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Organic poultry processor coming to Siler City

chickenLocal chicken farmers have faced hard times since Townsend, Inc. filed for bankruptcy four years ago and closed its poultry processing plant in Siler City, NC. But now a Moore County start-up may have good news, especially for growers able to fulfill contracts to raise organic, non GMO poultry.

Carolina Premium Foods plans to invest $4 million to renovate the former Townsend plant in Siler City, re-opening a new organic processing facility in about five months. They  hope to process up to 200,000 birds per week there, providing about 150 jobs in the first phase and more than 350 jobs in the next phase, according to company spokesperson Sonya Holmes. The company has received a $750k grant from the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority to develop the plant. The new 95,000 square-foot facility could be the first organic poultry processor of this type — focusing on smaller, non-GMO, organic birds — in the state of North Carolina.

Farmers interested in new organic contracts may contact Holmes at 910-984-5309.




August 26, 2014 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

Parsley, please

parsleyMichael Pollan may need to slightly revise his eater’s manifesto. How about: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly wild plants.” Or at least wilder than what you find in most super market vegetable bins.

If we want the most nutritional bang for our bucks, we should walk on the wilder side, according to  Jo Robinson, opining in The New York Times.

The author of Eating on the Wild Side says that most of today’s vegetables (like that sweet corn you’ve been day dreaming about) don’t have nearly as much nutritional power as heirloom varieties do. That means purple potatoes are better than the usual white Idahos. Those bright orange carrots I happily chomp down most days are indeed very good for me. But apparently they don’t have nearly as many nutrients as the heirloom purple ones at the Farmer’s Market and local co-op.

Turns out, the Big Food folks have managed to breed much of the nutrition out of everyday tomatoes, corn, carrots, and other mass produced produce. Eating those veggies is better than gobbling potato chips for sure, but if you want maximum nutrition, it’s time to get picky.

The good news is, this doesn’t have to be complicated, or costly. Weeds like chickweed, dandelions and nettles that propagate freely all over my yard, are packed with nutritional power. And herbs, any herbs, are also densely nutritious.

If you think parsley is just a throw-away garnish, think again. It’s easy to grow parsley or find it fresh in the market, and if you just add it to everything you eat, you’ve got maximum nutrition with little effort.

Robinson suggests the following:

  • Select corn with deep yellow kernels.
  • Cook with blue, red or purple cornmeal.
  • Choose arugula over iceberg lettuce (that’s a no brainer).
  • Scallions or green onions are more nutritional than the white or yellow kind, and wild onions are the most nutritional of all.
  • Herbs are wild plants, too even though you can cultivate them in your garden. Adding herbs like parsley and basil not only add flavor, they add nutrients.


May 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm Leave a comment

Pittsboro Pepper Fest Oct. 14

And don’t forget to order your Pepper Fest Farm-to-Tee Shirt, made from home-grown, organic NC cotton.

It’s that time again, boys and girls. The Fifth Annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival, set for Sunday Oct. 14  from 3 to 5 pm at Briar’s Chapel in Chatham County, ground zero for sustainably spicy farmers, chefs, brewers, musicians and artisans serving up peppery food, drinks, music and dance. Come hungry, prepared to sample platesand beverages from oodles of local farms and restaurants, and Farmer Doug’s Pittsboro peppers.  Brought to you by Abundance Foundation in Pbo. Read all about it and get your tickets NOW.

October 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

Support CSAs for hungry families

Kids help sort food at the Carrboro market

One in four children in North Carolina do not have enough food to eat.  Now you can help address this crisis AND support local farmers at the same time, by participating in a new challenge by Farmer Foodshare, the innovative nonprofit dedicated to making fresh local food more accessible.

There are a couple of ways to help, by visiting the Farmer Foodshare station at one of the Farmer’s Markets listed below.  As part of a brand-new initiative you can make a cash donation to support a local farm CSA share for a hungry family (you can even suggest which farm to use).  As always, you also can make a cash donation to support a local food bank or hunger organization, or donate part of your farmer’s market purchase to be distributed by a local food organization. In any case, your donations will be augmented by food donations from farmers and then collected at market by local hunger relief agency partners.

“Just in our region of the state, 180,000 kids don’t have enough food,” said Jonathan Bloom, a station manager with Farmer Foodshare. “Even sadder, North Carolina’s hunger rate for children under 5 is the worst in the nation. And an even larger number of young people don’t get enough nutritious, fresh food. The Farmer Foodshare Challenge aims to change that.”

