Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sign up deadlines approaching for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares

Several farms in the region are now offering a limited number of “shares” in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Typically, members join by paying a set fee for produce and other farm goods now, and receive a weekly supply of just-picked food as it ripens. The farmers typically meet their members once a week at a specific site. Joining a CSA is a great way to help small, local farms survive financially, since they have many expenses this time of year and haven’t really been paid since the end of the growing season. You invest in them and they reward you every week with healthy, beautiful, sustainably grown food.

Creeksong Farm offers a variety of produce, beef and eggs.  Pickups begin in early June between 4:30 and 6:30 on Tuesdays and continue for 20 weeks at the Agricultural Conference Center loading dock in Boone. Full shares cost $500.00 and you receive $25.00 worth of food each week. Half shares cost $300.00 and you receive $15.00 worth of food each week.  50% deposit is due March 20st, and the rest of the payment is due May 1st. Jeff and Bettie Thomas, (336) 385-6302

High Country CSA represents a group of growers and producers. There are several options for the 2012 season, which runs from June through mid- October. The garden share contains 4-6 vegetables weekly.  This option is perfect for small households, $300. The full harvest contains 7-10 seasonal produce items, including fruit and herbs. It is appropriate for large households, or small households that rely on produce for a significant portion of their diet, $600. The variety share highlights 4-6 seasonal produce items, while also including special items like free-range eggs, breads, goat cheese, molasses, etc.   This option will introduce you to the best variety in High Country food, $600. Weekly produce pickup is on Tuesdays from 3-6:30 pm at Bare Essentials in Boone. A Blowing Rock delivery site is being considered. 828.963.4656

Moretz’s Mountain Orchard and Farms offers produce, jams, jellies, butters, herbs, ornamentals and free range poultry. The 20 week season begins the second week of June and costs $25.00 per week, or some may prefer a smaller amount for $15.00 per week. If you aren’t going to be around the entire summer, joining for 10 weeks may work for you, with the same price options available. Contact Bill Moretz for more information at (828)264-3424.

North Fork Farm boxes of frozen beef, pork and chicken are available for 5 months, from April until August. Full Shares consist of five monthly deliveries of up to 20lbs for $550. Half Shares consist of five monthly deliveries of approximately 10lbs for $300. North Fork Farm is committed to distributing quality beef, pork and chicken to CSA members. They promise to run their operation in an efficient and trustworthy manner. All meat is USDA inspected, vacuum packed, and raised without antibiotics or added hormones.  The first payment is due March 2 with the first delivery planned for April 16 at the Agricultural Conference Center parking lot in Boone. Jimmy and Sheila Greene,

Spring House Farm in Vilas is a certified organic farm offering CSA shares for the first time this year, beginning in early June and lasting for 20 weeks. A half share includes 4-6 vegetables weekly, approximately $15 worth, and costs $300. A full share includes 7 – 10 vegetables weekly, approximately $25 worth, and costs $500. Shares will be available for pick up at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market on Saturdays between 8am and 11:30am or on Tuesdays between 12pm and 6pm at the produce stand located on Springhouse Farm. Please contact Amy with questions or to reserve your share, (828)719-6825,

While shopping at the farmers’ market is an enjoyable week-end experience, some who live in the county prefer not to drive to Boone on Saturday mornings. Plus, a CSA pick-up only takes a couple of minutes. Definitely the best nourishment money can buy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reduced Price on Rain Barrel Program - Order yours now!!!!

The new and improved 50-gallon "IVY" rain barrel
The Watauga County Cooperative Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, and Town of Boone are working with Rain Water Solutions to offer high country residents the opportunity to purchase the new and improved “IVY” rain barrel at the discounted price of $70 versus the regular retail price of $89.  The use of a rain barrel can help residents conserve water and lessen the amount of stormwater entering our creeks. 

Not all rain barrels are created equal!  The “IVY” rain barrel provides a new era of design innovation for an economical price.   The forest green barrel features a 50-gallon capacity, locking lid, 2 overflow ports, screened inlet, and its 50% recycled plastic.  Best of all, the entire barrel and all the components are MADE IN THE USA!!!  Dimensions are 43” high and 22” diameter. 

The average homeowner uses approximately 40% of water for outdoor use. A one-inch rainfall on a 1,200 square foot roof will yield over 700 gallons of water. Using a rain barrel is an excellent way to conserve some of this water.  A quarter inch run-off from an average roof will easily fill the barrel. If you have 5 storms a season, that equals 275 gallons of free water. Rain barrel use reduces the stress on municipal water systems during the summer months and improves storm water management.

How to order:
Go to the following website to order your rain barrel.
You must place your order by May 30th, 2012.  The barrels will be shipped to Boone on June 5th for the one-day pick up event.   Pick up will be at the Agricultural Conference Center at 252 Poplar Grove Rd

Top 5 Reasons to Harvest Rainwater!

