Thursday, October 27, 2011

Medicinal Herb/Natural Products Training for Educators & Advisors-Nov. 3

Dr. Joe-Ann McCoy teaching native medicinal herb identification and voucher specimen preparation
This training session is not for those to want to grow, wild-harvest, or manufacturer medicinal herb/natural products themselves, but for those who educate, advise, and provide services for those who do.

Do you have clients who are interested in farming medicinal herbs, wild-harvesting herbs from their property for extra income, adding woodland botanicals to their forest management plan, or making medicinal herb products (tinctures, soaps, lotions, etc.)?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should attend this in-service training program we are offering on November 3rd near Asheville, NC. 

This training is designed for extension agents, NRCS personnel, marketing specialists, forest service employees, and community college instructors but will be useful to anyone who advises farmers, forest landowners, wanna-be herb growers, and new business start-ups in the natural products/medicinal herb arena.

This training is being offered as part of a large grant project entitled "The WNC Natural Products Project" funded by the GoldenLeaf Foundation and administered through AdvantageWest.  This project brings together a unique group of partners to help develop the natural products industry in western NC.  The partners include NC State, Western Carolina University, Bent Creek Institute, the Biobusiness Network at AB -Tech, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, and AdvantageWest.  Hopefully you've seen the promotional materials for the WNC Naturally Events we are offering ( and have encouraged your growers and other clients interested in natural products to attend.  (Here's a little info on AdvantageWest and their involvement:

 This training session is designed to help you help your clients and growers.  You will learn:
1.            the trends in the industry in the region, nation, and world
2.            the efforts underway in western NC to grow this industry
3.            the rules and regulations affecting growers,wild-harvesters, and manufacturers
4.            the programs, services, people, and other resources available to help your clients
5.            who and where you can turn to for answers
6.            you will visit the Natural Products Testing Laboratory and the Natural Products Manufacturing Facility at the AB Tech Enka Campus
7.            you will network with other educators and share experiences
8.            other issues you identify as important will also be addressed

The training session will be offered Thursday, November 3, 2011 at the Haynes Conference Center at the AB-Tech Enka Campus in Candler, NC (near Asheville).  It will from 9 to 5 pm.  t will be an intense day.

This training is free and lunch will be served, but transportation and lodging (if needed) will be your responsibility.  We do not have funds to pay for that.

What do you need to do?

1.            Send an email by Nov. 1 if you want to attend this training or if you have questions about it.  We have about 40 people signed up right now, but have room for a few more.

The lead teachers for this training will be:
1.            Jeanine Davis, Horticulture Specialist, NCSU, who has worked with medicinal herb growers and buyers for over 20 years, conducting research on how to grow and dry herbs, and providing extension materials on the topic through websites, blogs, etc.

2.            Joe-Ann McCoy, Director, Bent Creek Germplasm Repository who has extensive experience working with native medicinal herbs, building and maintaining germplasm collections, seed saving, identifying the plants, knowing their habitats, and preparing voucher specimens.

3.            Sarah Schober, natural products testing and production coordinator at the Natural Products Laboratory who knows the federal Good Manufacturing Practices inside and out, analyzes medicinal herb samples, and helps people develop their products.

4.            David Cozzo, ethnobotanist and project director for the Revitalization of the Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources. He works out of the East Band of the Cherokee Indians Extension office.  He is experienced in wild-harvesting and the use and history of our native medicinal herbs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Broccoli Project Winding Down for the Season

One of the later varieties

These heads are not as smooth as we would like
Preparing samples for nutritional analysis
The 2011 field component of the East Coast Broccoli Project is coming to a close.  It has been a busy season with establishing the field trials, learning how to gather the exact same information across all the other sites, and timing our activities.  But we think we did a good job of it; didn't miss any deadlines or lose any data!  We have been surprised at just how much interest this project has garnered.  We have received phone calls and emails from farmers across the state who are interested in growing broccoli.  Yesterday we met with a local packing house to discuss what it would take to be ready to "go big-time" in the region.  We quickly came to the conclusion that farmers need to spend a few years learning to grow the highest quality broccoli and delivering it exactly the way the wholesalers want it.  While they are learning, there should be many local markets (tailgates, restaurants, and local supermarkets) willing to buy what they produce.

So what are the quality factors the industry is looking for?
  1. A consistent product.
  2. Dark green color.
  3. Very small bead size.
  4. Highly domed heads.
  5. Very smooth heads.
  6. Heads about 4 inches by 4 inches in size.
  7. Long stems.
  8. Product must be quickly cooled.
  9. Iced product is preferred.
So, don't expect us to be moving tractor trailer loads of broccoli from western NC in 2012.  That is a little premature.  We still need to identify the best varieties to grow and learn how to produce the quality, consistency, and volume the industry requires.  But next year would be a great time to get started.  Line up some local markets first, please.  And we will be looking for a few growers to conduct variety trials with us, too.  We are gathering the particulars on that right now.