Published October 2, 2015
In this edition:
Muscadines are at peak of season!
These wonderful, good-for-you, yummy grapes are just DRIPPING from the vines! And remember, we are open Rain or Shine.
Health Benefits of Muscadines
(are better than blueberries if you include the skin and the seeds)
Most of you already know the health benefits of blueberries but the real secret (and a well kept secret it is!) in eating foods to promote your health is --- Muscadines! Muscadine grapes are fat free, high in fiber and very high in antioxidants, especially Ellagic acid and resveratrol. Ellagic acid has demonstrated anticarcinogenic properties in colon lungs and liver. Resveratrol is reported to lower cholesterol levels and the risk of coronary heart disease. Muscadine wines have significantly more resveratrol than wine from other grape varieties. Resveratrol was a very effective as an inhibitor of the growth of COX, a compound present in breast cancer and other cancers. Initial studies showed resveratrol inhibited tumor growth at three different stages --- initiation, promotion and progression. Muscadine skin extract significantly reduced tumor cell growth in all prostate cancer cell lines and exhibited high rates of apoptosis (programmed cell death). The anthocyanins which produce the red and dark colors have strong antioxidant activity too. Cell cultures of colon, breast, prostate and leukemia cancer models exposed to berry extracts have shown reduced cancer cell growth or increased cancer cell death. The real deal is: these compounds, abundant in muscadines, are powerful chemo-preventers of cancer cell initiation. Subjects fed resveratrol were healthier, leaner and lived up to 30% longer according to an ongoing Harvard study. New studies at Harvard Medical School and the Institute of Genetic, Molecular and Cellular biology have found in addition to afore mentioned benefits, a reduced risk of age related Alzheimer’s disease. “Coupled with smart dietary choices, avoidance of risk factors and physical activity, plus eating muscadine grapes …can add 10 years to your life” says Joseph Bauru, Ph. D. The Antioxidants have been shown to maintain good mental function as we age. Antioxidants fight free radical damage which impacts your biological age.
The benefits of muscadines are not as well known and have not received as much recognition for their health promoting effects because it is a regional food and there just has not been the financial support to do the research. Blueberries, which provide much the same benefits as muscadines above, have received national and international support. The number of studies has jumped from 20 papers a year 15 years ago to 175 papers in 2014. The bottom line is that you should eat healthy foods in season… And while blueberries are done for the season, the muscadines are DRIPPING from the vines. You could still be capitalizing on the health benefits of these scrumptious, regional grapes that also freeze easy and make supercalifraglistic smoothies!
Please come help us get the (muscadine) berries off the vines so that they can put their photosynthetic effort into preparing for winter. A weak plant is more susceptible to winter injury. Your efforts for plant health may promote your own health while making your mouths and tummies happy!
Check it out! You can read about our vision on the future of farming in Edible Upcountry, article dated 8/28/2015.
The Happy Berry is hosting a “SARE – SWD Small Fruit Training” on October 22, 2015.
The main topic is shade cloth use in blackberry production. It is a technical meeting intended for university extension and growers but some of you are growers and may want to attend. If we were forced into a bioregional economy…And I believe it is coming…there are not near enough farmers to provide food for our bioregion. Limited spaces are available, so registration is required. See the program information on our website.
We won't be at Greenville downtown market on Saturday October 3
(due to heavy rains forecasted)
but we will be back the following weekend!
Remember that the farm is open rain or shine!
See you on the farm!
Walker for The Happy Berry Bunch Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published September 5, 2015
In this edition:
Good Picking in the Muscadines!
Now picking both bronze (scuppernong) and black (bullis). These are dessert quality varieties - sweet, aromatic and the delightful chewy skin is loaded with nutriceuticals!
Muscadine Picking Tips
You can't judge a muscadine by its color and you pick them one at at time. You need to get eye, hand and taste buds coordinated and the time honored way to hone your fingers so they can sense the ripe ones is to squeeze and taste. You do this by tasting a few in the field...first a berry catches your eye, second you check it with your fingers to see if it is soft, third taste it....once coordinated...go to work! Muscadines are big so they fill the bucket quickly!
Table Grapes are near the end.
Still some Saturn in the field but picking time is up. After you cut the cluster off leaving a stub on the vine you will need to trim out/off the bad berries. We have some Saturn in the cooler that we harvested before recent showers. Mars are gone; Jupiter are gone; and Venus are gone.
