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Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Great Big Truffle Surprise!

Sold the Tractor!  More Transition Ahead!

Selling the tractor really brought on a big unexpected shift – a monumental transition for me and I am no stranger to transition – believe me!  It really freed me up to consider other ways to manage the orchards, outsourcing to be exact.  I found a local landscaper to do the mowing and cleanup in the big orchard in time for this past week-end’s orchard tours and another local grower has volunteered to give me a hand.  So, all of a sudden I’m feeling much better about the ongoing maintenance.  Should be all good, right?  Well, not quite.  One change seems to lead to another so……….

After the last post, I got a call from one of the “science types” out there in the truffle community who was very interested in talking about the questions I posed regarding the future of the big orchard.  He offered to help me with soil testing, root and leaf sample testing and replacement of trees.  WOW!!!  All because I put it out there.  You just never know………..  Then, you might remember, I mentioned crowd funding for resource development.  Decided against it for lots of reasons; the main one being that it “just didn’t feel right.”

Then, I had to sit with my musings over the realities here at the truffle farm and life in general.  Talk about transitions – the biggest one yet and, probably the one with the most promise (along with challenge -- and I do love a challenge) is before me.  This farm is perfectly positioned for someone new to the business to start.  A lot has been done, all the groundwork laid and there’s so much more to learn over the next couple of years through involvement in the research project with the specialty crop block grant.

Here’s my thought process in a nut shell:  

It's a "truffle grower wannabe's Dream Come True"
Here's an orchard of +/- 75 oaks & filberts that look great and, with any luck at all 
should begin to produce truffles in a couple of years.
Another orchard of +/- 350 trees, most of which need to be removed and replaced.  Resources established for that process.

Spring fed pond and irrigation system that does a good job of watering both orchards.

To me, it sounds like a great time to transition the farm to someone who is 10-20 years younger than me and wants to learn the truffle farming business.  I can stay involved to some extent to share what I have learned over the past 14 years, spend more time with my family and work less.  Friday, Dazy and I could come help you hunt truffles if you want us to.  I could keep on keeping on in the truffle product business, too, unless the new owner wants that business, too.  It's all up for discussion.

This farm has some significant history and is located in a very scenic area with views of Pilot Mountain and Sauratown Mountain.  It’s one of the first farms in North Carolina to produce truffles, the first in Stokes County.  Several TV segments have been filmed here including Martha Stewart.  

The time is right.  Friday would love to greet you.  There are grapevines, blueberry bushes and lots of room for whatever other crops you'd like to add.
Check out the listing by clicking on the link below.
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If you want to learn the truffle business and believe as I do  that the best is yet to come,
Keep Your Fork Farm may be just the place for you.  And, "til the right person comes along, I'll be right here doing what I do.  Stay tuned......................

Think Truffles!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Do I Really Need a New Tractor???

OK.  I admit it.  There are a lot of things I need worse than a new tractor -- but, hey, it's tempting.  I mean, the old tractor is big and -- yeah, it's old.  A new tractor that's smaller and serves the purpose of my mowing and moving stuff around and tilling in that lime in the spring.  I would love it.  AND, it drinks diesel -- not gas like my mower.  I like that aspect.  So, here's the thing.  It's expensive!!!  The biggest benefit would be that I wouldn't be afraid to get on it and do what needs to be done all by myself.  I could change the implements without any help.  I wouldn't have to rely on the scheduling of others to get my work done.  Is this beginning to sound like I need to be in control of my own truffle domain?  Bingo!  That's what it's all about.

TLB Series L45 Loading Dirt

Here's the reason I'm thinking about it at all. 



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Young signs of EFB -- Not yet in full bloom
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Dead as a door nail


If you've recently started reading my blog or, like me,  don't have perfect recall :-)
Back in 2004 and 2007, we planted 500 (mostly filbert inoculated seedlings) in what we will now call Test Orchard #2.  The past 2 years, because we knew we had EFB bigtime in that orchard, we started spraying Growers Mineral Solution on the foliage in the hope that stronger trees would hold out against the blight.  I couldn't come to terms with the idea of spraying fungicide which is the recommended treatment.  Looks like EFB loves Growers Mineral Solution and the experiment was a dismal failure of enormous proportions (think $10,000 worth of trees gone to their great reward).    So :-\ , now what?

Well, there may be options.  Here's where the decisioning process comes in................

Option #1:
Pull out those trees and forget the whole thing.  It was a just a bad dream.

