Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do You Raise Chickens? Practice Safe Handling to Avoid Transmitting Diseases to Humans

I raise chickens just like many of you, and wanted to pass on this reminder that we need to practice safe handling to prevent making ourselves, our children, or anyone else who visits our homes and farms sick.  There have been some recent outbreaks of human infections with Salmonella linked to handling of chicks and ducklings.  These outbreaks could be prevented, or at least lessened, if people practiced the safe-handling techniques outlined in the article below.  Enjoy your chickens, but do it safely.

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Chicks and Ducklings

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Update on the NC Component of the East Coast Broccoli Project

This morning there was a nice piece on NPR's Morning Edition about the Virginia component of the East Coast Broccoli Project.  You can listen to it here: Eastern U.S. Farmers Hope to Break into Broccoli Biz.   (The North Carolina component got it's NPR exposure in December Growing a Broccoli Economy.)  So this morning I've been getting phone calls, emails, and tweets about how our western N.C. component of the project was going.  So here is a quick, mostly pictorial, update.
We grew a lot of pretty broccoli. This is our first planting that we planned for a mid-July harvest.

This photo was taken in mid-July and shows us evaluating color on a variety from the first planting.
Heads are measured in a variety of ways to find the perfect broccoli for today's consumers.
Samples are iced and brought in for further testing.
Samples are prepared for shipping to the University of Tennessee for nutritional analysis.
This is what our second planting looked like on August 3.
This planting is having a few production issues, such as this girdling/rot.
And we don't know if it is turkeys or crows that have taken to pecking on our white plastic mulch!
All in all, we think it is going real well.  There is good grower interest, too.

There will be a broccoli field day in the High Country next week.  You are all welcome to come out and visit a grower's field and here about our project, too.  Here is the information: High Country Broccoli Field Day on August 15.

This project is led by Thomas Bjorkman of Cornell University and is funded by a Specialty Crops Research and Extension Initiative grant from the USDA.  Broccoli Project webpage

Friday, August 5, 2011

What Does Our Research Hop Yard Look Like Now?

We are getting lots of inquiries about our research hop yard and how it is doing.  I don't have the time right now to give a full update, but here are recent pictures.
This group of pictures was taken on July 28, 2011.  This was our first harvest, so we were figuring out our methods as we went along.
The strings are slack because we lower the top wire to facilitate harvesting.
We harvest into small containers because these are research plots.  We have five plants of each of the ten varieties, but that is replicated four times (so we actually have 20 plants of each variety).
Just another shot to show how lowering the bines facilitates harvest.  You also get a good view of our major weed control method.
More harvesting.
This gives a good view of the number of cones on this particular variety (no, I don't know which one this was).
The first time we dried our hops we put them in bags in a forced air dryer at 100 degrees F.  That caused some browning.  The next time we laid them out in a single layer on the screens in my big herb dryer and that worked great.  The cones stayed almost as green as when they were fresh.
This was just a nice shot taken on July 6th.  This was three weeks before harvest.
We had a public hop yard tour on July 18th.  The morning was cold and wet, but 60-70 people turned out to learn and share.

Cost Share Funds Available for NC Organic Farmers

If you are a certified organic grower and haven’t applied for the NC Organic Certification Cost Share program, do so before September 30, 2011.  Growers that have been certified or recertified since September 30, 2010 are eligible for partial reimbursement (75% up to a maximum of $750) of the certification cost. 

The program is run through the NC Department of Agriculture and is funded through a grant from the US Department of Agriculture.  Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To apply, growers must fill out an authorization form that can be found online at The completed form, a copy of the farm’s certification, a copy of the receipts from the  certifying agency and an IRS W-9 form should be mailed to the NCDA&CS Division of Marketing, Attn. Heather Barnes, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1020. 

The deadline to apply is September 30, 2011.  If you have any questions please call me at 919-707-3127 or email me at

This information provided by Heather Barnes, Marketing Specialist, NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services