Figs - Best to Call First
Figs have been very frustrating this season. A result of January freeze - the harvest just never came on strong. They continue at a trickle - Lots of green figs in the field but very few ripe at any one time. Best to call first if you are making a special trip for Figs. We aplogize to all our frustrated fig pickers- The Good News Is: We have planted more and hope for a bigger and better harvest next year!
Limited Pre-Picked Blackberries Still Available
We are getting only 5 or 6 quarts a day... We have some in the cooler and at the Six Mile farmers market (in the old fire house), Clemson farmers at Patrick Square and the Greenville TD farmers market on main.
Blueberries are gone.
We have an excellent crop of leaves on the bushes which gives us great hope for next season... Some years diseases like rust and Septoria defoliate the bushes which means a reduced flower bud crop. Stay tuned - When we hit 12 hour days flower bud formation starts.
We are, in addition to harvesting a few Muscadines for farmers markets and pre picked sales ,working towards layby. Layby is a term that comes from cotton growing...until the cotton gets big enough that the canopy of leaves meet in the row middle it is battle to keep the weeds in check...once the canopy meets the shade controls the weeds and you can LAY the cotton BY. The weeds have gotten ahead of us in our smaller plants in all our crops so we are working to get them managed. For us it also includes getting the old canes out of the blackberries and getting them tied to the trellis. Probably a month’s worth of work.
Please come see us on the farm!
Muscadines are a wonderful, undiscovered gem of nutriceutical sweetness. We still sell eggs from our own flock of chickens. And we would love volunteers to help with whatever we are doing around the farm - planting, pruning, clearing land, bird watching (yes, we said bird watching) In exchange we can share a little know-how knowledge (well, except for in the bird watching category) as well as offer a great opportunity to get out into the fresh air and work the land (shameless marketing here)
Thank you! We so appreciate each and every one of you and all of your support!
Walker for The Happy Berry Bunch Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published August 11, 2015
In this edition:
Grapes are Dripping from the Vines!
Peak of season in the table grapes. Now picking Mars and Saturn seedless grapes. There is still Jupiter but the Venus are gone. Mars is a dark blue slip skin grape that has a marvelous flavor. For me it is like a giant blue berry and I use it like I do blueberries, on cereal, frozen as a snack or on oatmeal in the winter or perhaps in pie or tart. The dark blue skin is loaded with neutriceuticals! Saturn is a crunchy grape. It is firmer to the touch. When ripe (especially early in it's season) it needs to be dark red. Later, like Jupiter, it will be sweet even if the color is not as intense. Grapes pick quickly, so use your time to select the darkest clusters. We have clippers if you forgot yours. Be sure to check out our tips on how to pick grapes.
Figs are “Doin’ It”!
Easy picking in the mornings. Still good but slower picking in the afternoons. When figs stand straight out from the tree they are green and will not ripen. As soon as the fig begins to bend, it has reached the point that it is climacteric. Climacteric is what bananas are; meaning it will continue to ripen after it is picked. The bulb of the fig should feel a little soft compared to the green figs. Usually there is also a slight change in color with the bottom of the fig becoming a little darker . The trees are growing vigorously after the winter damage with lots of green figs on them. The more mature figs will be on older wood that was not injured. We have also added 80 more fig trees. The bottom line is that fig season will be extended.
We are expecting Muscadines to start around the 18th of August.
Blueberry picking time per gallon of berries has increased significantly.
There will be berries for picking for a couple more weeks but you will need much more time to pick a gallon. The berries will be down, in, and under the canopy of the bush. The robins have arrived. Please do not turn distress call machine off. Once they, the robins, establish that there is food available the distress call stops working. The first priority for all animals, including birds and humans, is food. Limited Pre-picked Blueberries Available. What we have in the cooler is all there will be for the season.Get 'em While We Got 'em - Be sure to CALL FIRST if you are making a special trip!
Blackberries continue at a slow pace. We still have some pre-picked available. The blackberries under the shade cloth are producing 5 to 6 quarts a day. But now, in addition to the battle against SWD, the blackberries are also are having problems with thrip. Thrip results in scarred dried up berries and requires spraying. We continue to be impressed with improved quality of berries in the shade but the return on investment for fall/primo cane bearing blackberries to date is not good. We will pursue using pine trees in the floracane backberries in east-west rows for interrupting long wave length radiation. In the fight against SWD: The atractacidal spheres for spotted wing has not been objectionable to customers. We hope the data, not in yet, is promising.
