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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Truffles for Fun and Community Support!

Truffles NC and Flavor NC -- What a team!  
Courtesy of Flavor NC
Just in case you missed all the FaceBook posts about our last tv appearance, wouldn't want you to feel left out so Here's the Link.
We really had a good time with the Flavor NC folks.  Friday did a reasonably good job given the distraction by the neighbor dog from across the road doing her little dance the whole time we were out there in the orchard.  The videographer kept trying to get a good shot of Friday "finding" the truffle (which I personally brought back from France) hidden under a hazelnut tree. Everyone is fascinated by the truffle hunt -- real or fabricated.  I admit, it is fun for the spectators and for Friday.  I always enjoy it.  Still keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that one of my orchards will bring me more than the ONE truffle we found last December.  It's been a long time now since we found pounds of truffles in our orchards but that day will come again.

In keeping with my commitment to the community and to those less fortunate, it's time to start promoting the truffle dinner for 2015.  My graphic designer, Laura Hardy in Pilot Mountain donated her time and talent to produce the logo.  Now, it's time to let the reservations begin!  Watch the website for links to payment options or email me if you just can't wait!
Proceeds will benefit Victims of Domestic Violence in Stokes and Surry Counties -- neither of which has a safe shelter for folks fleeing abusive situations.  I would really like to change that!  You may remember that I sponsored a couple of truffle dinners to raise money for the Second Harvest FoodBank's Backpack program.  This time, I decided it was time to look a little deeper at root causes for hunger and domestic violence with all its complexities definitely plays a part.  Family is the heart of the community and I know families need help in all kinds of ways.  The Saura Mountains are the heart of our community, too, so it seemed a perfect theme.  We're planning to have the dinner in Pilot Mountain on Valentine's Day (which is a Saturday) so come on up and join us.  I promise it will be fun and delicious!

Dinner tickets will be $100 each and seating is limited.  Wine will be paired with each course.  Menu is a work in progress.

Time to go for now.  Got to get out and enjoy some fall sunshine while it lasts. 
Thanks for reading and  -- THINK TRUFFLES!!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

News and More News!!

Just thought you might like to know that I have received the results of my soil samples and root samples.  I am on target to begin taking down the old trees as soon as truffle season ends (end of February) and to start putting in the replacements by mid-March.  Looking for helpers!  Bring your chain saws and a couple of weeks later, bring your shovels.  I will definitely need some help to get this show on the road.  I'll be coming back to remind you -- maybe several times -- before it's time to put our shoulders to the plow.  I have promised to mentor if someone shows up and wants to buy the farm to continue what I have started so, if you're sitting on the fence about your truffle hopes and dreams, this just might be your golden opportunity.... Just sayin'.. Don't let the opportunity of a lifetime slip by.................

Truffles NC is hitting the airwaves again soon.  If you can't get it on tv, you can always watch it on the UNC-TV website about a week after it airs. You can see Flavor NC  @Truffles NC on UNC-TV on the dates in Josephine's Press Release below.

I love doing business with these folks because we share the same philosophy about food and friends.  Enjoy!

Press Release

Greensboro, NC, October 23, 2014. 

Greensboro Chef Chris Blackburn to be Featured on UNC-TV’s “Flavor, NC”
Josephine’s award-winning Executive Chef prepares dishes celebrating truffles from NC

Josephine’s Bistro Co-Owner and Executive Chef, Chris Blackburn, joins with Jane Morgan Smith of Keep Your Fork Farm in King, to create delicious dishes with locally sourced Black Winter truffles on the October 30 episode of “Flavor, NC,” the UNC-TV program showcasing North Carolina agriculture. The show will premiere at 10:30PM with an encore airing on November 2 at 7:30PM.

Chef Chris Blackburn and Jane Morgan Smith connected when Blackburn was on the lookout for unique North Carolina sourced ingredients for his restaurant, Josephine’s Bistro, in Greensboro.  “Autumn traditionally marks the start of truffle season and I was on a mission to find the best in the region. I had no idea I’d find them just an hour away,” Blackburn laughs. Keep Your Fork Farm specializes in black Périgord truffles, a gourmet item that fits perfectly with Josephine’s culinary approach of uniquely prepared dishes featuring ingredients raised or grown by local farmers. Blackburn expects to use Smith’s truffles in newly created recipes at Josephine’s this fall.
Smith, who also serves as the Executive Director of the North American Truffle Growers’ Association (NATGA), believes collaboration with Blackburn is important. “With the help of chefs like Chris, we are developing North Carolina as ‘the next Napa’ for truffle farming,” states Smith.
On “Flavor, NC” Blackburn, cooking in Josephine’s open kitchen, will prepare three exciting new recipes highlighting Keep Your Fork Farm’s black Périgord truffles.  Blackburn’s mouth-watering dishes include: Roasted Cauliflower Leek Truffle Bisque, Truffled Chicken and Dumplings, and Black Truffle Pasta.
About Josephine’s Bistro
Aptly named after award-winning Executive Chef and co-owner Chris Blackburn’s grandmother, Josephine’s Bistro offers an appealing assortment of dishes inspired by the season and served in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Guests are encouraged to savor both the food and the company. A full bar and an extensive wine list are available to complement the menu and enrich the experience. Located on historic Spring Garden Street in Greensboro, NC, Josephine’s Bistro is open Monday through Saturday with convenient Car Park service offered Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Josephine’s Bistro will soon be open for lunch and is available for private events.
Eat well and be well.
2417 Spring Garden Street. Greensboro. NC 27403
Twitter: @JospehinesLPFS

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!!!