Sunday, December 29, 2013

WV Farm Bill Funding Priorities Survey

   SURVEY LINK:  Click here  

2014 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Funding Priorities Survey
In anticipation of the 2014 round of Specialty Crop Block Grant Program-Farm Bill (SCBGP-FB) funding, we would like to request assistance from the agriculture community to determine funding priorities. The funding agency, USDA, provides general priorities but allows states to add their own topics based on needs as long as the selected projects meet the criteria of solely enhancing specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

South Branch still rising downstream

I posted this on the wrong blog this morning!  The post is now in its intended place (Hampshire Outdoors) at

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Yoga by Lisa at Potomac State

Lisa Tunick Boward will be teaching a 10 week yoga session at Potomac State College beginning in January. This is not a class for PSC students, but rather a "special interest" class open to the community. Here is a link to the details and registration form if you are interested:

Sustainable Potomac Highlands fermentation class -December 16

 On Monday the 16th of December at 6pm at the Health Department in Augusta, the Health committee of Sustainable Potomac Highlands is running an informational get together on what fermentation is, what it does to your food and its health benefits.  Anyone is encouraged to come, to share and to gather information.  There will be examples of different fermented foods to sample, Including Green Pastures Fermented cod-liver oil,  a variety of things from BAO Fermented products, and Hawthorne Valley Association.   

Attendees are encouraged to bring ferments of any kind to share with the group. These could include but are not limited to: yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, kefir, water kefir, and sourdough bread. ( please no wine or beer, there is no alcohol allowed in the health dept. building.)  If you have extra starter cultures for things like kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sourdough etc. please bring them to share as we will be swapping cultures as well. 

Please send any questions to Eva Taylor at

Sunday, December 1, 2013

An insight on apples' past and future, and vulnerabilities

I rediscovered this old article by Michael Pollan's blog thanks to my dad.  I'm always surprised at how anti-GMO folks focus on the very precise, modern approaches to genetic engineering but comfortably ignore centuries of imprecise breeding, whether it's trees, crops, flowers or dogs.  It mostly reveals an ignorance of Mendelian genetics, evolution, and especially molecular genetics.  Pollan's article reminds us how modified (and similar) those good, old-fashioned Granny Smith, Fuji, Red Delicious or other apples on your counter really are.

At the end of the article there is contact information (outdated?) for growing or even tasting antique apples.

Jim E.

Breaking Ground: The Call of the Wild Apple

ALL the way in the back of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station’sorchard here stand several jumbled rows of the oddest apple trees you’ve ever seen. No two are alike, not in form or leaf or fruit: this one could pass for a linden tree, that one for a demented forsythia. Maybe a third of these six-year-old trees are bearing apples this fall—strange, strange fruit that look and taste like nothing so much as God’s first drafts of what an apple might be.
I saw apples with the hue and heft of olives or cherries, next to glowing yellow Ping-Pong balls and dusky purple berries. I saw a whole assortment of baseballs, oblate and conic, some of them bright as infield grass, others dull as dirt. And I picked big, shiny red fruits that look just like apples, of all things, and seduce you into hazarding a bite.
Hazard is, unfortunately, the word for it: imagine sinking your teeth into a tart potato, or a mushy Brazil nut sheathed in leather (“spitters” is the pomological term of art here), and then tasting one that starts out with high promise on the tongue—now here’s an apple!—only to veer off into a bitterness so profound that it makes the stomach rise even in recollection.
Wild apples, indeed: all of these trees were grown from seeds gathered in Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, the wild apple’s Eden, where botanists now believe the domestic apple has its ancient roots in a species called Malus sieversii. The orchard where I made the acquaintance of M. sieversii is the United States Agriculture Department’s apple collection in Geneva, probably the world’s most comprehensive collection of apple trees.
Here, some 2,500 different varieties have been gathered from all over the world and set out in pairs, as if on a beached botanical ark. The card catalogue to this arboreal archive, on 50 acres, runs the gamut, from Adam’s Pearmain, an antique English variety, to the Zuccalmaglio, a German apple. A browser will find everything from the first named American variety (the 17th-century Roxbury Russet) to experimental crosses that bear only numbers. In this single orchard one can behold the apple’s past and also possibly glimpse its future, for the wild apples I tasted represent the latest accessions to the collection. And if the curator, Philip Forsline, is right, this new germ plasm—the genetic material contained in seeds—will alter the course of apple history.
The discovery in the last decade of the apple’s wild ancestors is big news in the apple world. Problematic as these apples might be on the palate, to breeders they represent unprecedented opportunity. Roger Way, Cornell University’s legendary apple breeder (the father of the Empire and the Jonagold, among many others), says that he expects the genes of these oddballs to yield new cultivars that will be “more disease and insect resistant, more winter hardy, and higher in eating quality” than the apples of today. Breeders are particularly hopeful that in M. sieversii they’ve found the genes that will help apples better withstand their numerous afflictions.
Anyone with an apple in his yard knows how pathetic these trees can be. By September, my own unsprayed apples are grossly deformed by cankers, rusts, pimples, scales, harelips and the exit wounds of coddling moths. No other crop requires quite as much pesticide as commercial apples, which receive upward of a dozen chemical showers a season. Asked how it is that apples seem so poorly adapted to life outdoors, Mr. Forsline said that it hasn’t always been the case, that a century of growing vast orchards populated by a small handful of varieties has rendered the apple less fit than it once was.