Interested in Volunteering?
School will be starting over the next week or two which means our summer help will be leaving. We will miss them! There is still lots of work to be done like mowing, weed eating and pruning blackberries and even picking and grading of grapes and Muscadines. So if you would like to come out and volunteer help, the best time is early in the morning before it gets real hot.
If your interested In becoming part of our Happy Berry Bunch Crew, we can set up a trial end of summer run if your schedule permits a few available mornings during the week. If any of this applies to you, swing by the farm or call us at 864-868-2946 or 864-350-9345.
More Farm News - blackberries, mulberries, persimmons and goji berries
Last fall we planted both blackberries and mulberries that were very small in late October. Unfortunately we had a hard freeze in early November that killed them all. We got more of both this spring. With irrigation, the blackberries have grown- but the deer have been eating the Von variety as soon as they come out of the blue tubes. They are still coming along but not briskly due to the deer eating them as they grow.
The mulberries did not have irrigation, so we put them in pots to be planted this fall. We discovered that rabbits really like mulberries as they ate them right in the pots, eating them all the way down to a nub. Fortunately after fencing them off, all but one has recovered. Once we plant them in the field we will have to figure out some way to protect them from the rabbits.
Our small persimmon orchard continues to grow but we have lost at least 5 trees to drought and will have to replant them. Our only source for these trees is Chestnut Hill Nursery, that is in Florida. They will not ship until spring which does not give them sufficient time to become established before summer droughts. So we have had some attrition in trees and have not figured out another source yet for boosting the persimmon fields.
We have not seen any fruit on the goji berries yet. According to the Internet we should see some next year.
Thank you for your support! We would not be here without YOU!
Walker for The Happy Berry Bunch Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published July 8, 2015
In this edition:
Peak of season in the blueberries-
Tifblue, Centurion, Onslow, Ira, and Montgomery are now ripening. The peak will last through the month of July. We will pick blueberries until the end of August. There are still Climax blueberries but volume is slowing. Bottom line…Blueberries are dripping from the bushes!! You won’t believe how good it is. Now is the time to lay in your winter supply!
Blackberry fields close for you-pick –
The flora cane crop of blackberries is done. We will start pruning the flora canes out. The Chester blackberries are old and riddled with viruses and the picking is difficult due to disease and insects and is dangerous because of their location. We are unable to spray them. We have planted more Chester but they will be a year or two before they come in with a significant volume. We have also planted Von blackberry which will come in between the early flora cane producers and Chester. They will also require a year or two before there is significant volume. Bottom line…the blackberries will slow to a trickle but will continue trickling until October as the fall bearing blackberries come in. Because of pest management problems and control practices for SWD, and to provide wholesome berries, we have decided we will only have pre-picked blackberries. The good news is that new technology is being developed that will help us better manage the issues from spotted wing Drosophila.
Summer/fall pre-picked prices increase for the Blackberries-
Because of the above problems and practices, the summer/fall blackberries will increase to $7 per quart and $28 per gallon on farm. IF you want to be sure you can get pre-picked blackberries when you come, we recommend you call before coming.
The war on SWD: New bait and kill technology –
As a new effort in our war on SWD, we will begin an experiment with bait & kill technology in the Centurion blueberries. The experiment will be in two small portions of the field. You may notice red spheres or balls hanging in the middle of the bushes. These are atracticidal devices that use visual, feeding and smell attractant stimuli for the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and that will kill them. Please do not disturb or touch them. If this technology works, it will allow us to avoid using a plant pharmaceutical to beat back the SWD. We are also planning on integrating this technology with attractant traps that will be placed around the perimeter of the field to catch SWD as it invades the field from the woods that surround the farm. We have high hopes it will work as we can see we are “spraying our self into a corner.”
Venus seedless grapes to start –
We will start picking the Venus grapes in 7 to 10 days and the Jupiter grapes shortly thereafter. Initially only our pickers will pick them until it becomes easy enough for inexperienced pickers to pick them. Check at the front… we will let you know. Please also check out our tips on how to pick grapes.
