Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Organic Vegetable Production Workshop on August 31, 2010

Organic Vegetable Production Workshop at the Mountain Organic Research Unit

August 31, 2010

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Mountain Research Station
265 Test Farm Road
Waynesville, NC

Come visit the NEW Mountain Organic Research Unit and see our first year trials with peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli. Do you have questions about varieties suitable for the western mountain region, or organic weed and disease management? We will be showing off (and tasting!) heirloom and heirloom type tomato varieties along with several varieties of grafted tomatoes. See which barrier and cover crop methods do the best job managing weeds in peppers. For fall crops, we are also looking at five varieties of broccoli planted at several dates. At the end, enjoy a light lunch including a tomato testing, and provide your input for the future plans of the Mountain Organic Research Unit. Also, help us come up with a good name for it! This workshop is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Emily Bernstein at 828-684-3562 or
Email: Emily_bernstein@ncsu.edu

Directions to the Mountain Research Station:

Off I-40 west, take Exit 27 onto 19/23 South. Go 3 miles to Exit 104 (the "Lake Junaluska - East Waynesville" Exit). Take Hwy 23 Business south toward Waynesville. Go 2 miles. At the traffic circle turn left onto Ratcliffe Cove Road (SR 1818). Travel approximately 0.6 mile, to the station sign (the road name will change to Raccoon Road - continue straight). Turn right onto Test Farm Road (SR 1810 - a gravel road). Follow the signs to the Mountain Research Station. View a map online at http://www.agr.state.nc.us/research/MountainResearchStationWaynesville.htm

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Organic Certification Cost-Share Deadline is September 30, 2010!

Organic Certification Reimbursements

The National Organic Program (NOP) administers a cost-share program for certified organic producers and handlers. After receiving certification, participants may be reimbursed up to 75% of costs related to organic certification, not to exceed $750 annually. They must comply with NOP regulations for organic production or handling and have received certification or renewed their certification within the established timeframe. This is a great opportunity for organic operators to offset the rising cost of certification, and it can also make certification affordable for those who wish to enter the organic market.

How to Apply:
The current funding cycle ends September 30th, 2010, so individuals seeking reimbursement should work with their state agencies and certifiers to submit a complete application as soon as possible. Eligible producers and/or handlers can find the contact for their state program on the website below. The state agencies can provide further information and application packages.

Here is the Federal Information:

Here is the North Carolina Program Information.  Look at the bottom of the page:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Herbicide Carryover in Manure-Last of the Tomato Study Results

The past two summers some North Carolina farmers and gardeners reported plant damage due to herbicide carryover in manure and composted manure they applied to their farms and gardens.  This is not a new issue; it has been a problem around the globe for many years with a certain class of herbicides.  You can read more information about it in this leaflet and the links provided therein:

This summer, some gardeners in Asheville thought they had plant damage from some locally obtained composted manure, so we ran a test.  You can get the full story on the situation, the test, and earlier results by reading the three previous posts on this blog from July 9, July 26, and July 29, 2010. Or just click on "herbicide carryover" in the labels section on the right sidebar of this blog.

Here are the final results from that study.  These plants have been grown for seven weeks in a mixture of the composted manure with standard potting mix, in the potting mix with the suspected hay on top, and in just our potting mix.  Note, the damage did not become apparent until the plants had been growing for five weeks!  Also keep in mind that these plants have now been growing in these little pots for seven weeks. They are totally root bound.  So even the control plants (in straight potting media) don't look great.

Tomato Plants Grown for Seven Weeks 
with the Suspected Composted Manure 

Tomato Plants Grown for Seven Weeks 
with the Suspected Hay
Tomato Plants Grown for Seven Weeks 
in Standard Potting Mix
So, what's the conclusion?  There was something in the composted manure that seriously affected the tomatoes. We suspect it was herbicide, but without further testing, we can't know for sure.

How can you prevent experiencing herbicide carryover damage yourself?  First of all, talk to the people you get your manure or compost from.  Ask them if they aware of this problem and what they do to prevent it.  If there is any chance of the manure being contaminated, don't use it to grow any sensitive plants (see the bulletin referenced above, but basically vegetables and flowers).  And I strongly recommend that you grow some plants in the manure in pots first before applying it to the land.  This takes some time (like five weeks), but would be one more thing you could do to ensure it is safe to use. 

