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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!!!


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!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Time to Add Some Lavender to the Mix

Whoa!! I had no idea how long it had been since I connected with my truffle friends.  FaceBook and Twitter just aren't enough.  I was feeling very disconnected and now I know why.  Let me bring you up to speed.

It is HOT!  Entirely too hot for May here in the foothills.  I think I heard yesterday on the local weather report that it hadn't been this hot for this long in May since 2006.  Our weather patterns are definitely changing.

Glad I have irrigation, too, even though I'm having a little trouble keeping it working these days.  I'll get it worked on by a professional soon.  I've already exhausted all the free help I can find.  Maybe we'll get some relief in the form of a thundershower tomorrow or Thursday.  I'm hoping..............

So, anyway, how about some new pictures?  We went out today and planted the first of our lavender plants.

 Isn't that cute? Those rocks will make it easy for me to find her for extra water this first season since it's really better to plant it in the fall.  She is planted right in the middle of the field where one of the oaks didn't survive and that empty space was just waiting for some lavender.  It's one of the angusifolias and should do really well there.  I have more to plant but that's the very first one.  Lavender is a very good companion crop for truffles because it will (theoretically, right?) thrive in the same high pH.  We'll see.....

As you can see from the picture below, this "new" orchard, now moving into its 4th year, is truly growing by leaps and bounds.  The tree closest to you in the picture is a "blight resistant/immune" filbert.  and behind it is one of the oaks.  Then a filbert, then an oak.  You get the idea.

Here you have a view across the orchard after the tilling.  I added lime and gypsum before the tilling started.  Just look at that beautiful rich red dirt.  You can almost hear the truffles forming  :-) 

And here's a better look at an oak.  Ignore the weeds around it.  We're going to aim a flame thrower at those soon.  No roundup here.  Either the weeds get pulled or burned or maybe frozen if I can find the guy who does that around here.

Now, for some news about other things going on here.  Today the tree man started taking down some trees that hinder the traffic pattern from one orchard to the other through the woods.  It's going to look much more "park-like" soon.  I like that idea.  Dazy and Friday are happy about it, too,  Here's Friday chillin' in the shade.
By the time the Carolina Farm Stewardship Piedmont Farm Tour hits the place on June 7th, it will all be finished and maybe we can put some lawn chairs out there for folks to cool off a little before they head out to the next farm.  I hope you will all take advantage of the special pricing available that day.  Come on out to Stokes County and see some farmers in action, meet our dogs, taste some truffle stuff and enjoy the countryside.  Seriously, folks, come see us!

Think Truffles!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bonjour tous!!

Fresh back from Provence, you had to be there..........

For a solid ten days, I enjoyed the beauty, deliciousness and exquisite charm of the French Riviera and the lovely countryside.  It was a dream come true.  This is just one of the many places I visited.

From the moment we arrived at Chez Xavier to spend our week in Provence with Mary James and Xavier, we dined on the most delicious truffle dishes -- literally morning, noon and night, that you can imagine.  Our hosts were most fastidious about the attention to detail.  We visited the Truffle Market in Aups, the only retail truffle market in the Provence area.
 We found fabulous truffles at expected prices.  There may be a slight decline in the tonnage but it wasn't obvious to us as newcomers.  What a great day!

The Truffle Festival, also in Aups, was on Sunday, middle of our week.  Again, a truffle extravaganza so much better than anticipated.  Music, truffle hunting competition, so many options for shopping for olive and truffle specialties.  I bought the best (yes, it's still flavored) black truffle oil I have ever tasted. Wish I could get it for you but, it's a small local supplier who only serves his neighborhood.

We enjoyed the festivities of the market, had lunch in the village and slept in the van on the way home while our driver handled the transportation.  :-)
Not really -- our hosts didn't give us time to do that.  If we hadn't done so much walking in towns and on farms, I would have gained a lot of weight!  We went from the festival to a truffle farm where we hunted truffles and met the farmers.  Their dogs were great and they told us they train them from the time they are born, rubbing the mother's teats with truffle to teach them to hunt from the beginning.  They even let their dogs eat the little bitty truffles they find in the orchards and still give them treats!!  What a novel idea!  Couldn't believe it!

The trip was a dream come true for this truffle farmer going into her 14th year.  I am truly looking forward to this year as the sole owner of Keep Your Fork Farm.  It's going to be the best one yet.

On a more local note, for the first time ever, the North American Truffle Growers' Association  is opening its annual truffle dinner to the public.  It's a great chance to meet the growers.  For $100 per person, you, too, can enjoy Truffles Galore on February 22 at the Hawthorne Inn & Conference Center in Winston-Salem.  Just contact me for registration before February 20 -- sooner if possible -- seating is limited.

It is snowing like crazy here -- probably 5-6 inches on the ground and ice predicted overnight.  Grateful for my faithful gas logs and wonderful dogs to keep me warm.  "Til next time...................

Think Truffles!