Option #2:
Cut the trees down and plant truffle inoculated oak seedlings in their place and wait 10-12 more years to see what happens.  This option I can't afford.      OR

Option #3 -- my personal favorite ---
Do some soil testing and see what the mycelium concentration is in the soil.  If it's high, plant some regular uninoculated oak seedlings in the place where the trees are dying and irrigation is in place-- and see if those trees will adopt the truffle mycelium.  Maybe we could still get truffles in that field because of the already concentrated mycelium in the soil.

My farmer gene must be in high gear this morning. 

Farmers have to be comfortable with saying "maybe" a lot.  
I'll never forget unearthing truffles here with Martha Stewart.  Can't let it go.

I'm pondering the possibilities in the replanted Orchard #1.  My thinking is that we could get truffles in 5 years easily in this 4 year old orchard which was a replant from Test orchard #1.  Maybe because that particular orchard placement is so perfect OR because it was a replant from a producing orchard where the soil itself is fully inoculated.  That original tree species just simply couldn't hold out against the blight.  Now it's planted with blight resistant filberts and oaks.

SO -- that's what I would do with a new tractor -- rework the orchard that's about to bite the dust.  About 50 of the 500 trees in that orchard were inoculated with truffles that grew in Test Orchard #1 where Martha visited and got truffles..

 Some grant money for that soil testing would be a real good thing.  It won't be cheap.

Any scientists out there reading this?  Comments would be most appreciated.

Now, do I really need a new tractor?  Anybody want to buy a tractor?

Think Truffles!!!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Truffle Butter and Honey Flying Out the Door!!!

Well, well, well!! 

I am very happy to report that restaurants and truffle lovers are busily placing orders for products and keeping me hopping in the kitchen.  Thank goodness for air conditioning!!

Here are 2 restaurants in our area (Big thanks to the chefs) where you will be able to enjoy our delicious truffle butter all the hot North Carolina Summer long.  Use the links to check out their menus!!

Chef Donny Smith at NewTown Bistro in Winston-Salem is putting us on the menu again.  Can't wait to see  this chef's newest creations!

New Lunch and Sunday Brunch Menus!

 Also, we're back at Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards.

Many thanks to Chef Paul Lange, a long time supporter of our local truffle products.

Harvest Grill Front

We appreciate ya!

Just dropped off a new shipment of truffle butter at RagApple Lassie Vineyards in Boonville, too so visit them if you're in that neck of the woods. RagApple Lassie
On another happy note, I now notice that almost 25,000 people have actually read my blog (some perhaps with every post) so, folks, let's see those orders........................ by phone (336-631-8080) or email , you know where I live!

Think Truffles!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Carolina Farm Stewardship Event Hugely Successful!!

I know I told you about the upcoming farm tour a few weeks ago but this really blew my mind.  I had no idea how many people to expect so, of course, I prepared for throngs.
Port-a-John and Kubota resting comfortably after their workout

This past week-end convinced me (just in case there was ever a doubt) that lots of people are interested in truffle growing. 

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (of which I am a member farm) held its first ever Triad Farm Tour on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  It was a huge success!  CFSA has been doing farm tours in other areas for a long time but this was the first in our geographic area.

I had no idea how many people to expect and prepared for the crowd.  We had 93 visitors on Saturday and 40 on Sunday.  We probably would have had more on Sunday but it rained in the middle of the afternoon so it may have kept a few people away.  As soon as it stopped raining, my visitors started arriving again. 

I had volunteers to work with folks while I told the truffle story.  We gave tastes of our truffle butter and truffle honey (and sold a bunch of it!)  We sold out of the truffled white chocolate and we weren’t even sampling it.

Children and adults all enjoyed the visit and really engaged and asked good questions.  I was very pleased with the way everyone respected the property, interacted with the dogs, took away brochures and business cards to share with friends and family.  I passed out NATGA brochures along with my own farm brochures and had an opportunity for a professor from Illinois State University who teaches an online course in sustainable agriculture to film my spiel to share with her students in the fall.

It was a very rewarding experience.  If you live in North or South Carolina and have not joined CFSA, whether you are a farmer or not, I heartily encourage you to do so. Everybody wants good healthy food and CFSA really supports farmers.

Agricultural and Culinary Tourism are on the rise and the mystery of truffles really brings people out!  So happy to be here!  Hope you all have a great summer!!

Think Truffles!