Food pantries are extremely important to the services network. But, sometimes more targeted help is needed.  At-risk children and families may not be able to access food pantries due to scheduling challenges. Through the new CSA challenge,  Farmer Foodshare will purchase as many local CSA shares as possible to get nutritious, local food to hungry kids and their families, providing another option for partner agencies to better serve their clients.

CSA’s range in price from $300 to $500 for several months of delicious fresh food. CSA’s help farmers because they allow a farmer to plan what to grow and to be assured of income in response to seeds and other upfront growing costs. Donors can provide all or part of a CSA, and can earmark a donation for a particular farm or agency.

Participating Farmer’s Markets

Carrboro Farmers’ Market (

Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market (

Chatham Mills Farmers’ Market in Pittsboro (

Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market (

Durham Farmers Market (

Eno River Farmers Market (

Fearrington Farmers’ Market (

Hillsborough Farmers’ Market (

Southern Village Farmers Market (

Western Wake Farmers’ Market (

Many thanks to Farmer Foodshare founder Margaret Gifford and the volunteers and donors who help out every week.

September 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Pittsboro farm growing food and power

NOTE:  The ribbon cutting has been re-scheduled to Nov. 4 at 4 p.m. 

Farmer Doug Jones is famous for growing peppers that thrive in the Piedmont. Lyle Estill is famous for producing biofuel from recycled vegetable oil. The two often trade brainstorms over at the Eco Industrial Park in Pittsboro NC, where Jones runs Piedmont Biofarm, Estill concocts new schemes at Piedmont Biofuels, and food and energy projects often feed each other.

Lyle got to wondering if they could grow both food and electrical power at the park, on the same piece of land.  What if they erected an array of solar collectors high enough off the ground that food could be grown in the partial shade beneath them? They will soon get a chance to find out, as their solar double-cropping experiment gets underway.

Piedmont Biofuels, Piedmont Biofarm and new partners Miraverse Power and Light and Southern Energy Management will have the official public ribbon cutting for the project at 4 pm on Nov. 4 at the Eco Industrial Park.

The endeavor consists of an elevated 92.16 kilowatt solar array that will generate electricity above the north field of Piedmont Biofarm, while sustainable produce is harvested at the ground level. The nine-foot clearance of the solar photovoltaic system is designed specifically to encourage growing crops that thrive in partial shade.

“Double Cropping is a term we borrowed from the wind industry,” said Estill, noting that wind generators often co-exist with working farms.

On the other hand, Estill noted, in some jurisdictions, solar installations are being banned on prime farmland.  “We need clean energy.  And we need sustainable food,” he said.  “This installation will enable both.”

Financing for the project has been provided by Michael and Amy Tiemann, who recently opened Manifold Recording, a world-class recording and production facility in Chatham County.  “The vision for this facility has always been based around sustainability,” they said in a press release. “When we began calculating the energy required to run this facility, we simultaneously envisioned how we could fit that into an overall sustainability plan.  Of all the options we considered, solar double-cropping was far and away the simplest, fastest, and best approach to meeting our energy needs without diminishing the rich agricultural potential of Chatham County.  What good is sustainable energy without sustainable agriculture?”

Michael sits on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and has a keen interest in both renewable energy and local food.  He created Miraverse Power and Light as an entity for the double-cropping project.

Farmer Doug has been experimenting with partial shade crops for the past two growing seasons and will be farming beneath the array.  “As our agricultural zone changes, there are some vegetables that will benefit from some protection from the sun,” he said.

The 288-panel system is being installed by Southern Energy Management (SEM), a Morrisville-based company well known for utility scale solar arrays.  “We love this project because it challenges us to think about land use, climate change and where our food comes from, all at the same time,” said SEM co-founder Maria Kingery.  “This is the kind of project that made us want to get into the solar business in the first place and we hope to see many more projects like this in the future.”

This Solar Double Cropping project represents two years of planning, design, and engineering which resulted in a formal docket assignment by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

September 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm 2 comments

Pittsboro Pepper Festival Oct. 2

The Pittsboro Pepper Festival may sound like it belongs on the list of “Top 10 Strangest Small Town Events in America,” but it’s one you don’t want to miss. While the obsession with local heirloom peppers might be a little quirky, this growing celebration of local food, beer, and music is truly a community event.  The 4th Annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival is set for Sunday, October 2, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the newly constructed community park in Briar Chapel (north Chatham county off of US 15-501).

Local hotshot chefs will present appetizers and desserts featuring over 60 varieties of heirloom local peppers (everything from sweet to hot).