Figs to start in August, but supply limited –
Because of the hard freeze on January 8 both this year and last year, the fig trees were hurt badly. The bottom line is that although they will start August 1, the initial volume won’t be as high as two years ago. There is good news though. The picking season will last longer and volume will trickle along. We have also planted 80 plus more trees, so future seasons’ harvest volume will improve.
Other Stuff –
Muscadines are on schedule for August 15.
Dress for the Weather- It is going to get hot. Despite the cool weather we have enjoyed recently the dog days of summer are coming. Please check out our lovely model of appropriate picking attire on the home page of our website.
Go Slow- Please watch your speed coming in the driveway. I, Walker, got a ticket from a fellow employee myself.
Bring your buckets- Remember to please bring your bucket. We apologize if we have offended anybody as we try to encourage this practice. You are right… we have buckets for you if you did not bring one or need more. We try to save the plastic buckets for when the bushes are wet. We are trying to be sustainable economically, socially and environmentally.
Thank you for your support and we will see you in the field!
Walker for The Happy Berry Bunch Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published June 20, 2015
In this edition:
BLACKBERRIES- It is peak-of-season!
We are loaded with blackberries. We are picking all varieties of blackberries except Chester. This year we only have 10 rows of Chester but we have planted more. We are adding Von blackberry as replacement for Navaho. Navaho is susceptible to orange rust. We are hopeful that Von will be an improvement. The Black Magic and Prime Ark 45 are doing it and they like it under the shade cloth. Using the infra read thermometer we have determined the blackberries are approximately 10 degrees cooler under the shade cloth than those in the sun. They are also have much less imperfections. The green and red berries are also cooler. In double shade, shade cloth and tree shade they are even cooler still, even though air temps are high, 100 plus or minus. We think living shade of non-epicormic trees is the future of blackberry production.
BLUEBERRIES – Now Picking and Improving Rapidly!
It is peak-of-season in the Climax variety! These are FABULOUS for freezing! Start now putting away blues for next winter! The Tifblue and Centurion blueberries are just "around the corner." We are seeing clusters of ripe berries. I think the crescendo will be later in the week. Probably blueberries everywhere. It is shaping up to be a good year in the blues.
PLEASE DRIVE SLOWLY - Speed limit 6 miles per hour....
We have lots of little kids picking and playing at The Happy Berry...maybe even a berry fight or two...highly discouraged ... With kids racing and darting in out of rows...RIGHT ONTO THE DRIVEWAY!!! Please be careful and observe the speed limit when driving in. Thank you.
Don't forget your containers! Something with a handle works well. Have strawberry buckets just hanging out? Bring them along; maybe someone else can use them.
Grapes are next. Perhaps the last week in July... We will start with Venus, then Jupiter followed by Reliance and Mars. The grapes are looking great...pheromones for grape root borer, probiotic living vaccine for Pierces disease and another probiotic Trichoderma harzianum for Botryosphaeria control are doing wonders. We use several different plant pharmaceuticals for downy mildew control to avoid resistance. Modern fungal plant pharmaceuticals are very specific for human safety reasons but the "price we pay" is risk of the fungus developing resistance. With the use of Crimson clover for nitrogen and recycling potassium and phosphorus it has shaded out most weeds so we have not had to use a post emergence herbicide. GRAPES-BOTTOM LINE: They look great with some humongous clusters.
FIGS are coming. Perhaps August 1 but they may be delayed due to 2014 ad 2015 cold snap in January.
MUSCADINES continue to be on schedule ... Looks like August 15...
It is shaping up to be a great season - See you at the farm!
The Happy Berry Bunch- Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published June 10, 2015
In this edition:
We are now picking blackberries!
The Natchez [thornless] are loaded as I write (June 9, 2015). Also ripening are the Black Magic, Prime Ark, Chickasaw, and the Kiowa. We are even seeing a few Ouachita. Pickers are getting 10 to 20 pounds in fairly "short order." Chester will be awhile before they come in (ripe). In the Black Magic and Prime Ark [the ones under the shade cloths] the primo canes [this year's cane] are now beginning to bloom. So in approximately 50 days they will be bearing again and will continue into October.
