CABA hosts speaker Blate for agriculture program

Published 1:26 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

Green Creek farmer shares experience.

Community Agri-Business Alliance (CABA) will meet on November 18th at 6pm at the Cooperative Extension office in Columbus. Guest speaker Gail Blate of DeerHaven Hills Farm, LLC will present a short presentation and discussion on the certified organic process. The discussion will include details of becoming certified as well as the many challenges of becoming certified. The event is free and open to the public, with food provided in potluck style.

CABA is a membership organization for the support and development of Mountain BizWorks Alumni in Polk County and surrounding areas in partnership with the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development. For the past 20 years Mountain BizWorks has been committed to celebrating the spirit of small business ventures in Western North Carolina, with the fundamental commitment to economic empowerment. The focus of this particular Alliance has a special emphasis on agriculture, but the friends of agriculture are also encouraged to participate. &bsp;

The purpose of the CABA is to support the business aspirations of its members within the framework of best business practices, develop and maintain positive relationships with the business, government, and education communities in Polk County and surrounding areas, and for the purpose of networking. Other objectives are to initiate and support new approaches for business success in Polk County, and to sponsor networking and educational opportunities for small, developing businesses in our region.

Mountain BizWorks is a non-profit organization that provides training, financing and opportunities through business development and capital. The mission of Mountain BizWorks is to inspire entrepreneurs who have viable business ideas and the discipline to follow through and to build economic opportunities through business training and capital. The intention of the CABA is to build a more vibrant local economy in Western North Carolina through agriculture.

The Polk County Office of Agricultural Development is focused on both creating new agricultural businesses and enhancing existing operations as part of a rural development and community strategy.&bsp; This Alliance is becoming a critical forum for achieving these goals. &bsp;

DeerHaven Hills Farm, LLC is a certified organic blueberry, muscadine grape and fig farm in the Green Creek Township. Gail Blate and her late husband, Michael, had been natural health educators, and concerned with sustainability and protecting the environment for the last 35 years. They had always grown part of the food they consumed, so for them, growing organically was the only way to go. &bsp;

Their farm, was purchased in 1996 and they moved from Florida in 1998 to live in Polk County. They planted 700 blueberry bushes in 2000 and the figs in 2002. The 5 1/2 acre vineyard was installed in 1998 and they tried to grow French wine grapes, but the humidity was too much to handle using organic practices. So they replaced them with the bronze muscadine varieties, Summit and Triumph, in 2005-6. All of these fruits grow well in Western North Carolina; they are hardy, more drought tolerant, and more disease and pest resistant, so they are easier to grow organically.

Since her husband passed away in 2007, Gail has carried on the farm management and DeerHaven Hills Farm was officially certified organic this past spring. Gail says, This was our first year of significant production. It was a crazy, busy year. We became Certified Organic, put in a new well, created a fruit storage cooler and much, much more.

Gail attributes much of her to success to the support and educational services available to her in Polk County. In addition to Mountain BizWorks and Polk County Agricultural Economic Development Director, Lynn Sprague, there are many agencies available for support to which Gail offers thanks: Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), Foothills Connect, NC State University and Western North Carolina Agricultural and Soil and Water Agents, my neighbor vintners, Dennis Lanahan and Frank Lilly, Lee Ewing of Sunny Creek Farm, experienced muscadine farmers, Larry Cagle of Woodmill Winery and Irvine Lineberger of Killdeer Farm and Gails trusty farm assistant, Joe Staley.

Everyone that is interested&bsp; in learning more about the certified organic process is encouraged to bring a dish and enjoy the peer group environment and networking session on Wednesday November 18th from 6 to 8pm. For more information call: Jo Ann Miksa-Blackwell at 864-457-6843 or Lynn Sprague at 894-2281.