Here it is late spring and I am going to jump ahead to the fall!  You will want to mark your calendar for this year’s National Conference and Trade Show.  We are in Raleigh, North Carolina the 1st – 4th of October.  North Carolina is a special and unique place to farm.  For example, we have fantastic farmers’ markets: Carrboro Farmers’ Market (, the Raleigh Farmers’ Market ( and the Durham Farmer’s Market (  These markets have a devoted and growing customer base that avidly supports local agriculture.                            

We are also proud of the research that comes from North Carolina State University and North Carolina A & T University.  Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro boasts a sustainable agriculture program where students can gain hands-on experience and pursue a degree.  We also have beautiful public gardens like the Coker Arboretum, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and of course the J.C. Raulston Arboretum.  The Conference Committee has worked hard this winter to put together a program and tour that highlights the notion that North Carolina is a special and unique place to farm.  The tour features two farms, university research and a fantastic plant nursery.  Tuesday, October 2nd we will visit North Carolina State University and Perry-winkle Farm.  Wednesday, October 3rd, we’ll tour Sunrise to Sunset Gardens and Plant Delights Nursery.        

What trip to Raleigh would be complete without a stop to NCSU to see what John Dole and his crew are doing?  The visit to NCSU will include tours of the cut flower trials, postharvest laboratory, research projects, and the world-renowned J.C. Raulston Arboretum.                            

Perry-winkle Farm is owned and operated by Cathy Jones and Michael Perry.  Cathy and Michael are producing cut flowers and vegetables on approximately three acres.  They have worked hard over the years to build up the depleted soils by using organic mulches, cover crops and pastured poultry.  They produce over 120 varieties of cut flowers and that many varieties of vegetables.  Cathy told me a rough estimate of their crop breakdown has 40% of their cropland planted in flowers and the flowers generate over 60% of their income.  Cathy and Michael’s sales are geared towards three weekly farmers’ market and high-end restaurants.  The first frost is generally  mid to late October.  So, for the tour we should see summer crops of zinnias, cosmos, celosias, and ornamental Rooster peppers.  If we have not had an early frost there may be some basils.  Cathy and her crew will be direct seeding over-wintered flowers like larkspurs and bachelor buttons.  They will also be in the middle of getting the garlic crop into the ground.                             

Cathy and Michael looking forward to showing off their passive solar greenhouse that they built using Hebel Block (R30) and hope folks enjoy seeing their highly diversified sustainable farm.                                    

If you did not have the opportunity to attend last year’s Southeast Regional Meeting you missed Gary and Sybil Calder’s farm.  But opportunity knocks again.  I recently spoke with Gary about what we might see this October.  He told me they would still be cutting annuals and in the process of planting their overwintered flower plugs.  We will also be able to see a lot of the woodies that the Calders cut for Christmas greens.  Gary listed magnolias, West Coast arborvitae, Chindo viburnum, Japanese cedar, hollies, Carolina sapphire, and that is just a few!   They are planting two acres in woodies and Gary is doing most of that propagation work.  In addition to plant material, the Calders will have equipment on display.  Gary proudly mentioned a bed shaper and referred to it as the “Vicki Stamback Special.”  The Calders use a lot of leaf mulch on their beds.  They have an old manure spreader that has been converted into a side-dress mulcher that they use to distribute the leaf mulch.  Sybil is really excited that the Sprinter van is now equipped with a ThermoKing.  The Sprinter also has a computer station for a mobile office.  You will be able to check out all of this great stuff at their farm.

Many of you are probably familiar with Plant Delights Nursery.  The nursery is owned and operated by Tony and Michele Avent.  They are a mail order nursery that specializes in new and rare perennials.  Plant Delights Nursery happens to be located at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens.  This is where new plant material is trialed and displayed.  Plant Delights Nursery has introduced a lot of plants to the U.S. market, particularly hostas.  In addition to all the work that goes with a mail order nursery and botanic garden, Tony conducts several educational sessions onsite every year.  He is also a very popular speaker.  We are in for a special treat with a visit to this facility.  Be sure to check out the entertaining and informative website at                            

Over the next couple of Regional Reports look for more information and details regarding this year’s Conference.  I hope you have a great season.