You’ll also enjoy peppery beer.  It could take you all evening to swallow the spicy samples from this dazzling list of participants from A to Z:  Andrea Williams, Angelina’s Kitchen, Bean and Barrel, Benjamin Wineries, Bobby’s Water Ice, Cackalacky Cantina 18,  Carolina Brewery  Carolina Crossroads Restaurant   Chatham Marketplace, Chicken Bridge Bakery, Crook’s Corner, Fullsteam Brewery,  Dos Perros Restaurant, 8 Seaboard, Hillsborough BBQ, The Granary at Fearrington, General Store Cafe, Green Man Brewery, Glass Half Full,  Lucky 32, Market Restaurant   On the Square,     Mez , The Natural Chef Program @ CCCC , Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery,  Triangle Brewery,  Saxapahaw General Store,  Starrlight Meadery, Stevie’s Booch, Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe  and  Zely & Ritz.

The festival sprung from the work of Doug Jones, farmer extraordinaire of Piedmont Biofarm. He has been creating and growing special peppers designed to thrive in Pittsboro and the Piedmont. He grows about 100 varieties at his farm on the eastern side of Pittsboro, and he wants you to love peppers as much as he does.

“Ripe peppers are an underutilized and under appreciated super food,” Doug says. “They grow exceptionally well in the piedmont of NC, our climate.  We want to develop the consumer demand and increase the growers in our region.  Peppers are exceptionally high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C as well as flavor and phytonutrients.”

There will also be live music by Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes, and Lonnie Walker. Stick around for the crowning of the King and Queen of the festival.  And bring the kids, face-painting and plenty of activities for the whole family.

Pittsboro Pepper Fest proceeds go to the Abundance Foundation and Piedmont Biofarm.

Admission is $20 in advance until Sep 13, $25 until Oct 1st, or $30 at the entrance and includes all-access to food and entertainment. Beverages are cash bar. As always, the Pittsboro Pepper Festival’s screen-printed Limited Edition 2011 t-shirts and posters will be on sale at the festival.

Sponsors include: Briar Chapel, Sanford Construction, WCHL, Sanford Contractors, Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery, openNMS, McKim & Creed,  Burt’s Bees Corporate Investors Mortgage Group, Piedmont Biofuels, Larry’s Beans, Chatham County Economic Development, Bradshaw & Robinson, LLP, JY Visuals, Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance,  The Sustainable Agriculture Program, Central Carolina Community College , Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Kinder Soles, Krombach Dunn & Co, PLLC, Garlick and Murray Family Medicine, Weaver Street Realty, Country Farm & Home, Chatham Mills Farmers’ Market, NC Agritourism Networking Association, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Chatham Portables, Eco Products.

September 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

Behind every successful chef…

Lantern's Andrea Reusing and Miguel Torres (Photo by Takaaki Iwabu

When you send your “compliments to the cook,” don’t forget the sous chef. Andrea Weigl, award-winning food writer for the News and Observer, has written a fabulous feature about the cooks in the kitchen who make some of the Triangle’s best chefs shine.  Andrea Reusing (Lantern) relies on Miguel Torres.  Amy Tornquist (Watts Grocery) turns to Sunny Gerhart. Ben Barker (Magnolia Grill) has Amanda Forsyth, and Walter Royal (Angus Barn) is backed by both  Jimmy Alfano and Jim Long. You can read all about these super sous chefs in the full story, or savor this morsel below about Miguel Torres. He began his career in his mother’s restaurant in Guanajuato, Mexico, then started over in NC as a dishwasher:

“Miguel Torres, 31, came to the United States from Mexico at the age of 18, knowing very little English, and with only an uncle’s promise of a dishwashing job at a Chapel Hill restaurant…..

“Six months after Torres arrived in Chapel Hill, chef Bret Jennings took over the restaurant, turning it into Elaine’s on Franklin. Torres climbed the fine-dining kitchen’s hierarchy: dishwasher, prep cook, line cook.

“When Lantern opened across the street in late 2001, Torres got a second job there working as a pastry assistant. Torres worked 80 hours a week, splitting his time between Elaine’s and Lantern. Eventually, Reusing offered Torres more money to come work for her full time and he left Elaine’s.

“Along the way, Torres realized food could be more than just a livelihood. He was inspired by the fact that Reusing was so successful despite never having gone to culinary school. He says he thought: ‘I can do this.’  [Claro, si se puede!]

“Three years ago, he was made Lantern’s chef de cuisine. This year, Reusing won Best Chef of the Southeast from the James Beard Foundation, which not only reflects her skill but the ability of her staff – and especially Torres – to execute her food.”

Follow @andreaweigl on Twitter.

May 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

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