On a personal note, I am very upset about this. Adding manure and compost to your soil has amazing benefits; improving tilth, fertility, organic matter, and soil life.  I would hate to see people quit using manure because these herbicides are so persistent.  Not only would they lose out on the soil building benefits, but many horse owners are going to have manure disposal problems if they can't give their manure away to farmers and gardeners.  On my own farm, we do not have adequate pasture to get our animals through the winter so we have to buy hay.  This year we are asking more questions than ever from the farmers we buy hay from.  We are even considering asking them to sign a statement that they have not used any herbicides containing aminopyralid, clopyralid, or picloram.  If all hay customers starting demanding this, we would see less use of these herbicides in situations where these problems can occur.

Aminopyralid was banned in the United Kingdom for a few years, but it has now been reintroduced with restrictions. Here are links to information on that:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Farming, Gardening, and Nature Blogs I Like to Follow

Early morning view of the front pasture at my farm.
It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and I was reading over some interesting blogs and thought my followers might want to know about a few of them.  So here are some favorites:

Flower Garden Girl
You want to read a blog that will put a smile on your face?  And you like gardening?  Well then you have to check out Anna's blog.  She is a North Carolina gardener with an optimistic attitude, a delightful style of writing, and a fantastic eye for photographing all things botanical.  She has a new home that she is landscaping right now and you can follow her progress on the blog. She also sells delightful little, hand painted birdhouses.

Hop 'n Blueberry Farm
This is another blog that will make you smile.  Van Burnette is a character. I will put that right out here in print where he can read it. He's a loveable character with a contagious enthusiasm for trying new things, like growing blueberries, hops, ramps, woodland botanicals, and butterflies.  Yes, I said butterflies.  Van lives and farms on land that has been in his family for generations in Black Mountain, NC.  Van likes to share what he has learned and does this through his blog and tours on his farm.  Check it out, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Southern Appalachian Hops Guild
If you follow my blog, you know I'm trying to help the North Carolina hops industry grow and prosper.  Chris Reedy is doing the same, just taking a different angle.  He is leading the Southern Appalachian Hops Guild and maintains this blog for them.  In it he shares much of what we are all learning about growing hops in the Southeast, helps promote the local hop growers, and provides information about hop related events.

Windy Hill Hops and Farm
I haven't been following this blog very long, so I can't tell you too much about it.  It is a small farm in Southern Illinois where organic hops, herbs, and vegetables are being grown.  Sounds right up my alley, doesn't it?  What interests me the most is that the writer is documenting all the questions that arise as the hops progress through the season.

Fennario Farm and Apothecary
One of my employees, Amy Hamilton, started her own farming venture in Madison County, NC this spring with her boyfriend, Gabe.  This blog tells the story of their first experience growing and selling vegetables and medicinal herbs. Amy is the research specialist in my program and spends much of her time there advising farmers.  This experience has already helped her assist farmers because now she knows first hand how difficult it is to make a profit working the land.

Hopesay Glebe Farm
I like to follow what people are doing in other countries and this is a sweet, certified organic, ten acre farm in Shropshire in the United Kingdom that would be a fine example for another wanting to create a diversified small farm.  They have laying hens, sheep, vegetables, high-tunnels, and also raise bees, off-site, for honey. They do direct sales. The blog always has great pictures that I find very informative.

Jim Long's Garden
If you love herbs and read any of the herb literature, then you are probably familiar with Jim Long.  He is an amazing gardener, a wonderful writer, an entertaining and informative speaker, and all around fun person.  He has a delightful blog that not only covers what's happening in his own Long Creek Herb Farm in the Missouri Ozarks, but also covers his interesting travels and people he meets.

Western NC Vegetables and Small Fruit News
This is my favorite, serious professional university Extension blog.  Written by area extension agent, Sue Colucci.  She covers three western NC counties, Henderson, Haywood, and Buncombe.  She is a plant pathologist, very knowledgeable about organic agriculture, and just a delightful person all around.  If you want to keep aware of what is happening with veggies and small fruits in western NC, this is the blog to follow.  She is also part of our hops team and has created a page just for hops.

Western North Carolina Green Industry News
I don't usually follow the green industry (nursery, turf, landscaping, etc.), but I learn so much from this one that I follow it.  It is written by three local NC extension agents: Cliff Ruth in Henderson county, Amanda Stone in Buncombe county, and Tim Mathews in Haywood county.  They work hard to keep you informed about diseases, insects, new plants, grant opportunitities, and educational programming.

