Thursday, March 26, 2015

Summer Position in Western NC Working with Organic Vegetables, Hops, Truffles, Herbs, and More

This is a picture of some of my staff last summer discussing how they are going to apply the floating row cover to the new field of organic cucurbits (cucumbers, summer squash, and melons) that they just planted at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. This year we will have four studies in the certified organic unit at that research station involving cucurbits, tomatoes, and lettuce. We also have stevia and truffle projects there. At our home base at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River we have studies on hops, woodland botanicals, Chinese medicinal herbs, and Echinacea. It is a lot of work and we need some additional help from May through about October.


Here are the details:

This position is based at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC. That is about 20 miles south of Asheville and 250 miles west of Raleigh.  The position will report to Dr. Jeanine Davis; see her website for more information on her program. This position will supply general field and office support to a number of projects.  Most of the time will be spent in the field working with medicinal herbs, stevia, broccoli, cucurbits, hops, truffles, and tomatoes. Tasks will include weeding, pruning, training, harvesting, grading, data collection, and general assistance with all aspects of the program.  Some office work will include data entry, photo management, copying and scanning receipts, etc. Both organic and conventional crops will be included. Work will take place at the research stations in Mills River and Waynesville and at farms in western NC counties.

This position is a temporary growing season position that will run from approximately May through October. The work schedule is 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday, usually 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The applicant must have a high-school degree (or equivalent) and two years relevant experience.  The applicant must be at least 18 years old so they can drive a state vehicle. The applicant must know how to use a computer and have experience with Word, Excel, and basic photo management.

We are looking for applicants with some experience working on a commercial farm, assisting with field research, and knowledge of medicinal and native plants. The ability and desire to do hard manual labor outdoors for long periods of time in all kinds of weather is needed.  Individual must be detail oriented for reliable data collection.  Individual should be comfortable talking with people at field days and grower meetings.  Good photography skills are a plus. Individual will be expected to drive a full-size state pickup truck with manual transmission.   Some use of a personal vehicle will be expected, with reimbursement for mileage. Office duties will include electronic filing of photographs, entering data into Excel spreadsheets, preparing materials for displays and meetings, and interacting with cooperators via phone and email.  Must have a good driving record. Must be a self-starter, reliable, prompt, able to make independent decisions, and work as part of a team.

FAQ for our summer positions: 
Q: I would like to take three weeks off in July to go to Europe (or wherever). Would that be okay?
A: We will try to accommodate reasonable requests for time off, but keep in mind this is an agriculture position and in the middle of the summer we are really busy. Asking for three weeks off in July would not be considered a reasonable request.

Q: I am a college student and need to go back to school in mid-August. Can I just work until then?
A: No. That would not work well for us. Many of our crops are not ready for harvest until late August or September. We need someone who can work the entire season from May through at least October.

Q: I am taking a summer class and would not be available until 10:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays (or have to leave at 2:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays or similar). Can I work around my class schedule?
A: No. During the growing season we need this support position to be available from 8 to 5 everyday. We can offer some flexibility to accommodate occasional requests for changes in schedules but not a regular class several days per week.

Q: I really like gardening but I am afraid of snakes (or ticks or poison ivy, etc.). Will I encounter those in this job?
A: We work outdoors every day in fields, pastures, and the woods. There are snakes, ticks, mosquitoes, spiders, bees, poison ivy, thistles, multi-flora rose, etc. We also work in the sun all day long. We encourage our employees to watch for and protect themselves from harm. We provide bug spray. gloves, and sunscreen and encourage wearing hats and long sleeves. We try to control poison ivy and prickly plants and we watch for snakes. But the reality is, you will be working outdoors!

Anticipated Hiring Range: $10.00 to $12.00 per hour based on experience. 

Proposed Hire Date – May 1, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Have You Registered for the GAPs for Medicinal Herbs Training?

Growing medicinal herbs is much like growing any other crop that will be sold for consumption. There are guidelines for helping to ensure that what you produce is safe to eat. Do you know what practices you are using that might be putting your product at risk? Do you have a written plan that you can show your buyer? Join us to learn and share how we can produce the highest quality, cleanest medicinal herbs in Western North Carolina by registering for this workshop on April 18th. The workshop will be held in Mills River, NC.

This program is brought to you by the Strengthening the Blue Ridge Naturally Value Chain Pilot Project. It is a collaborative project between the NC Natural Products Association, NC State University, and the Small Business & Technology Development Center and funded by the WNC Agriventures Project.

Monday, March 9, 2015

What is Happening with Medicinal Herbs in WNC!

Margaret Bloomquist is a Research Assistant in my program. One of her many responsibilities is for the medicinal herb projects. Here is a post she wrote for this week:

By Margaret Bloomquist
It finally smells like spring! Hopefully this finds you all well, with seed orders arriving, garden and farm maps in hand, and the season’s plants sprouting.  We’re here to help you with medicinal herb sourcing, production, and marketing.

There are many regional and national buyers eager to source medicinal herbs from western North Carolina, both woods-cultivated and field grown plants. There is an especially great demand for Certified Organic herbs, and great potential for grower/buyer contracts for specific herbs.

One of our current projects, funded by the WNC Agriventures grant, focuses on strengthening the value chain of medicinal herbs in WNC by developing training materials and programming for growers, wild harvesters, and manufacturers.  This includes a program where we match growers with buyers to increase the supply from our region. We will also be holding a  GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) for Medicinal Herbs Training Event in April. See below for updates on Woodland Botanicals, Field-Cultivated Medicinal Herbs, and Upcoming Events. Happy March!
Woodland Botanicals
Our woodland botanicals are preparing to emerge as our first spring ephemerals lead the blooming. Bloodroot and mayapple are such beautiful signs of spring in the mountains! Keep a patient eye out for emerging seedlings such as goldenseal, ginseng, ramps, and others you may have planted in the fall or in years past. The most popular woodland herbs for cultivation this year include black cohosh, bloodroot, ginseng, goldenseal, and wild yam. 

Field Medicinal Herbs
What are you growing this year? Do you have a buyer lined up? Please be in touch and we can work on the marketing aspect together. We have 8 buyers and over 30 growers already using our pilot matchmaking service, and demand continues to be much greater than supply.  The most popular herbs for field cultivation this year include Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea Angustifolia, Dandelion, and Calendula

Upcoming Events
Bring the Spring! March 11th, 5-8pm. The networking mixer for the Natural Products Industry at MG Road (under Chai Pani). Join us to mingle with growers, product makers, educators and industry professionals. There will be a silent auction with natural products and services to benefit the North Carolina Natural Products Association. Appetizers will be provided. Please thank MG Road for hosting by enjoying their great cocktails and elixirs! This is a free event but please RSVP, because space is limited.

WNC Herb Growers Club - Spring Educational Event. March 12th, 4-6pm. Join us at the Research Station in Mills River for an educational and networking event. We’ll talk about "Herb Selection – What to Grow?" Site preparation and resources available to you will also be covered. This is a free event,  but please RSVP to