“Traditional and Essential Seeds” with Bill Best

Appalachian Foodways Course for the UNCA Asheville/OLLIE/College for Seniors, April 1, 2015. “Traditional and Essential Seeds” by Bill Best.

Bill Best brought a large bag of Heirloom Appalachian Bean Seeds to accompany his talk of flavorful pots of “Beans and Leather Britches!” He spoke of “Traditional and Essential Seeds” and his lifetime of collection, identifying and sharing Appalachian bean seeds. Bill says that our Appalachian Foodshed is one of the most diverse of any county and seed saving preserves that diversity. We are losing much of that Lazy_Wife Greasy Beansbiodiversity as our right to save seed is a disappearing inheritance, thus we are losing much of our food culture heritage.

Bill keeps almost 700 varieties of heirloom bean seeds at the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, which is at his farm in the Knobs country of Madison County just outside of Berea, Kentucky. Bill says that “Appalachian seeds represent a heritage going all the way back to the Native Americans.” He was recently invited to an Appalachian archeology burial site dig dating back 13,000 years. This was a woman who was buried with bean seeds. Many of those seed types still remain with us in today.

The culture of seed saving is an ancient one. The Native Americans planted beans in a configuration referred to as the three sisters. Beans, corn, and winter squash planted together. The beans will grow up the corn stalk and the squash covers the ground and helps keep down weeds. Bill says to “look for heirloom corn because the heirloom corn has the thicker stalk to support the weight of the vines.”

Bill’s family has been saving seeds for over 150 years and he gathered some of his first seeds in 1973. He started selling heirloom beans at the Lexington Kentucky farmers market and he now sells his seeds in all 50 states.

Bill Best’s new book, Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste is a must read for understanding why commercially grown beans are just a decoration, and not for eating. Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/09/27/2846594/berea-farmer-bill-best-advocates.html#storylink=cpy

What is eaten and why? “Cornbread Nation” with Ronnie Lundy

Appalachian Foodways Course for the UNCA Asheville/OLLIE/College for Seniors, April 1, 2015. What is eaten and why? “Cornbread Nation” with Ronnie Lundy

Ronni Lundy started her session by bringing biscuits and local Sorghum Molasses Syrup. She made a real southern treat, warn sorghum molasses mixed with warm butter. What a wonderful childhood memory. To mix warm sorghum molasses and warm butter into a sticky spread, just for those hot biscuits on a cold morning – yummmmm!

Ronnie Lundy & Bill Best

Ronnie Lundy & Bill Best

Sorghum cane (looks similar to sugar cane but with a big clump of seeds on top) is harvested and crushed in the fall here in the mountains. The syrup is boiled in pots or vats until it thickens. Then it is sealed into canning jars for enjoyment. For some families, other than honey, this was the only sweetener available for pancakes and stack cakes.

Ronni explained the difference between what most people know as molasses and what a lot of mountain folk call molasses or sorghum molasses. Most molasses (blackstrap) are derived from sugar cane or beets. Sorghum is a major grain that originates from Africa. Brought here by slaves, the sorghum plant has a sturdier stalk that yields the green sticky liquid that must be boiled down for hours to achieve thickness and sweetness. Sorghum molasses is a product unique to the Appalachians.

Ronni talked about the dual cultures of Appalachia (rural & cities) and her journey from the coal mining mountains to the city. “Everyone in the mountains seems to be connected by kinship or sometimes by hardship.” The rural mountain culture is one of connections and mountain people spend that time “nurturing connections.” Perhaps, that’s why the mountain people tend to know their neighbors much more easily than people in cities. Even death is a nourishing time in Appalachia. Everyone brings food and stories to share around the table.

Ronnie is the author of Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken, a classic fusion of the food and music cultures of our region. https://www.southernfoodways.org/awards/ronni-lundy-2009-lifetime-achievement-award-winner/

2015 Tailgate Market Spring Openings

Spring is here and the growing season is upon us! Tailgate tents are going up, and area farmers markets are opening outdoors for the season. Celebrate spring by getting a taste of what is growing in your community. At early spring markets, expect fresh greens, spring onions and asparagus; meats, cheeses, baked goods, value-added farm products like preserves, and a wide selection of plant starts. Produce offerings will differ from market to market based on the location of vendor farms—microclimates vary greatly in the region. But the season changes quickly, with new offerings sprouting up each week.