* Protect our rivers and streams from runoff pollution
* Divert water from the municipal storm drain system
* Conserve this vital natural resource and reduce your water bills
* Use the rain water to grow healthy and lush plants
* Control moisture levels around the foundation of your home

The Rain Barrel Sale is presented to you by: Watauga County Cooperative Extension, Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District and The Town of Boone.

Rain barrels are a great way to conserve water and save money. Use a rain barrel for watering lawns and flowers, as well as, washing cars, pets, and driveways.  Since we can’t see into future weather patterns, and we don’t know what this summer holds, why don’t you go ahead and get your “IVY” 50-gallon rain water harvesting system today!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Our Salty Ways

Salt residues left from last weekends snow.
There has not been much snow, ice and freezing temperatures this winter season.  Unlike the past couple years, we don’t see the plow trucks, chains on tires, frozen-over lakes, or the large amount of deicing salts spread on roads and sidewalks.  In fact the NC DOT typically uses 256,249,901 pounds of salt each year, but because of our mild winter they estimate to have used about 70% less this year. 
It sure is nice to have safe and clear roads and sidewalks after a winter snowfall.  Thanks to the crews who plow and spread salt we are able to get all around the county.  Did you know we started using sodium chloride (salt) in America in the late 1930’s to clear roads.  Back then about 5,000 tons were spread on our Nations roads, and today more than 18 million tons are spread out on our roadways.  Salt is a relatively benign material, but in such large quantities, scientists are beginning to see some impacts on the environment. 

The US Geological Survey (USGS) and other private agencies have been studying the effects of road salts on aquatic life.  High levels of salts, such as 500-1,000 milligrams per liter that would have direct mortality on aquatic life are rare in nature.  What is more likely, are concentrations of 100-200 milligrams per liter.  Long-term exposure at these low levels may not directly kill organisms in a day, but more likely to have long term effects on the food chain.  The salts affect the tiny larvae and algae that higher organisms eat.   
Professor of Biology at UNC Asheville, Peter Petranka has been conducting research on the effects of road salt on salamanders.  He tried to set up experiments in nature, but couldn’t find enough seasonal pools since North Carolina has lost 90% of its wetlands since European settlement mainly due to ditching, draining and development.  Petranka set up almost 60 kiddie pools with aged tap water, algae, protozoans, small aquatic invertebrates, leaf litter, and wood frog and spotted salamander larvae to mimic natural seasonal pools.  He added road salt mixes to the pools and found that low levels of road salt decimated the small invertebrates that the salamander larvae eat, thereby reducing salamander growth.  Seasonal pools, also known as vernal pools, typically dry out in the summer.  If amphibian growth is delayed, it puts them at greater risk of dying when the pools dry (Beeland).
The southeastern U.S. has some of the greatest diversity of salamanders in the world, and of the 102 species found here, 60 are found in North Carolina.  Salamanders breathe through their skin and are quite susceptible to contaminants found in the environment.  Petranka also found during his studies that mosquitoes did quite well in the salted pools.  He said “mosquitoes have a thick outer cuticle, and they sit just below the water’s surface, with a breathing tube sticking up – it’s most likely they are custom-built to withstand a saline environment.” 
Other researchers are finding that the salts do not flush out of a watershed quickly.  It migrates slowly to the receiving waters – such as a lake, reservoir, or larger river.  There needs to be a lot more research and evaluation, but we do know that the chloride concentrations are much higher today than they ever have been.  A study done along the I-93 corridor in New Hampshire found chloride concentrations averaged 163.2 milligrams per liter in 2007, and before salt was used as a road deicer, typical concentrations in New Hampshire were 1.3 milligrams per liter.
Other than affecting water quality and habitat, salt can have an effect on soils, reducing the capacity for absorbing other chemicals.  According to a report from the Cary Institute, there is potential for sodium ions to “knock off” captured toxins or metals sequestered on the particles releasing them back into the water.   Another possible environmental side effect of excess salts is that it can cause lakes to stratify more easily than usual.  Salty water has a higher density, which will sink to the bottom of the lake disrupting the ecosystem.   
We must have clear roads in winter, so are there alternatives to road salt?  There have been experiments with products that contain sugar beets or calcium chloride, but they are much more expensive.  Salt is still the best chemical to use to provide safe roads in freezing conditions.   Do not use fertilizer to melt snow- the nutrients in the fertilizer contribute to algae blooms and poor water quality.  
How can we have safe winter roads and reduce the impact on the environment?  We have to reduce the amount that is used and must rely on the road crew folks who maintain the road safety, according to Connie Fortin, founder of a consulting firm that offers training on winter maintenance for managers.  Her firm is not trying to “reduce the level of service, but integrate science into the tradition applying salt.”  The practices that take place across the nation, has “evolved without much science.”  
Research has shown that the best way to remove snow is with the plow.  The speed of the truck spreading salt can actually affect the amount of salt put down.  For example, according to Fortin “ a truck traveling at speeds over 30mph the salt coming off the spreader has enough momentum that with a couple of bounces, 30% of it simply caroms off the pavement and into a drainage ditch at the side of the road, creating an environmental hazard without doing a thing to enhance safety.”   
Another low cost reduction in chloride exposure can be achieved by replacing the “more is better” paradigm while filling up the truck with salt.  Studies have shown that if trucks are loaded precisely, 20% less salt is used, because drivers tend to use what they load.  These types of processes are being referred to in the industry as “sensible salting.”  
NC DOT requires all their road crew operators to go through training to learn how much salt should be applied – 250 pounds per lane mile.  They also take a day to calibrate all the equipment to ensure even spreading.  This is a proactive approach because “we need to manage ourselves before regulations are put in place.”   Knowledge is the key to lessening the impact of winter maintenance practices on the environment.   Mark Devries, chair of the American Public Works Association shares “when you tell someone a cup of salt in 5 gallons of water kills bluegills they understand.  Anyone who is over-salting is just trying to do a good job and make the road as safe as they can.”
Richardson, David. Stormwater: The Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals.  Article:  Ice School, Melding the science and craft of winter road maintenance.  Pg 14.  Issue: January/February 2012.
Beeland, DeLene. Charlotte Observer, Scitech.  Road Salts Second Sting.  November 14, 2011.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Memoriam

