Half Hill Farm among Tennessee’s first to grow hemp

Industrial hemp grows on Half Hill Farm in Woodbury, TN

(Woodbury, TN) — Half Hill Farm is the first USDA certified organic farm in Tennessee to grow legal hemp. The state legalized hemp last year despite decades of federal prohibition under the Controlled Substance Act. Growing hemp requires a background check and permit from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Half Hill Farm grows several hundred plants in a pilot partnership with a co-op of farms under Tennessee Hemp Farm. Using various farm methods, participating farms hope to learn how much seed and fiber production they can expect from a plant not grown legally in the United States since the 1950s.

“My guess is hemp will grow just fine here in Cannon County,” said Half Hill Farm’s Christian Grantham. “The exciting part for us is what can be done with it.”

While industrial hemp contains little to none of the psychoactive ingredient THC, hemp seeds produce the highest omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids of any grain. Milled seed is an excellent source of oil and plant protein, and hemp is one of the world’s most renewable sources of industrial fiber.

“It won’t be long before you start seeing several Tennessee products made with hemp grown and processed right here,” Grantham said. ”As part of our farm’s mission, we can’t wait to share the health benefits of hemp through value added products.”

In the mid 1800s, Tennessee farms reported growing over 2,200 tons of cannabis using it to make rope and industrial canvas used in boat sails and to bag cotton harvests. According to state records, production fell with competition from other states.

Growing commercial hemp is still illegal under federal law. Permitted farms in Tennessee work closely with state and federal authorities under new farm rules for states that legalize hemp or recreational & medical marijuana.

Under state law, farms growing hemp can sell hemp fiber or viable hemp seed to a manufacturer and value added products direct to consumers. The first hemp crops in Tennessee will harvest in late September.

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Getting the most from your Shiitake mushroom log

Shiitake mushroom logs in the woods at half Hill Farm

Last night looks like the last of forecasted freezing temperatures for early Spring here in Middle Tennessee. If you have one of our Shiitake mushroom logs marked SP15 (Spring 2015) or earlier, now is the time to prep your log for an early Spring flush.

Shocking logs: Get a five gallon bucket and fill it with rain water or water from a nearby creek and then soak your log for 24 hours. Place the log in a wooded area with roughly 80% shade. You can place it under a bush near your house’s North side if you do not have woods. If you have more than one log, use a larger tub like the one pictured above. The water should not be chlorinated tap water and should be very cold. This hard soak and cold temperature followed by the gradual warming of outdoor Spring temps will “shock” the mycelium into “pinning,” the beginning stages of mushrooms.

Pinning: Each pin that forms pushes through the bark as you see pictured above and will develop into the beginnings of a mushroom within 2-3 days followed by a rapidly growing mushroom over a five day period. Depending on the weather throughout Spring, you could experience 2-3 natural cycles of mushrooms with roughly two week resting periods between each flush.

Harvest: Once you start to see the mushrooms unfurl their outer edge (typically tucked under the mushroom cap), it is time to pick mushrooms. At this point, the mushroom is in the early phase of releasing its spore. Simply cut them off at the log, brush off any debris and either eat them fresh, store them in the fridge for up to two weeks, or dry them to use for months to come.

How to purchase: Each Shiitake mushroom log from Half Hill Farm produces up to 90% of the log’s dry weight in mushrooms over a 3-5 year period. You can purchase your own inoculated logs from 15 lbs. one foot logs up to 50+ lbs. four feet logs at our farm here in Woodbury, TN. Just give us a call and let us know you’re coming!

RECIPE: Shiitake mushroom soup


A 5 lbs. mid-Winter harvest of organic Shiitake mushrooms from Half Hill Farm.

Once your Shiitake logs from Half Hill Farm start producing mushrooms, you can dry them, store some in the fridge for a couple weeks, or eat them! That’s exactly what we did using the following recipe and an unexpected January harvest.