We have new hours this year due to the spotted wing drosophila [SWD], a new invasive species. The SWD, a fruit fly with serrated ovipositor, lays its eggs in not quite ripe berries [blue and black] and results in flaccid not so nice berries. We will be closed on Sunday's so we can safely control this "beast." Our New Hours:
We encourage you to BYO containers for picking. Or alternatively, we welcome you to use our containers in the field for picking, then transfer the berries to your own containers to take home. GUIDELINES FOR CONTAINERS:
No Bags. Bags do not work well as they crush the berries. Long & low containers work well for blackberries. For blueberries a bucket no bigger than 2 gallons works well. Containers deeper than 2 gallons will crush the blueberries.
We think picking in the blueberries will be good by the fifteenth of June but we note that a few folks are picking the Climax and Premier... Taking awhile ... but they are happy! The price is the same so it is not a problem.
We had to take the prices up a little this year to cover the rising costs of farm management: In particular we have increased costs for inputs due to the SWD and the loss of Sundays as a sale day. These costs also ripple through to the prepicked berries, and in addition the pre-picked berries went up so we can pay the Pickers more.
New Prices Are:
Black, blue, seedless table grapes and figs will all be $2.50 per pound you-pick, $6.50 per quart on-farm pre picked and $24.00 gallon pre picked.
Muscadines, resistant to SWD, will stay the same at $2.00 per pound you-pick and $20/gallon we-pick.
CFSA FARM TOUR...
We had 94 join us for the hour long tour on growing berries and the history of agriculture in the Piedmont bio region. It was a fun day!
Strawberry season is about over.
You might find some at Beechwood farm in Marietta for a couple days and at Strawberry Hill in Cooley Springs SC.
Grapes & Figs
Seedless grapes the end of July. Figs the first of August…
Figs were damaged by the January 8 eight degree temperature so will be in short supply again this year. We have planted 80 more trees so we should have more in the future…
We are also investing in dwarf black mulberry - Ask Walker for details.
We had a tough 25 day drought in May but all is good now! Rain has been very regular and a lot of it, almost 4 inches in the first week of June.
We have yet another new invasive species (in addition to the SWD) to worry about…The spotted lanternfly which is not really a fly and is a plant hopper that feeds on the phloem and excretes large amounts of fluids which looks really messy and damages the plants. In addition to fruit trees and bushes it has a wide host range. It has not made it to SC yet AND Let’s hope that the Pennsylvania department of agriculture is able to contain it. This is/will be very expensive for them and they will need federal support so put in a good word with your representatives . The Pennsylvania DOA did a really good job with the plum pox virus that invaded 15 years ago – work that they were able to do because they had Federal funds to back the work…
Shade Cloth Project
We have bought an infrared thermometer to support the shade cloth project. Results from last year indicate that shade cloth does not reduce air temperatures and can actually increase it… who would have guessed??? We hypothesize that it reduces long wavelength energy from the sun and although air temperatures are not lower plant temperatures will be lower especially when the blackberries turn black… We will see!...
We are looking forward to a great season and can’t wait to see you at the farm!
The Happy Berry Bunch- Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published April 17, 2015
Forecasts, Strawberries, and other Spring Things
Blackberries – forecast June 1.
Blueberries – forecast June 15.
Stay tuned to the websited for updates as we get further past the volatile Spring Weather.
We don’t do strawberries but we have friends that do. Our best guess is that local strawberries will start about April 20 maybe a few days more or less. Below is a list of growers and their number to check harvest status and get directions.
We have lots of nice “Pinks” (Easter Willows). We also have lots of nice flowering willow stems in the cooler in addition to Red Curly or Cork Screw Willow and Red and Yellow Stick Dogwood. If you want to grow-your-own, we will teach you how and provide the cuttings. Please come see us at the farm. We also have lots of nice plants for planting out as well. We will be open at the farm Saturday April 18 and April 25 from 11 AM till 3 PM for end of season specials. Make us a reasonable offer! And we will probably take it!
Bud crop – Looks great! But March 29 was a killer.
A huge crop of blues is in the making if nothing more happens. At 3:30 AM March 29 we were holding 33 degrees with the wind machine when the gear box locked down. Between 3:30 and 6:30 the temperature dropped 11 degrees. Bottom line it looks like some varieties had significant damage. The Delights were hardest hit but we have been gradually removing these bushes and replacing them with Onslow and Montgomery and Ochlockonee. The Climax and Premier …early varieties… loss some flowers but because of the tremendous bud crop I think we are okay. We had no additional damage on Easter Sunday when it went to 32 degrees.