Find a list of spring tailgate opening days for the central mountains below. For a complete list of the 90+ tailgate markets in the region, including their season start dates, visit ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org. The 2015 print guide hits stands in mid-April. [Read more…]

More Than Honey

More Than Honey

March 16th at 7pm – Tryon Theatre

Bring your friends and family to a free movie on bees and beekeeping with a reception beforehand at La Boutielle Wine and Beer Boutique. This awesome documentary showcases beekeeping around the world, demonstrating why bees and beekeepers are vital to our existence on earth.

Thanks to Slow Foods Asheville – Foothills for the reception sponsorship. 


Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest

Come out and celebrate everything cheesy.  The festival will be held rain or shine at Highland Brewery in Asheville, NC.  The festival will utilize the indoor and outdoor areas of the brewery so you can get your hands on goats and calves outside and participate in discussions and tastings inside.  Tickets for the 1st annual Carolina Mountain Cheese Festival will go on sale on this website starting November 1, 2014.

Ticket prices are listed below:

DATE:  April 26th, 2015
LOCATION: Highland Brewery, 12 Old Charlotte Highway
Asheville, NC 28803
TIME: 12 noon to 4pm


  • Ages 13 to 103: $12.00
  • Children 12 & under:  Free

If there are any remaining tickets, they will be sold at the gate the day of the event for $15.00 each.

NC Save The Honey Bee specialty license plate

One of the key elements of the team’s awareness project was creating a NC Save The Honey Bee specialty license plate. Revenue from this plate will help fund educational outreach materials and other ongoing expenses related to the Honey Bee Habitat on Grandfather mountain, as well as supporting honey bee research at NC State University. Click for more information about the Grandfather Honey Bee Haven.

Until recently, a specialty plate required a bill to be passed before orders for the plate could be taken. The team’s plate was completed and submitted to Senator Soucek in January of 2014. Unfortunately, the NC senate was not allowing any new bills to be introduced. The new path is to collect all the required orders and then submit them to the DMV. The plate will then be considered as a bill in the NC legislature.

  • The cost for this plate is just $15.
  • The North Carolina DMV requires 500 pre-paid applications before it will consider the initial plate application.
  • These applications must be processed as a single submission with one check. 

To comply with this requirement, applications will be collected by the Watauga County Beekeepers Association (WCBA), combined into a package and submitted to DMV with one check .

We need 500 applicants in relatively short order. DMV has extended the Deadline from Feb15th to April 1, 2015. If you want a honey bee license plate to happen, we need you to…

DOWNLOAD: Download the application found here
COMPLETE: Fill it out COMPLETELY with the required items as listed in this webpage
PAY: Make out the check to WCBA
SUBMIT! Send check and application to address below

WCBA c/o Lyn Soeder
PO Box 93
Todd, NC 28684

Complete this application and mail it along with your check or money order.

. Please help us spread awareness by ordering your plate today.


  • $5.00 from every license plate sale will support Grandfather Mountain Honey Bee Haven and NC State University Agriculture Program.
  • A plate with sequential numbers determined by DMV (standard) can be ordered for $15.00
  • A plate with a personalized message (4 spaces allowed) can be ordered for an additional $30.00.
  • Yearly renewal fees will depend on your choice of plate and other personal property and vehicle taxes.
  • Each application must include the following items:
    • Vehicle must be currently registered & titled in North Carolina
    • Current NC Plate Number
    • Current Driver License Number
    • Year, Model, Make/Body Style of Vehicle the plate will be ordered for
    • Vehicle Identification Number
    • Signature
    • Insurance Carrier Name
    • Insurance Policy Number

You can download a blank application from the DMV website at http://www.ncdot.gov/download/dmv/MVR-27PPA.pdf

Please help us spread the word to family and friends and to anyone else you think might be interested in ordering a plate!

Questions please call Jenny Fitzpatrick at (828) 260-1267

5th Annual Grape Growers Conference

On Thursday, February 26, 2015, the Sustainable Appalachian Viticulture Institute, Jewel of the Blue Ridge Vineyard, and the French Broad Vignerons, will host the 5th Annual Grape Growers Conference in the Madison County Cooperative Extension auditorium in Marshall NC. Conference time will be from 9 AM – 4 PM.