We mourn the loss of Dara Watson, who was a 4-H volunteer for around four years.  Dara shared her passion for horses with youth in the Blue Ridge Equestrian 4-H Club. She helped spur on the 4-H club, pulling in lots of participants and scheduling involvement with events and competitions.  She was impressive in keeping orderly and organized with forms and preparing for events.  She went beyond the call of duty to ensure everything was covered administratively.    Participants went on to state and even regional competitions.  Her enthusiasm in creating great experiences for the kids was evident, from organizing trips, making parades fun with horses and decorations, and putting extra effort into decorating for Christmas and giving the kids Christmas gifts.   She initiated the Blue Ridge Equestrian 4-H horse fun show.  She was a one- woman show, doing the job of at least 5 people, initiating and pulling the show off with flair and extra touches such as getting free ice cream, bringing in a band, and more.  She organized the horse show for four years.  She was full of energy and action. The club received recognition at the 2006 Farm City Banquet.  As one parent stated in an award nomination,  “I have been impressed by her leadership and dedication…. She is a model of hard work, organization, and giving back to the community.  It is rare to find someone of her age willing to dedicate a considerable part of her life to other people’s children.  She has instilled a love of horses, an understanding of what it takes to look after them properly, and a respect for the art of horsemanship into the children in her groups.” 

Dara will be missed and her contributions will be remembered. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Greening" our Creeks on St. Patties Day

Looking for something “Green” to do on St. Patrick’s Day this year?  If so, you are in luck!   Watauga County Cooperative Extension is hosting a native plant demonstration and give-away for residents in the High Country.   All are welcome, but must register in order to receive free plants and lunch.   In partnership with a grant from NC A&T State University, and local lunch sponsorship from BB&T Bank, workshop participants can walk away with tips on how to care for their stream/river, free native vegetation (live stakes), and a happy belly. 

Ninebark flower - Physocarpus opulifolius
Across Western North Carolina, streambank erosion—and the resulting build-up of sediment in stream channels—is having negative impacts on water quality and habitat for “critters”, including trout that live in the streams.   Live stakes are an effective way to reduce streambank erosion.   At this point you may be wondering, “What is a live stake?”  It is a long hardwood cutting from a native shrub, adapted to moist conditions, planted outdoors without rooting hormones.   In this area, we use silky dogwood, elderberry, ninebark, silky willow, and buttonbush. 

These woody plants have extensive root systems that stabilize the soil on stream banks during rainfall and high water flow.  The shade produced by the shrubs help maintain the cooler temperatures that our mountain fish and aquatic life need to survive, while the leaves help provide habitat and food for insects and fish. (Leaves fall into the stream, aquatic insects eat and live in the leaves, trout eat the insects) “Greening our Creeks” with vegetation is really important because it acts as a filter to prevent sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, pathogens, and heavy metals from entering our rivers.

The event will be held at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center where experts from the National Committee from the New River and the Watauga River Partners will share tips on stream care and available programs that can help landowners.  If you are unfamiliar with how to install livestakes, we will demonstrate by planting a 20ft section of Kraut Creek during the day. 

Interested in participating and receiving free plants for your creek bank?  Please call the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center at (828) 264-3061, or email  The workshop will begin at 10:30 am at 252 Poplar Grove Rd in Boone. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Annual 4-H Fruit Plant Sale

The annual 4-H Fruit Plant Sale flyer is now available.  This year, we are offering several new fruit trees, adding plum and pear trees.  Several varieties of heritage apples are available, along with the usual offerings of blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.   These are bare root plants, which comes at a lower price, but must be cared for right away.
Blueberries are offered both bare root and in 1 gallon containers.   Grapes are available in containers as well.
We also have asparagus and rhubarb. 

Select HERE for the flyer
To order, mail the flyer or drop off at the Extension office at 971 West King Street
or call 264-3061

Informational Links on growing fruits:
Photograph provided by Emily Cornett