The mid season and late blackberries look great at this time but early season Prime Ark and Magic were hit hard. The king flowers are dead but there are lateral buds that were not hurt and there is compensation in blackberries. I will provide more later on the blackberry situation.
The seedless table grapes, thanks to the control of downy mildew (a leaf disease) and the use of Pheromones (we did not have to use an insecticide) to control grape root borer, has a great crop of grapes coming.
The freeze damage in the figs in 2014 is still taking its toll. Even though we have planted more figs we are anticipating the crop will be shorter than in the pass.
Muscadines look good but the Supreme plants we lost in 2014 have not grown back yet. Therefore we expect the Supreme volume will be about the same as last year, which is still less than the 2013 harvest.
The Future is based on the Past:
The large amount of rain in 2013 (21 extra inches above normal in June, July, and August) created a leaf disease situation that resulted in heavy leaf loss in the blueberries and subsequently lower than normal flower buds in the spring of 2014. Several cold snaps in the spring of 2014, which were preceded with a warm period in early January, severely killed back several varieties of blackberries. Then a late April freeze (post our wind machine motor throwing a piston) further damaged both blackberry and blueberry flower buds. In addition we have been attacked by the spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) starting in 2013 and continuing in 2014. (This resulted in extra grading efforts for SWD.)
The bottom line: 2012 was best year ever to date. The year 2013 saw us with a 30% loss in gross sales from 2012. Similarly 2014 had production levels in line with 2013 (with the same 30% loss in gross sales from 2012). The good news is that we have been diversifying over the years and that has contributed to, and we hope continues to, stabilize gross sales. We anticipate 2015 to be better than last year, still not up to par with 2012.
Spring Goings On:
Scouting for Gall Midges: One of our spring projects is scouting for Gall Midges among the blueberry plants. The Gall Midge is an insect that eats blueberry buds. Gall Midges are a serious problem for industrial blueberry growers in Georgia and Florida but Gall Midge scouting suggests that natural predation (the natural enemies of Gall Midges) on our farm, because of the way we farm, is sufficient for us avoid using an insecticide. To scout for the midge we collect 75 flower buds and put them in a plastic sandwich bag, then seal the bag. After 5 days examine the bag first against a dark surface looking for really tiny white grubs- a magnifying glass helps. Next examine the bag against a white surface to look for tiny pinkish grubs – these are the last instar (the last stage) of the midge metamorphosis. If you are worried about your own blueberry bushes, check the buds. Buds damaged by Gall Midge will be dried up or have a hole in them.
Fertilization: The other big Spring project is fertilizing the plants. Generally first application is March 1, the second April 1 and the last May 1 in most crops except in those where we have been able to established stands of Crimson clover like in the muscadines and grapes. The rate is about 1/3 cup per bush in mature blueberries. The pH in the blueberries is about 4.9 so we have not had much success in establishing clover or a nitrogen fixer that we know of. Recent research has established that there are other bacterial nitrogen fixers besides those associated with legumes. The research suggested that nitrogen fertilization suppresses their development/activity. We will experiment with the suggested practice of gradually reducing fertilization over several years comparing to no fertilization control and continued normal practice. Fertilization of blackberries is normally done March 1 in the blackberries, usually about a cup per 10 linear feet of row in the row not as a broad cast application.
Spring Pruning Report – blueberries… done, Persimmons …done, Seedless table grapes …done and we will finish muscadines soon (not a moment too soon…They are popping now!)
Six Mile market has begun- Thursdays 4 to 7pm. Come find us and buy some eggs, jams, and, for now anyway we still have willows – dried and plants. Check our website for updates on when we will begin the other markets.
Let us make a plea to you – PLEASE support your local farmers (not just us) by coming to markets. It is a chicken and egg problem- if local farmers can’t sell their food locally, they won’t be able to continue farming. And if you haven’t heard Walker’s speech already, just stop by any time to be reminded of how important we think the production of local food is to us, our kids, our future.
Rational economic man verses the bioregional citizen-
Our objectives as farmers are to make a living and to protect our standing in the community, our social connections and assets (with assets including all our natural resources such as the land, water and – you get the picture…). We value our material goods (land, labor, bushes, etc.) only as they serve to protect these objectives. To the popular global economists we are not rational… It is more important to us to be a local and regional citizen then to just make as much money as possible.
