal contact person, postal address, telephone number and email address (if available);
• Project summary of 100 words or less;
• Proposed budget;
• Proposed schedule;
• A list of persons involved in the project and those willing to support the project as well as the nature of their involvement, and
• Other sections to convey the key concepts of the proposal.

Selection Process: Land-of-Sky Regional Council will acknowledge receipt of proposals within a week of the deadline. A panel of reviewers will advise LOSRC on the most promising proposals to support based on the criteria described below. The contact person for each proposal will be notified within one month of the status of the proposal. Funding is projected to be available within two months of the deadline for successful proposals, pending approval of employment contracts with proposal participants. The Council may need to verify employment status related to employment contracts.

Selection Criteria:
• Completeness and Clarity of the Proposal - Is it clear what the forest producers intend to do if selected? Does the proposal have all the required elements?
• Jobs Impact – What will be the impact of the project? How many underemployed forest producers are involved? How many jobs will the proposed project support in the future? What are likely annual sales and secondary community impacts in the future? What other forest producers or forest enterprises will be affected?
• Likelihood of Long Term Benefits – Does it seem likely that the producer group can accomplish what they propose with the available time and resources? Are plans proposed to economically sustain the project when stimulus funds are gone? Does the project support sustainable forest practices? Does it support rural communities economically and otherwise? Will the results provide a useful model for other forest producers?
• Importance of Project to WNC Forests - Is the project related to working forests and forest products? Does the project focus on clearly defined forest and community needs and opportunities?
• Qualifications of Project Leaders and Other Project Participants - Is it clear what the producer group intends to do with their time and with the funds listed in the budget? Do the project leaders have relevant experience and expertise? Are others willing to bring time, experience, or financial resources to the project and how will they be contributed? (refer to letters of support below)
• Sustainable Solutions – Does the project support sustainable forestry practices? Does it support rural communities economically and otherwise over the long term?
• Building Local Capacity and Collaboration - Will the project engage and build the capacity and expertise of local individuals, businesses, agencies and organizations to achieve project goals? Does the project seek to avoid duplication of efforts? Does the project propose to use local resources that are currently directed toward their topic?

Letters of Support: The project proposal should describe the roles of all participants including those that volunteer time, materials or funding outside the support that may be awarded under this request for proposals. Letters of support from project supporters are welcome but not required. At a minimum, project supporters should be listed along with contact information so we can confirm their level of commitment to the proposed project.

Similar Proposals: LOSRC reserves the right to offer submitters of similar or related proposals the opportunity to collaborate after the due date of the RFP. For example, we may attempt to connect groups of forest products producers with groups of forest products buyers or with groups of forest land owners. We may also propose that groups with similar proposals explore opportunities to combine their efforts.

Funding Acknowledgement: The funding for this project is provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service. (

Deadline: Proposals are due by 5:00 EDT on March 31, 2010 by mail or email at:
Land-of-Sky Regional Council
339 New Leicester Hwy, Suite 140
Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 251-6622
Fax (828) 251-6353

Project Schedule:
Award to LOSRC: December 3, 2009
RFP Issued: February 15, 2010
Proposals Due: March 31, 2010
Successful Producer Groups Sign Contracts and Begin: April and May 2010 (projected)
Final Producer Group Reports: August 30, 2011
Project Complete: September 30, 2011

Proposals Being Accepted for WNC Forest Products Projects

Cultivated goldenseal

Land-of-Sky Regional Council (LOSRC) Chairman Eddie Fox announced that through March 26, 2010, the organization is accepting project proposals to generate jobs by helping forest producers improve their marketing skills and production methods for their forest-based businesses. The “request for proposals” is part of a regional economic stimulus effort to help improve the forest products industry in Western North Carolina.

“Forest workers across the region are experiencing hard times,” said Fox. “These funds will put forest producers back to work and help them to improve their businesses over the long term.”

The USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station, based in Asheville, is providing nearly $2 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds for the economic stimulus effort being administered by LOSRC. Signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009, ARRA provides millions of dollars to jumpstart the economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the nation can thrive in the 21st century. The Southern Research Station awarded the ARRA grant to LOSRC in a competitive selection process.

“Across the country, the Forest Service is using ARRA funds to put Americans back to work and to help restore the economy,” said Jim Reaves, director of the Southern Research Station. “Here in Western North Carolina, our goal is to generate jobs by helping forest producers to improve their enterprises. We are delighted to be working with Land-of-Sky Regional Council on this important project that we believe will help stimulate the region’s economy.”

According to the LOSRC plan for administering the stimulus funds, groups of forest workers will work together to improve their competitiveness while sales are down. The goal is to help businesses to be more profitable as demand for forest products returns and the economy recovers. LOSRC seeks to help underemployed or unemployed forest workers with creative ideas about improving their businesses. The project could employ close to 100 forest producers to explore alternate approaches to production or marketing. For example, a group of loggers in the region may want to find ways to connect their products with green builders. Woodland herb producers may want to share drying equipment and introduce their own line of value-added products. LOSRC is cooperating with a number of organizations to implement the plan including the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, the NC Division of Forest Resources, the NCSU Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, and the Southern Forest Network.

To be eligible for the program, forest producers must be persons engaged in businesses that grow, harvest, process, market, or use timber and non-timber forest products. Proposals are due by 5 p.m. Eastern time on March 26. The maximum amount for any proposal is $100,000. More information about the economic stimulus effort and how to submit a proposal is available at:  This information is also included on another post on this blog at
Public Meetings to Clarify this Request for Proposals:
Three public meetings will be held as described below to clarify this request and to answer questions.

Boone – La Quinta Inn & Suites 165 Highway 105 Extension Boone, NC 28607
Phone: 1-828-262-1234 for directions
March 16, 2010 from 4:00-6:00

Asheville – at Land-of-Sky Regional Council
339 Leicester Highway Asheville 28806
March 17, 2010 from 3:30-5:30
Directions at:

Cherokee – at Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall
545 Tsali Blvd. Cherokee, NC 28719
March 18, 2010 from 4:00-6:00
Directions to Cherokee Meeting: Take I-40 west to exit 27 (Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). Continue west on U.S. 74 past Waynesville, Sylva, and Dillsboro to exit 74, Cherokee. U.S.Hwy 441 will take you into Cherokee. Turn right at the “T” intersection juncture with Hwy 19. You will see the Oconaluftee River ahead. Just before you reach the river, turn left on Tsali Blvd. The Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds and Exhibit Hall will be on your left in approximately ¼ mile. Enter the Fairgrounds through the small walking gate at the parking lot and proceed ahead to the large Exhibit hall building.

LOSRC is a non-profit, voluntary association of local governments that manages regional projects and provides services to its members in the areas of planning, economic and community development since 1966.