There’s a lot you can do with your Shiitake mushrooms and a lot of good stuff it will do for you. One recent study, for example, shows medicinal compounds in Shiitake mushrooms can eradicate HPV, a virus that causes 99% of all cervical cancer, 95% of anal cancer, 60% of oropharyngeal cancer, 65% of vaginal cancer, 50% of vulvar cancer, and 35% of penile cancer. Here’s more research on this and other mushrooms we grow, and here’s our recipe for how to make some Pho-tastic Shiitake mushroom soup.

Shiitake Mushroom Soup

  • 2 cups chopped Shiitake mushrooms
  • cubed tofu
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsps of fresh grated ginger
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • 4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
  • rice noodles (or rice & quinoa)
  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • soy sauce (or Bragg’s) & lemon to flavor

You can use either rice noodles or a little rice and quinoa. Either way, cook these first and set them aside. You won’t need much – about a total of half a cup if using rice/quinoa.

Put a little olive oil in the soup pot you plan to use and cook your cubed tofu. When complete, stir-fry the chopped garlic cloves and ginger with the cooked tofu. This takes a couple minutes. Now add the broth, mushrooms and either noodles or rice/quinoa. Let this simmer for 20 minutes and then add the Napa cabbage and let simmer for five more minutes before serving.

Place a little chopped cilantro and chives in a bowl and fill the bowl with soup. Add a generous squirt of soy sauce or Bragg’s and a squeeze of a couple lemon wedges and enjoy!

How to get more vitamin D from your Shiitake mushroom harvest


Shiitake mushrooms growing on oak logs at Half Hill Farm in Woodbury, TN

If you purchased a Shiitake mushroom log from Half Hill Farm that is tagged “F14,” now is the time to follow your soaking / shocking steps to get your first edible mushrooms within a week.

Once your Shiitake mushroom log starts producing mushrooms, there’s a simple technique that dramatically increases their vitamin D before you either eat them or dehydrate them for long term storage.

Mycologist Paul Stamets details this simple process and science here, but the basic steps are pretty simple:

  1. Remove stems and slice into roughly half inch slices.
  2. Spread slices evenly on drying racks (anything that allows air flow) in the sunshine with the gills facing up for 6 peak hours avoiding early morning dew and evening moisture.
  3. Bring the mushrooms indoors overnight to avoid humidity, then repeat 6 hours of sun exposure the next day to achieve 12 total peak hours of UV exposure.
  4. Finish completely drying your Shiitake mushrooms in a dehydrator, and store them in sealed jars. To enjoy anytime, simply soak them for an hour and follow most any recipe for fresh mushrooms.

According to Stamets, Shiitake mushrooms that are not exposed to sun may have less than 40 IU/100g of vitamin D. With the steps above, you can expect 46,000 IU/100g of vitamin D, D2, D3, and D4!

To achieve healthy serum levels of vitamin D exclusively from your dried Shiitake mushrooms, you will need to eat no more than 10 grams a day which is roughly equivalent to 100 grams of fresh Shiitake (3.6 ounces).

Purchase your own mushroom log: Our one foot Shiitake mushroom logs are available for scheduled pick up on our farm in Woodbury, TN. They are $22 and will produce 15-20 lbs. of mushrooms over a 3-5 year period. Here is how to get yours.

Make your own mushroom log: Schedule your own private 2-3 hour mushroom log workshop for groups of up to four people on our farm, take home the log you make, and start turning your own logs into a sustainable food source. Here’s how to schedule your workshop.

DISCLAIMER: I am a farmer. I am not a doctor. Please consult your physician before using any of our products or advice for health purposes.

Spring planting 2014: farming by the numbers

We spent most of the beautiful weekend (ahead of predicted rains) getting everything planted. Due to the frost two weeks ago, we are about a month behind on everything we had to start over from seed. Of course, the dandelions made it just fine!

Based on having produced a little over 600 lbs. of food last year (our first year), it looks like we may do more than three times that much this year, and that doesn’t include mushrooms, apples and blueberries.