We hope you will come help us do that! See you on the farm
The Happy Berry Bunch- Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published January 9, 2015
Berry Season Wraps Up - Willows Are Next
December 5 we did our last farmers market for the 2014 season at Patrick Square in Clemson and sold the last of our berries (being muscadines). The Six Mile Farm Market and Patrick Square were fun Christmas Markets and drew big crowds. We had finished harvesting the muscadines and Blackberries November 1 just before the first freeze.
The long range, 90 day forecast is for above normal temperatures for the Southeast but since everything we grow has relatively low chilling requirement no problems are anticipated. This year we made some post harvest sprays on both the grapes and blueberries for control of leaf diseases and both are going into the winter in excellent shape and with great energy reserves in the stems which leads to strong fruitful flower buds and good cold tolerance. The Forecast is for Blackberries to lead off next spring about June 1, 2015. I (Walker) will be presenting preliminary observations using shade cloth on fall bearing blackberries at the Southeastern Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah in early January.
We will open for willows and other woody florals in early January. Watch our web site for details or just give us a call. We will be doing home and garden shows just as we did last winter and we will be open on some Saturdays (when we are not doing shows or programs) with someone to help you. As of the creation of this newsletter, those Saturdays are
January 17, 24 and 31,
March 7 (maybe), 14, and 28,
April 4 and 11.
In addition to our woody floral partners, Lou and Chris Christensen (now living in Savannah), we are partnering locally with Mike Watkins and Heavenly Seed to provide folks with a source of stems for rooting of moisture loving woody florals. The stems will also be available for live-staking for stream riparian areas, drainage ways and living wind breaks.
Winter is the time to plant the willows and woody florals:
Root systems grow all year in our area. Planting early enables good establishment before they have to put on a crop of leaves in the spring. We are planting a few more here on the farm - up the drainage-way towards the new blackberries and Goji berries. We expect them to do well and their root systems to help conserve the soil.
Walker Visits the Land institute in Salina Kansas
The Land Institute’s (TLI) mission is to "create a new agriculture informed by nature’s ecosystem." As you may be aware, Walker goes around giving talks on the “Future of Agriculture,” pointing out that current agriculture systems are the number two source of global warming gases (GWG), second only to power plants, including nuclear plants. A 2012 review of agricultural systems by the USDA indicated that - except for a few perennial systems - modern grain and oil crop tillage systems are putting more carbon in the air, instead of sequestering (capturing) carbon and keeping it in the soil. While recent improvements in agricultural practices, such as no till systems, have slowed how much carbon is put into the atmosphere by agriculture, we are still putting too much carbon into the atmosphere . Walker argues that perennialization of our food, fiber and energy needs in polyculture systems, especially those that include grasses, shrubs and trees in an ecosystem, can not only prevent further addition of GWG, it can help remove some of the 400 ppm+ carbon dioxide we have put into the atmosphere.
Walker considers Wes Jackson, President and founder of TLI, one of his mentors. The Land Institute, started over 30 years ago, now with an annual budget of more than eleven million dollars funded solely by charitable contributions, has focused on developing perennial grains in a polyculture system. Walker had met Dr. Jackson at local meetings, thanks to groups like CFSA, but had not been able to observe “the fruits” of his efforts. So the farm paid for his trip to Salina Kansas and he says it was a great investment. Information learned will significantly contribute to The Happy Berry’s sustainability and its modest efforts to reduce GWG.
Walker Miller Wins CFSA 2014 Farmer of the Year Award!
Walker Miller was named Farmer of the Year by The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) at their 29th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference, held in Greenville SC in November 2014. It was a rare moment in history when Walker, when the award was announced, was rendered speechless. Quoted in later articles, Walker explains “I had no idea that they had selected me. It was a complete shock.”
