Category Archives: Farming Practices

Exciting Opportunity for Local Family Farm

Please vote and support one of our Sandy Mush farms; the Frisbee family is working hard to prove that vineyards are a viable and profitable farming venture in western North Carolina.  Profitable family farms, and farmland preservation is our goal!

Learn about this family’s farm story!

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A farmer’s view of rural America

Think about this with your morning coffee.

An English Sheep Farmer’s View of Rural America 

Benefits of balanced ecosystems

We are always thinking about healthy balanced ecosystems, especially this time of year when we are hoping to keep pest pressure to a minimum.  We had our best year yet with the potatoes.  We kept a wide, wild swath of pasture around the potato patch; not only did we not have potato beetles to contend with, but our family of turkeys enjoyed hanging out.  Now we have rotated my cousin’s cattle through the upper part of the pasture, and they thoroughly enjoyed the waist high pasture.

Enjoyed reading this informative article about the benefits of hedgerows.

Organic Broadcaster

Spring weekend on the Farm

spring2016beebranchfarm.jpeg

Great news on the honey bee front, Glenn had good success with his queen breeding program. He bred five new queens last summer, one was a replacement for a new queen we had bought last spring which didn’t survive and the other four he used to start new nucs.  He overwintered these nucs and now he is moving those up into hives.  We are very excited about this new development because it allows us not to rely on buying bee stock, and we may start selling nucs locally next spring.  The bees seem strong; all hives survived the winter; therefore, he has doubled our hives.  We are now up to eight hives.  The hum is electric around our bee yard!

We have begun our spring planting with cabbage, broccoli , kohlrabi, and cauliflower transplants that I grew from seed now in the ground.  I believe they are the best looking I have grown in four years; hope the final product is as tasty as the plant is good looking. Also have onion, leeks, fennel, beets, carrots, chard and kale seeds planted, as well as potatoes.  The tomato, pepper, basil and eggplant starts are looking good, and will be ready to pot up soon.  Many more plants and seeds to get in the ground, but off to a good start.  I will have tomato, pepper and basil starts available for sale this year; lots of tomato varieties.  I am looking forward to that first taste of the sun-drenched tomato; truly one of the great pleasures in life.

Just finished planting our mini vineyard with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon; since rain is supposedly coming tonight, we decided to get those in the ground today rather than waiting until the weekend.  Now we can focus on getting the posts in the ground this weekend.  We are excited about this new project even though it will take three years before we can experiment with making our own wine.  Lots of reading up on how to manage an organic vineyard; I do enjoy a challenge.

And, just in case  you were concerned that we might be getting bored this season, no worries because we are going to build our farm shed and greenhouse ourselves.  The shed/solar greenhouse is designed, the layout is squared up and the holes are dug for our pole barn construction shed.  Not bad for a Saturday’s work.   A sense of accomplishment and a solid deep sleep.  And that is a weekend on the farm.

 

 

 

Cover Crops and Craft Wine

Thanks to Bruce Larson for sharing these interesting posts/articles.

(22 March 2016): “Cover Crops Are Making A Comeback” (http://daily.jstor.org/cover-crops-making-comeback/)

——–“Farmers looking for profits are increasingly turning to an old technique to preserve soil health: cover crops.  The use of cover crops . . . is ancient: even the Roman poet Virgil references cover crops, but the practice is undoubtedly far older.  In recent decades, these living mulches have fallen out of favor, replaced by commercial fertilizers producing repeated commercial harvests without interruption for soil recovery.  Now that commercial yields are declining, some farmers are returning to older methods.  Given the many benefits of properly used cover crops, it’s amazing that their use ever declined.”

********The article upon which this post is based is “Cover Crops and Living Mulches” by Nathan L. Hartwig and Hans Ulrich Ammon.  The link to the article is included in the post.  This seems to be an instance where the exclusive focus on one thing, by ignoring many other things, can undermine the one thing that is cared about.  This is a common problem when one linear relationship is considered and the systemic features are not.  This is so prevalent that it seems like a logical fallacy.  It does seem like an instance of the fallacy of composition (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition).

 

(29 March 2016): “Craft Wine?  Craft Beer’s Innovation Edge (and What Wine Can Do About It)” (http://wineeconomist.com/2016/03/29/innovation-2/)

********Asheville, North Carolina, the home of craft breweries aplenty, craft ciders, and craft spirits.  What about craft wine?  More vineyards, to be sure, and the home of America’s most-visited winery.  In any event, Mike Veseth has some interesting thoughts about how the business of wine might be informed by recent success of craft beer.

Veggies and pesticides: know what you eat!

You will be very happy you and your family are eating Bee Branch Farm veggies, especially green beans, after learning more about the potential effects of pesticides on your health.

Recently, Consumer Reports released their Pesticides in Produce Report.  I am hopeful that with this respected mainstream publication sharing their well-researched findings that more people will educate themselves on what they are consuming and how it affects their health, as well as how the specific farming practices being utilized affect the health of the farm workers, community and environment.

Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, discusses an overview of this report in this interview on WNYC.  It is worth a listen, but for the detailed information, I suggest reading the report and downloading the free full scientific report with risk guide.

We all have to weigh our options and make choices based upon our values and means.  I believe the first step in being able to make the best choice possible is by educating ourselves.   First, the report reinforces the health benefits of eating your veggies, even if you can’t choose the lower pesticide risk organics.  However, given the choice, vegetables grown using organic methods without synthetic pesticides reduce your risk of exposure to harmful pesticides.  This is especially pertinent if you are pregnant or have children; the young are more susceptible in their development.  If you need to weigh and choose which veggies you can select organic vs. conventional, then the report provides a risk guide to help you assess where best to invest your organic dollars.   You will see that they recommend always buying organically grown green beans and peppers because of the high risk rating.  You can enjoy all the Bee Branch Farm peppers and green beans you want with a smile on your face!

Definitely, eat your veggies and fruit.  Know your farmers and their farming practices.  Educate yourself.  Make the best informed decisions you can for your family, your community and the sustainability of farming and the environment.

Visit to Horne Creek Living Historical Farm and Getting There

Glenn and I enjoyed traveling the rural back roads of North Carolina for a couple of days earlier this week.  We meandered from Morganton to Wilkesboro, with a very useful stop at Brushy Mountain Bee Farm to stock up on jars and bee gear.  The place was buzzing with bee enthusiasts, their bee stories and exchange of experiences.

Then we selected a few vineyards on the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail to visit and sample their vintages.      One of our favorite stops was a visit to Olde Mill Winery and Vineyard, a family run and owned business.  Beautiful place, great people , good wine and a commitment to quality.

We had not made reservations, and asked at one of the wineries for a recommendation.  Chip, of Vintage Inn, happened to be there and let us know they had a room available, and the Inn’s guests who he was taking on a tour of the wineries, gave a glowing recommendation.  We loved it.  Chip and Sandy were great, and they are close friends with our own local Applewood B&B owners, Nancy and Larry.  Fun connections.

On our final day, we enjoyed several hours at the Horne Creek Living Historical Farm in Pinnacle, North Carolina.  Lisa Turney, the site manager, was extremely generous with her time and gave us a tour of the home and farm, providing us with thoughtful insights, history and answering our many questions.  It was interesting to learn more about a Piedmont farm in the early 1900’s and compare that to our mountain farms, everything from the difference in the tobacco process to seeing a fruit/vegetable drying shed for the first time.

They have also started a Southern Heritage Apple Orchard, which we plan to visit again.  We are currently enjoying the book by Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr., Old Southern Apples:  A Comprehensive History and Description of Varieties for Collectors, Growers, and Fruit Enthusiasts.

I highly recommend a visit to the farm which can easily be combined with hiking and camping at nearby Pilot Mountain State Park.  This is situated on Hwy 52 just north of Winston-Salem.  At the most, it is 30 minutes from I40, but I, of course, recommend the more ambling back roads route with all of its fun discoveries along the way.

 

Spring is poetry to my senses

I am so thankful for spring and all it brings!  It feels good to be back outside digging in the dirt, hearing the birds sing and watching for the promise of new life sprouting forth.

We planted three varieties of potatoes this weekend:  Red Thumb French Fingerling, Purple Majesty and Yukon Gold.  The broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and cabbage starts are growing in our make shift “greenhouse.”  The fall planted garlic and winter leeks look good, and I hope to plant onions later this week.  The first week in April will be very busy with getting lots of seeds in the ground, as we plan to begin our deliveries in June.

Thankfully, three out of four of our honey bee hives survived the winter, and two appear to be very strong.  We are hoping to get another queen and pull bees from the others hives to help populate and start a new hive to try to hold steady at four for this season.  We shall see; last April we had two swarms, but we still had our best year ever.  Looking forward to the honey!

Lastly, I thought I would share this poem by Marge  Piercy that resonates with me.  I am enjoying her poems from her Circles on the Water:  Selected Poems of Marge Piercy 1982.

To be of use

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest

and work in a row and pass the bags along,

who are not parlor generals and field deserters

but move in a common rhythm

when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

We hit water!

Okay it might not be as exciting as hitting oil to some, but I was very excited when we hit water at 180 ft with 8 GPM on our new farm well.  We chose to go a little farther for a better reservoir of water, and the water was beautiful and clear.

This means we can get the cattle fenced out of the creeks and streams, which is healthier for our watershed and for the cows; and as a bonus, we will have irrigation for our veggies this summer; no more dragging hoses all over the garden.  I love making progress on the sustainability of Bee Branch Farm.

The blooming, buzzing adventure continues…

We are having a busy but good year on Bee Branch Farm, hence the lack of communication.  We doubled our veggie deliveries from last year, and I am taking on additional farm connected activities.  I am helping out with Cycle to Farm as it grows; there were four events this year with the final Cycle to Farm being in Sandy Mush October 11th.  I am also serving on the Farmer Support Cluster of the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council, and I am excited to soon have the opportunity to start serving on the Buncombe County Agricultural Advisory Board for Farmland Preservation.  As you all know, I am passionate about this.

As for the veggies this season, this is what makes all the long hours and hard work worth it.  A few comments our farm families have shared with us.  First of all, it does my heart good when I hear how much the children are enjoying their veggies.  We have children fighting over who gets the last bite of chard, asking for those french radishes, and loving  purple potato salad.  In the words of Finney,  “It is good to know your farmer.”   Our families have also shared stories of improved health and vigor, better gum health as noted by dentist and healthier skin.  Yeah for eating your veggies!

We are especially happy that we have a bountiful crop of tomatoes that haven’t succumbed  to late blight as they did last year, and we were able to stave off the rascally racoons who love sweet corn as much as we do, at least for the first couple of weeks and then while we were away for the weekend they figured out how to circumvent the electric fence.  I do give them credit for their tenaciousness.  It was also fun growing artichoke from seed for the first time.  I have let a few go to bloom, and they are stunning.  I enjoy seeing which bees are attracted to which blooms.  We have continued to incorporate beneficial zones in our garden to attract and nurture these insects, and we feel that it is one of the reasons that we have had good success without spraying even organically.

Life on the farm is a blooming, buzzing adventure…..