VIDEO: Half Hill Farm with Christian Grantham

Half Hill Farm is a small seven acre USDA certified organic farm in Woodbury, TN. We are dedicated to sustainable farm practices that reflect our deep commitment to being good stewards of our planet and our general well being.

Check out this excellent introduction video by our good friend Rob Cantor interviewing me over Memorial Day weekend. While you are at it, be sure to subscribe to our new YouTube channel for future instructional videos from our farm!

UPDATE: mushroom workshop pavilion progress

Construction started this week on Half Hill Farm’s mushroom workshop pavilion. Made of locally milled oak & cedar, it’s a perfect setting to help foster an important relationship with nature through a hands-on learning experience. We can’t wait to share this beautiful space with you this Fall here in rural Woodbury, TN!

We could not have done this without you! Back in March of last year, several of you helped us raise a portion of the funds we needed to build this shelter. We didn’t meet our goal, but with a little hard work and support we are finally creating a space to share sustainable fungi-culture & our love of the outdoors.

We are also humbled by the love and appreciation for the healing products we create out of personal needs and our deep reverence for the natural world. Our 1:1 Red Reishi mushroom dual extract was first introduced as a gift to donors of this project last year and has since shipped to over 40 states to folks seeking nature’s balanced remedy. There is never a day we are not here quietly listening, learning and creating. Every day you reach out to us and share your story of why and how you found us affirms our commitment to serve.

Spring planting 2015: seeds of change and progress

Spring is about 6 or 7 weeks away. Time to get the popup greenhouses out and get these seeds going!

Progress: Last March, many of you helped us raise funds to open our farm to more mushroom workshops. Although we fell short of our goal, a little hard work made up the difference. Thanks to your help, the workshop pavilion pad is getting poured next week (somewhere in the photo above) along with the entrance to our farm! We’re excited about what this means for accommodating growing interest in our certified organic mushroom production and farm practices.

This year is our official harvest of Tennessee’s first certified organic crop of hops on our farm! Most of this year’s harvest will be dedicated to a new product coming out this Fall with some hops available to local brew clubs. Follow us on Facebook to know when these items will be available.

Change: This year we will not be regular vendors at the Woodbury Farmers’ Market due to demand for our mushroom products. We’re still figuring out what days we’ll be there. This year will be our first official apple and blueberry harvest, and we’re excited to make these available through local restaurants or at our local market.

Seeds: We’re planting a lot of our favorites for salsa making this year from newly purchased certified organic seeds. Like our Shiitake mushrooms, whatever vegetable produce doesn’t turn into Raw Salsa will be available direct to local restaurants.

Turn your storm damaged trees into mushrooms


This lightning struck White Oak became several Shiitake mushroom logs.

It’s always fortunate when the only damage from a storm is to property. Sometimes that includes damage to favorite old trees that in a matter of hours is reduced to firewood.

If you had a White Oak, Red Oak, Hickory or Sweet Gum tree that recently fell victim to storm damage, we can help you cut it up and remove as much as we can safely. We aren’t a professional tree service, but we can work with a tree service of your choice or cut up 4 inch or greater diameter logs they leave for us. In exchange for the logs we take, we will bring you a few of the logs inoculated with edible gourmet Shiitake mushrooms.

The inoculated logs will grow 90% of their dry weight in mushrooms over the next 3-5 years and keep decades of sequestered carbon in their tissue from re-entering the atmosphere as burned fire wood. You basically get some logs removed, create a healthy super food source (like this amazing bowl of soup) for your family and help address climate change. It’s a win-win-win!

If you want to turn your storm damaged tree into mushrooms anywhere within an hour from Woodbury or Murfreesboro, TN, give us a call at 615-469-7778.

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.

The bee sanctuary project at Half Hill Farm

The idea of starting a bee sanctuary at Half Hill Farm is taking on a life of its own.

As we weeded the garden before the rain, I caught this alfalfa leafcutter bee (pictured above) weaving in an out of the tomatoes. This and a couple other solitary bees were pollinating the buds of the Giant Beef Steaks and had taken up residence in the bamboo supports. We’ve seen more solitary bees than honey bees this year.

Hosting solitary bees is an obvious first step to bee keeping. They aren’t social (so no swarm), rarely sting, don’t make honey, and are great pollinators. Due to colony collapse disorder of hives, some experts are suggesting people start hosting solitary bees.

Discover the diversity of native bees:

1. Macropis nuda.
2. Agapostemon texanus.  US sweat bee
3. Peponapis pruinosa. Squash & gourd bees
4. Bombus impatiens. The Impatient Bumble Bee
5. Osmia lignaria.  The Blue Orchard Bee
6.  Hylaeus sp.
7.  Habropoda laboriosa. The Southeastern Blueberry Bee
8. Xylocopa varipuncta. The Valley Carpenter Bee
9. Bombus morrisoni.  Morisson’s bumble bee
10.  Perdita minima.
11. Xylocopa virginica. Eastern Carpenter Bee
12. Bombus vosnessenskii.
13. Bombus affinis.
14. Megachile sp. Leafcutter bees
15. Andrena cornelli. Miner bees
16. Anthophora  centriformis. Digger bees, or anthophorids
17.  Nomada sp. The Wandering Cuckoo Bee
18. Augochorella pomoniella. Sweat bees

The idea of creating a bee sanctuary at the farm was inspired by May Berenbaum, Department Chair of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in this NPR story on bee deaths reaching a crisis point. Her suggestion: “Plant more flowers!”

Judging from the number of bumbling mason bees we have, I’d also suggest building more barns. We have to have about 15 of them turning the barn wood to swiss cheese, but they happen to be our #1 pollinator for our cucumbers. As we continue to plan a small sanctuary for both hives and solitary bees, we’re going to test placing a few of these simple mason bee condos to see if it creates a more hospitable alternative.

If you would like to collaborate on the bee sanctuary project, let us know. In the meantime, check out some of these more elaborate solitary bee temples we hope to graduate to very soon!

Wildbienenhotel 110911_0397ErbersbergerForst_.jpg Insect hotel Wildbienenhaus

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Expanding the barnyard garden

We removed an old barnyard fence that was originally designed to keep livestock out of the garden area. It added another 400 square feet to the garden.

I removed some old cedar posts that were used to keep the soil from washing away and replaced them with another short rock wall. This time we used a hand truck to move very large stones weighing over 100 lbs. each.

Vince went ahead and planted a lot more seeds to account for the extra space. We’ll now have space to start herbs this Spring.

UPDATE 3-12-13: The wall is now complete.

Fire pit reflections on labors of love

We’re supposed to have some awesome weather this weekend here in Middle Tennessee, so I spent some time today building a fire pit where we burned some brush a couple weeks ago.

We’ve got a couple of farm projects this weekend to get us ready for Spring, but sometimes you have to make time to sit and stare at a fire, drink some good beer, and listen to the coyotes howl.

The Winter hours have really kept us busy on the farm. We cleared an acre of fallow pasture, planted apple trees and blueberry bushes, made tons of compost, got seeds ordered and planted, and created garden beds. Thanks to the Rodale Institute and our certifying agent we are now in the inspection phase for USDA Organic Certification.

Our values are our certification at the end of the day, but recognition for going the extra mile doesn’t hurt. Our reward is knowing this labor of love will ensure the food we grow meets the highest quality standards our community deserves.

How to build a firepit using manufactured stone
Here is a very popular tutorial I did for those who do not have access to real stone or want the look of manufactured blocks. Each photo in the series is captioned with instruction. Like us on Facebook to see future projects.

fire pit 1 fire pit 2 fire pit 3 fire pit 4 fire pit 5 fire pit 6 fire pit 7 fire pit 8 fire pit 9 fire pit 10 fire pit 11 fire pit 13 fire pit 14 fire pit 15 fire pit gazebo stereograph

Using stone walls as erosion control

I had no real plans to go all out and build a stone wall on the upper sides of my terraced garden sections, but here I go.

I love old rock walls, but this is one of those projects I get half way into and wonder why I do this to myself. Luckily we have a lot of stone on the property, and it has the same feel as the old rock wall along the East side of the farm.

I only want to give this project a couple days, so I didn’t trench and inset the bottom stones. You can do that and then build straight up the dirt face and cap it with a large flat field stone to lock it into place. If you begin noticing soil building up behind the cap stone over time, you can then add another layer of stone. You can use concrete. I dry stacked these.

This isn’t designed as a retaining wall. This is a low erosion control wall. You will want to use proper anchors and construction design to retain soil or other heavy material.