NC Small Fruit, Specialty Crop, and Tobacco IPM
This is a more serious blog than the ones listed above.  It is written by my university colleague, Dr. Hannah Barrack, an entomologist at NC State University in Raleigh. Hannah has an interest in organic agriculture and is working with us on the hops project.  She uses this blog to keep North Carolina farmers informed about insect pests on small fruits, tobacco, and specialty crops and provides information on how to take an integrated approach to managing them.  She also provides links to other relevant resources.

Ocean State Hops
I really enjoy following the progress of many of the small hop yards that are developing across the country.  There are so many people who say you can't grow hops anywhere but in the Pacific Northwest.  Well, I guess they forgot to mention that to these folks!  They will never be huge, mechanized hop growers, but they have a market niche in Rhode Island and a wonderful blog.  Great pictures.

Little Farm on the Mountain
This blog is written by a strong woman in Tennessee with a passion for farming and writing.  She chronicles her farm life with humor and honesty.  At the time of this writing she was suffering a bit of burn out and was going to take a few weeks off.  Even so, I encourage you to check out what she has posted previously check back for new postings.

Tiny Farm Blog
Here you can follow the story of a very small "organic farm" in Ontario, Canada. He started from scratch in 2002, moved the farm in 2008, and is now farming fulltime.  I put "organic" in quotes because I don't think he has certified the new farm yet, and actually seems to be reconsidering that.  Anyway, I've learned a lot about ways to improve efficiency on a very tiny farm.  (this is not to be confused with my own home blog which is Our Tiny Farm in Western North Carolina http://ourtinyfarmnc.blogspot.com/).

Outside Clyde
This blog is not about a commercial farm or garden.  It is an ongoing, and frequently updated, story about Christopher who lives in Clyde, NC.  He is building his own house and gardens and documents it all well.  He is also a landscaper and the most amazing photographer!  If you want to see the beauty of Haywood County, NC and surrounding areas, this is the blog to follow.

Saratoga Woods and Waterways
This is another blog that I follow because I am just in awe of the beauty she sees and captures with her camera.  Jackie Donnelly lives in Saratoga Springs, NY which is an amazing place that I would love to visit someday.  I never would have known about it if it weren't for this blog.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lots of Eastern Hops Activities Going On

There is so much happening with hops production in the eastern U.S. that I can't keep up with it all, but I thought I would make you aware of just a few hop happenings and farms that you might find of interest.

The 2nd Annual Hops Tour was held in western North Carolina last Saturday.  Winding River Hops and Hop 'n Blueberry Farm were the two hop yards on the tour.
Scott Grahl describing his hop operation, the first stop on the tour. 
A very nice article was written about the tour by Giles Morris with the Smoky Mountain News. It has been posted on the Southern Appalachian Hops Guild Blog at http://southernappalachianhopsguild.blogspot.com/

Rita Pelczar and John Wright took a few minutes to describe their certified organic hop yard in Madison County.

Most of the hop cones in this yard have been harvested already.

Blue Mountain Brewery and Hop Farm in Virginia just had a big hop harvest. They posted amazing pictures on their Facebook Page. You really need to see these:  http://www.facebook.com/bluemountainbrewery.  They had a festival with music and over 100 volunteers to help.  The hop yard pictures are beautiful.

There is a small hop yard in Rhode Island called Ocean State Hops that seems to be progressing nicely.  They are new and small, like many of the rest of the eastern hop yards.  I'll be interested to see how they do.  You can follow their blog at http://oceanstatehops.blogspot.com/.

Cone & Bine Hop Farm in Conover, NC is just getting started with their organic hop yard. They got a late start this year but I'm enjoying reading about their experiences on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CBHopFarm.

There are many people interested in growing hops in the eastern U.S. Before you start your own hop yard I strongly recommend that you read everything you can on the topic, visit as many growers as possible, and have a long discussion about it with your county extension agent or appropriate extension specialist at your local land-grant university.  There is a reason why most of the hops production in the U.S. is now in the Pacific Northwest.  There are significant challenges to growing hops in the east, most notably diseases and insects.  That said, there are many opportunities for selling locally grown hops.  But before you start, I want you to know it will be expensive to establish, involve lots of hard work, and you'll be challenged with production problems that local agricultural experts will have limited experience with.  But there is a great group of growers, extension agents, researchers, breweries, home brewers, and other interested people who are working together to help rebuild the eastern hops industry.  The more we work together and share our successess and failures, the faster progress will be had.