What we planted: (watermelons) Chelsea and Sugar Baby, (peppers) Anaheim, Poblano, Peperoncini, Beaver Dam, Cubanelle, Golden Treasure, (tomatoes) Roma and Lemon Drop, (herbs) Sage, Lavender, Basil, (cucumbers) Zimmerman, Sumter, and some Danver carrots.

Where and how to buy: You can find us this year at our local Saturday farmers market in Woodbury, Tennessee (located at the Arts Center of Cannon County) beginning July 5.

We will also have our 1 foot Shiitake, Reishi and Turkey Tail mushroom logs that should produce 10-15 pounds of mushrooms over 3-5 years. Look for our mushroom extract infused chocolates and other unique seasonal products hand-crafted with love on our farm at the market as well. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see when we’ll be there.

Saving seeds from last year’s crop

Seeds are pretty inexpensive, and you can find just about any variety of anything in the world online. But this year we selected seeds from some of our best organic plants that were left in the garden to fully mature and produce seeds well into Autumn.

I take small brown paper bags, place the seeds in them, label them with the variety and date and allow them to fully dry for a couple weeks. Since warm temps and humidity can ruin your seeds, place them in small airtight jars and then store in a cool place like your fridge.

Fermenting Seed: This year I went a step further with my tomato seeds by fermenting them. This removes the seed’s gel which contains a germination inhibitor and other potential disease. The entire process take about 5 days, but the steps are pretty easy.

 

Take a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of filtered water and place the freshly harvested tomato seeds in the water and sit in a cupboard for 3-5 days. Over time, the seeds will float and then sink. A film or mold will develop over the top and the water will become a little cloudy. It will also smell really bad. This is normal.

Close to the 5th day, or when all the seeds have sunk to the bottom, carefully remove the top film and then add water. What you are wanting to do is stir up the pulp and other sediment to slowly pour off until you can put the seeds in a sieve and rinse. Set them aside on a paper plate (seeds will stick to napkins) to dry. You should have fuzzy seeds ready to plant next year!

Searching for wild ‘Hen of the Woods’ mushrooms in Tennessee

As you enjoy the beautiful colors of Fall this year you may notice several varieties of wild mushrooms growing at the base of some large hardwood trees in Tennessee. One mushroom in particular we need your help finding is called “Hen of the Woods,” or Maitake (Grifola Frondosa).

If you find one of these beautiful native mushrooms, and you live within about 75-100 miles of our organic farm in Woodbury, TN, we’d love to come visit and take tissue samples to replicate in our farm’s mushroom lab.

What to look for: The huge 9 lbs. Maitake pictured here was found on our property October 22, 2012 at the base of a large oak tree. You can find them either at the base of oaks and other hardwoods or running along large surface roots fanning out from the tree. They usually return year after year (learn more).

What we’ll do: we will bring a small lab kit to sample the tissue, replicate the mycelium in a petri dish and then spawn the culture samples into various growth mediums including sawdust and pegs for logs. If you find one, call us at 615-469-7778. We will only positively identify this variety of mushroom in person, but close-up photos emailed to us can help us decide whether to make the trip.

If you are interested in growing your own Shiitake or Maitake mushrooms on logs at home, send us a short message to receive future notifications on scheduled workshops or availability of spawn pegs and inoculated logs from Half Hill Farm.

Read more: Paul Stammets has a nice article that includes excellent research on Maitake mushrooms and its medicinal value, in particular for Type 2 Diabetes. Below is the nutritional value of Maitake mushrooms excerpted from the article.

  • 377 calories per 100 grams dry weight
  • 25 percent protein
  • 3-4 percent fats (1 percent polyunsaturated fat; 2 percent total unsaturated fat; 0.3 percent saturated fat)
  • ≈60 percent carbohydrates (41 percent are complex carbohydrates)
  • ≈28 percent fiber
  • 0 percent cholesterol
  • B vitamins (mg/100 g): niacin (64.8); riboflavin (2.6 mg); and pantheonic acid (4.4 mg)
  • High concentration of potassium: 2,300 mg/100 g (or 2.3 percent of dry mass!)

Organic mushroom production begins at Half Hill Farm

Today is the first day of Fall and the official start of our organic Shiitake and Maitake mushroom production at Half Hill Farm!

This Summer we began working with a couple of local mills to source high quality organic wheat bran and hardwood sawdust for our indoor mushroom grow operation. Maitake jars (Hen of the Woods) and Shiitake blocks start in the Shroomery this weekend. Yesterday, we inoculated about 60 white oak logs we got when Mr. Logan had to take an old tree down after a bad storm.

Everything about growing mushrooms feels right. While producing a food with near magical health benefits, we are also sequestering larger volumes of carbon from felled trees into our soil through compost creating a multi-threaded sustainable loop that increases the health of our soil, our food and ultimately our planet.

Availability: It will take a few weeks before the first mushrooms appear, and you know we’ll post results along the way on Facebook like doting parents.

Our organic mushrooms will be available fresh by the pound to individuals or local restaurants or dry by the ounce online. Starting next year, we’ll host workshops and make fully inoculated logs, blocks and jars for folks wanting to grow their own mushrooms at home.

RECIPE: Garlic Scape Pesto

Around the end of May through mid June, some of our organic Western Rose garlic (and most any hard-neck garlic) send up flowering shoots called scapes. This usually means the bulbs are forming and that harvest is not too far behind.

We cut the scapes off to force the plant to send its energy to the bulb, remove the flowering top and use them much like chives in food. They have an amazing fresh flavor that isn’t as strong as garlic.

Here’s a very simple recipe for garlic scape pesto we enjoyed (pictured above). If local growers have them, they’ll be at your farmer’s market right now. We hope to have more next year.

1/2 cup garlic scapes
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup basil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Toast pine nuts in a skillet. Blend toasted pine nuts with garlic scapes, cheese, basil, and lemon juice in a food processor adding olive oil until smooth. Salt to taste.

Using mycorrhizal fungi in organic farming

One of the most important organic cultural practices I use on the farm is inoculating crops with mycorrhizal fungi. The photo above shows an application on one of 100 organic hop rhizomes we just planted. The symbiotic relationship between this fungus and plant roots is essential for healthy soil and plants. It’s also the secret that all of the current world record pumpkin growers don’t want you to know.

There are a couple types of mycorrhizal fungi. Endomycorrhiza work with certain plants by attaching to the root intracellularly while ectomycorrhiza work extracelluarly. Here is a good resource to find out which mycorrhiza you need for various plants and trees.

How it works: The fungi is naturally occurring in healthy soil all over the world. The largest living organism on the planet is a 2,400 year old 2,200 acre mycelial mat discovered in August 2000 in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. Mycorrhizae are the very life of our planet’s soil creating a network of microbial life that naturally mitigates disease, nutrition and water concerns in the cultivation of crops. Mycorrhizae reduce the use of tilling, irrigation and chemical inputs in aggriculture. It also helps sequester carbon and is a key environmental relationship in our survival on the planet. Many organic farmers who use mycorrhizal fungi never have to water their crops even during drought. You can see several of these side-by-side comparisons pictured here online that illustrate exactly why.

Conventional farming methods using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and tilling are slowly destroying this natural relationship in favor of predictable short-term outcomes from dependence on expensive inputs that often hide destructive and unsustainable results.

Perfect design: Mycorrhizae are basically a mushroom (mycelium) that feeds off the plant’s sugars through its root system. What the fungus does in return for plants is truely amazing: it takes nutrients and water from the soil and feeds the plant by becoming a huge network of extended roots. The fungi is also what breaks down rocks and minerals for plants. It also makes plants more drought resistant as their access to soil moisture is more than ten times that of non-inoculated plants. One application to roots during transplanting or seeding lasts the entire life of the plant, and the results are indisputable.

There is a lot of simple research showing plants do much better using mycorrhizae than using conventional fertilizers. Here is a 6th grader’s science fair project using Fungi Perfecti’s MycoGrow (what we use at Half hill Farm) to show you how simple this is to understand.

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