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.


  1. Visiting Hop'n Blueberry Farms will be my first consideration for my next holiday. It would be good idea to come there with my family. I hope we can enjoy our holiday there.

  2. Come see us by all means. We will start the butterfly tours on May 13. Tours will be every Friday and Saturday at 10 am and 12 pm. Check out the website for directions. Hopnblueberryfarm.com

  3. Wow, that was good news. Congratulations on receiving a WNC AgOptions grant for 2010. It makes me want to visit there.