CFSA's mission is to “support and expand local and organic agriculture in the Carolinas by inspiring, educating and organizing farmers and consumers.” Their “goal is to create a sustainable food system that is ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible,” said Walker Miller, “and that is also our goal at The Happy Berry.” Roland McReynolds, Executive director of CFSA, in presenting the award, said “Sustainable producers have to be masters of adaption, responsive to nature, and constantly experimenting to find strategies to produce healthy crops, increase resiliency in the face of weather variations and climate change and enhance their soil.” McReynolds pointed out that The Happy Berry conducts constant experiments in managing diseases and invasive pests, seeks organic alternatives to production problems, tests new crops better suited to the changing climate and works to increase depth of carbon fixation (sequestration) for sustainability as well focuses on marketing locally to support the community. McReynolds said “Walker and family has built a beloved gathering place in the Upstate, bring families back year after year to harvest giant juicy blackberries, blueberries and grapes. And, he has been active in educating neighbors, community leaders, always with a generous willingness to share his knowledge with others, be it new farmers, traditional farmers, consumers, academics or policy makers.”
Walker, accepting the award on behalf of his family, said “being economically viable, ecologically sound and socially responsible. It takes all three... they are equally important.” To our way of thinking, if farming continues with "business as usual," ... the potential to wipe out humanity is not science fiction. Agriculture is responsible for 1/3 of the global warming gases (GWG)...Second only to power plants...How we do agriculture does make a difference! ...We think of our farm as a forest farm...our task is to fix, also known as sequester, more carbon (and minimize the production of other GWG) than we use to grow food for our community, while being economically viable... Because, well, If we can’t make enough money to keep the farm going, we can’t keep the farm going.
Our entire family is deeply honored that CFSA recognized our efforts! We appreciate so much the support of our community and our customers. We would not be here without it.
We were featured in several local papers and also The State newspaper in Columbia. Most of those links have expired, but here are some links that were still up and running as of the date of this newsletter:
Fall Planting/Removal Activities
On the hill behind the house, where we had Navaho and Chester blackberries, we have removed all of the Navaho and all but 10 rows of the Chester. We are hoping that the remaining Navaho and Chester will be sufficient to provide enough blackberries until the late summer/fall Prime Ark and Black Magic blackberries come in. The reason we removed them is that raspberry crown borer (both these varieties are especially susceptible because of large soft crowns) were out of control and production was terrible. This was accentuated by the steepness of the hill making it difficult to treat them for the crown borer. In addition, despite removing infected Navaho plants, orange rust was giving us “a fit” by killing plants too. In the west field, to your left coming in the driveway, we are planting 500 plus feet of row Von blackberry (also thornless) to replace the Navaho and 500 plus feet of Chester. The acreage of blackberries will remain about the same. On the back hill we are live-staking additional fig trees for a significant increase. We have not been able to keep up with demand and in addition we are changing to a bush type pruning system at a higher density. We have increased our Goji berries to 50 plus plants but are worried they are not sustainable due to the diseases anthracnose and Alternaria. We are adding 65 Ochlockonee blueberries…they are suppose to be very late harvest, perhaps a little later than Powderblue. We are also replanting missing bushes and continuing removal of the Delite variety bushes because they are more leaf disease susceptible. Finally we are adding a few Dwarf black Mulberry Just to see if you like them. We are on the search for information on nut bearing pines adapted to our area, chestnuts and hazel nuts. We would like to possibly integrate them into our east-west rows of loblolly and long leaf pine.
Between willow harvest and the pruning of blueberries, muscadines, grapes and figs, it looks like it will be a very busy winter and early spring. We would love volunteers to help with whatever we are doing at the time. In exchange we can share a little know-how knowledge. We also are in the throws’ of clearing land if that is your thing. (We try not to bulldoze or plow our fragile soils…Instead we cut it off at ground level and get a grass weed cover as soon as possible.) Or you could volunteer to come bird watch – see below.
Birds On The Farm
The Keowee Bird Club did their Christmas bird count at the farm the first weekend of January. They will share their results with us. Walker feels we are not up to speed ecologically speaking when it comes to birds. We do not know what birds are present on the farm (other than the dreaded Robins when they come to wipe out the blueberries in the summer). Questions on our mind: What birds are present? When are they present? What are they feeding on? How we can help provide forage and cover while they are here? Perhaps they can help with pest management? We invite any volunteers that are bird watchers to come watch birds on the farm and report your findings for us. Perhaps you can help us create a picture of where we are at and help us with trends as we continue our efforts to create, or dare we say, “improve upon”?, an ecologically sound farm.
Thank you for a great 2014 season! We are looking forward to 2015 and seeing you back at the farm!
The Happy Berry Bunch Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann