Friday, March 26, 2010

Ramps Are UP!

For a few weeks now, I have moved leaves and have seen the little ramp stalks breaking ground, but just two days ago, the whole leaves have pushed out through the leaf mulch and are taking in the sun! The first picture shows just that.

The second picture is one that really excites me. It is a picture of new ramp seedlings. It's been a long time coming, but they are up and growing. I harvested the seeds myself and planted them in the fall of 2008. They were covered in screen wire to protect them during that time.
After winter stratification that first year, they remained dormant for the next year finally breaking ground this year. That's a long time to wait to see if a seed will sprout isn't it?

These new seedlings should increase my ramp production another 1000 plants.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Interrested in learning more about hops?

There is a seminar coming up in April that should answer a lot of questions one might have about growing hops. It is being put on by the BioNetwork at the Enka campus of AB Tech. It is part of the Natural Products Seminar and is being coordinated by our own Hops Guild. It is the brain child of Chris Reedy and will cover growing, pest management, soils, brewers perspectives and an optional brewery tour.

I am one of the speakers on the first day with the topic title "A year in the life of the Hop yard".

Other prominent speakers include Bill Yarborough, NCDA&CS reginonal agronomist, Sue Collucci, NCSU Area Specialized Agent for Commericial Horticulture and plant pathologist, Andy Dahm, brewmaster and owner of Asheville Brewing Supply, and of course Chris Reedy the coordinator of the seminar and the Hops Guild.

Below is a posting for this event:

Learn about successful business and cultivation strategies in the
developing hops industry. You will explore issues from economics
to integrated pest and disease management and gain insights and
resources to further your business idea. Day one topics will
include Economics of the Hop Yard, “A Year in the Life of a Hop
Yard” which will provide you with a simple step-by-step guide to
the seasonal processes of hop cultivation followed by Nutrient
Management Programs. On day two we will cover Integrated Disease
and Pest Management followed by the unique perspective of
a local brewer addressing the industries processes, quality needs
and concerns. Following the close of class there will be an optional
brewery tour on Wednesday, April 7th from 3:30PM –
5:00PM. Transportation not provided. Instructor – Chris Reedy.
Hops – Series for the Prospective, Beginning and
Intermediate Hop Growers
Tue, April 6 10:00AM - 5:00PM
Wed, April 7 10:00AM - 3:00PM
127 Haynes, Enka Site Course #: SEF 2039-100
For More Information Contact
Sarah Schober

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Organics Growers School Special

Hello to any of the attendees of the Organic Growers School held in Asheville. If you attended my Hops Growing presentation that I did Saturday and Sunday, March 6-7, 2010 I have a special offer for you. I just wanted to let you know that I do personal and group tours here at my farm. Please call if you are interested. Generally I charge $20 for a power packed educational tour for groups 1-10, and $2 for each person over that amount. If you were in my class, consider the price of $10, get together, and come on out.

There is nothing like an on-hand observation of the whole setup, and if you bring your own beer, you can share it with me at no additional charge!!

See you soon.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Organics Growers School

If you are not familiar with the Organic Growers School, then, by all means, please look them up and try to make an appearance at this conference. It is a power-packed, fun-networking, all inspiring opportunity to learn about everything from growing hops to making goat cheese.

I was one of the speakers there today talking about growing hops with a general population of 1300 eager folks wanting to learn as much as they could in a two-day span. My class was full, and I presented my first PowerPoint presentation and video combination with what seemed to be accurate precision, ending my allotted 1.5 hour talk with no time to spare.

I will be presenting the same presentation tomorrow, Sunday March 6, at 2 pm. It is held at UNCA and very convenient to folks in the area. Come on out and see it if you can, but beware, it is suppose to be 60 degrees tomorrow, and playing ho0key from such an event is a good possibility for most of us that have been cooped up!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hop'n Blueberry Farms Recieves Grant

The Hop'n Blueberry Farm

We wanted to take this time to let everyone know that we have received a WNC AgOptions grant for 2010. This is exciting news indeed. The grant is funded through the NC Tobacco Trust Fund and was open to 17 Western North Carolina counties and the Cherokee Reservation. 120 applicants were received and 42 grants ranging from $3000 to $9000 were awarded.
check in hand of Van
We received our grant to expand research on commercial production of common milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca) and adding a butterfly ranch to our farm. Now, I know what you are thinking--it is the same question that everyone has when they hear about our new project--"Your going to grow what and raise what?"

Here is the scoop on milkweed so listen up. For one thing, it is the host plant for the migrating Monarch butterfly caterpillar. The Monarch as you may well know, migrates from Canada to Mexico in one breed season. The milkweed is the only thing that the caterpillars eat and is responsible for the bad taste that protects the butterflies from predators.

Milkweed seed floss is also used as a non-allergenic insulator used in pillows and comforters. It was used in WWII as the filler for the life-vests in the Navy. The seed is used in the cosmetic industry, as a native soil stabilizer for the highway department, in the plastic industry, and as an oil absorbent to name a few of its potentials.

I am working closely with Dr. Winthrop Phippen of Western Illinois University to find other low volume high dollar uses for the plant. In the mean time, our farm will start the seasonal raising of the Monarch and offer tours to the public and county schools where they will be able to literally enter into the world of the butterfly through the "flight house".

Our "flight house" will utilize a greenhouse with netting where the public will be able to see these magnificent insects as they land on their hands and see all the other stages of the insect's metamorphosis from the egg to the caterpillar to the pupa and finally, if they are lucky enough, to see the emergence of the butterfly from the pupae or chrysalis as it is called.

We will also be offering an educational and entertaining background of the life cycle of the butterfly with an interactive response from the tourist. Here, all will learn about all of the stages of the butterflies life before they actually see it for themselves.

During the off season, we will be transitioning the flight house back to a high-tunnel to aid in our propagation of blueberries, tropical milkweed, and native wildflowers as well as some food for our own table. There will be only two or maybe three months of the year where we will not get some value out of our greenhouse structure.

Be sure to keep an eye on our new year and come out for a visit this summer.