The Conference will work to bring a new focus to growers and producers in the Western North Carolina region. The conference will not only address issues of substance for producers and growers it hopes to lay the basis for regular interaction on the part of vineyard managers, winemakers, and product producers.

In the morning program, Pete Fland, President of the French Broad Vignerons, will give a presentation about the trade association for all grape growers and winemakers in the region.

Chuck Blethen, owner of Jewel of the Blue Ridge Vineyard, will share a list of available resources for making many value added products from grapes.

Josh Fowler, Winemaker from Lake James Cellars, will talk about how to blend grapes with other fruits to make great wines.

Alan Staton, owner of  Cabin Creek Vineyard, will offer tips on growing cold-hardy grapes in the mountains.

Samantha Biggers, owner of Morning Star Vineyards, will discuss new grape varietals suitable for growing in the mountains.

The afternoon program will consist of a Roundtable discussions. One will feature commercial vineyard managers from this reason. One will feature commercial winemakers from wineries in this area. The roundtable discussions will allow conference participants to ask questions about commercial grape growing and winemaking in our region.

The conference Early Bird registration fee is $45 paid in advance before midnight February 12. The regular registration fee of $50 will be for those who register between February 13 and noon on February 24. This registration also Includes lunch, coffee break refreshments, handouts, and free parking. Online registration is now available at www.GrapeSAVI.org until noon on Tuesday, February 24. The Walk-in Registration for those registering after noon on February 24 will be $55 and there is no guarantee that lunch will be available. People who register in advance will receive a copy of the agenda and directions to the conference location.

For additional information about the upcoming conference please contact Chuck Blethen, Executive Director, Sustainable Appalachian Viticulture Institute, 828-606-3130 or email Blethen@GrapeSAVI.org


Chuck Blethen  – Executive Director

Sustainable Appalachian Viticulture Institute

PO Box 4

Marshall NC 28753 USA


e-Mail: Blethen@GrapeSAVI.org




2015 Organic Growers School Spring Conference coming up!


Check it out by going to www.organicgrowersschool.org then click on Spring Conference.

The Grain Divide

The Grain Divide

Carolina Ground is honored to be featured– alongside our friends at Farm and Sparrow Breads, Smoke Signals Bakery, Dr Stephen Jones’s Bread Lab, Monica Spiller, Chad Robertson, Glenn Roberts, and a handful of other inspiring folks– in the upcoming film, The Grain Divide. Follow this link for the trailer.

The Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Greenville, SC – The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s 29th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference, happening in Greenville, SC at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Nov. 10-12, 2014, will feature over 50 food and farm workshops, farm tours by bus, hands-on intensives, and locally sourced, organic meals.  The Sustainable Agriculture Conference is one of the oldest and largest conferences of its kind in the U.S.  The 2012 Conference, also held in Greenville, brought together more than 800 farmers, gardeners, foodies, and agriculture professionals to learn about the latest in sustainable farming methods, urban farming, food policy activism, and how to build local food systems.


“The local and sustainable food scene across the Carolinas is positively electric and the momentum continues to grow.  The Sustainable Agriculture Conference is at the heart of the local food and farming movement,” says Roland McReynolds, CFSA’s Executive Director.  He adds, “In the earliest days the conference was designed to address nuts and bolts for pioneering organic farmers.  As the conference has evolved, it has begun to incorporate more stakeholders in the local food movement.  So now we have a policy track, a food and culture track, and others that reflect how the food movement has grown alongside the conference.”


This year’s conference boasts exciting tracks devoted to growing organic produce, pastured livestock, soils, beginning farmers, food and culture, urban farming, policy, and a ‘You Make It’ hands-on track.  The Conference features renowned speakers, such as such as Greg Judy, leader in the mob-grazing movement; Jim Adkins, nationally recognized poultry expert and founder of the Sustainable Poultry Network; Southern culinary historian, David ShieldsRichard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook- A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff- and Making a Profit, and Hugh Lovel, biodynamics expert.


For a complete list of conference offerings or to register for the conference, pre-conference intensives or tours, or the Local Foods Feast, all of which are open to the public, please visit: www.carolinafarmstewards.org/sac.  Advanced registration closes on Oct. 30, but participants can register on-site.