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!

Organic vittles at the Woodbury Farmers Market

We had no idea our first year’s test patches would produce anything near enough to go to market. Maybe it’s all the rain. Maybe it’s a couple of exciting farm practices working in our favor.

Whatever it is, we’re enjoying meeting our neighbors Saturdays at our local Woodbury Farmers Market just a couple miles from the farm.

We’re one of about seven vendors, and we’re proud to offer our organic produce and small batch craft food products at conventional prices. Some of our seasonal products that will only last as long as the garden puts out are 16 oz. Raw Salsa (our most popular item), 16 oz. Spicy Dill Pickles, 16 oz. Pickled Peperoncinis (my personal favorite!) and 8 oz. Pesto. We also have limited tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, various peppers and basil with sugar baby watermelons and crook-neck summer squash coming soon. The USDA Certified Organic apples and blueberries will start coming in next year. Earlier this Summer, we gave our first harvest of Cascade hops to members of the Middle-State Brew Club and hope to bring more to the market in coming years.

   

If you’re out on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to noon, be sure to stop by the Arts Center of Cannon County (click here for map and driving directions) where the market is located and support local agriculture. You may start seeing construction of a 60 x 100 open-air market pavilion very soon to provide needed space with power and water for local farmers. We’re very excited about the market’s growth and serving our community with quality organic vittles grown and made right here in Woodbury!

Half Hill Farm receives USDA organic certification


Organic cilantro awaits a late planting at Half Hill Farm.

(Woodbury, TN) — Half Hill Farm has become one of Cannon County’s first farms to receive USDA organic certification. Half Hill Farm is a small seven acre farm growing certified organic apples and blueberries with mushroom and hop production starting this year.

Half Hill Farm was created by former Short Mountain Distillery COO Christian Grantham and his partner Vince Oropesa and certified by Quality Certification Services of Florida. Grantham hopes the new venture will provide the community with healthier and sustainable food choices.

“Our community’s nationally recognized taste for good food and drink is just one way Woodbury’s craft heritage continues to shine,” Grantham said. “Dedication to inspected organic farm practices is one way I think local farmers can play an important and responsible role in elevating our Southern food culture.”

Recent changes in state law have inspired a craft brewing renaissance in Tennessee with no local growers of hops, beer’s main bittering and aromatic ingredient. Half Hill Farm is proud to serve the state’s craft brewers as Tennessee’s first organic hops grower.

“As a home brewer, I appreciate what it takes to make a good hand-crafted beer,” Grantham said. “We’re excited to support some of the state’s very best craft brewers with sustainable organic Cascade and Centennial hops.”

Organic farming practices focus on sustainable food production methods that condition and improve the life of our planet’s soil while producing healthier food choices. These practices (cover crops, composting, no-till methods) decrease dependence on harmful inputs and energy use while harnessing the power of nature’s perfect design.

“The idea with organic farming is having high quality foods available for local residents, then the excess can be available for out of town markets,” said Pamela Hoskins, District Conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “I have always thought that Cannon County is the perfect location for organic growers because of the close proximity to urban areas.”

Shiitake and Maitake (Hen of the Woods) mushroom production at the farm starts later this summer with fresh and dried available in the Fall. Half Hill Farm is also growing limited amounts of organic spinach, garlic, onions, tomatoes (Roma, Giant Beef Steak, Lemon Drop, Kellogg’s Breakfast), peppers (Serrano, Jalapeno, Beaver Dam, Sweet Pickle Peppers, Peperoncini, California Wonder, Orange Bell, Anaheim), herbs (cilantro, basil, dill), cucumber, carrots and soy beans (Shirofumi and Agate).

Learn more about Half Hill Farm on FaceBook at http://facebook.com/HalfHillFarmTN.

Certified organic hops taking root in Tennessee

Two things I’m very excited about arrived at the farm this week. First is the endomycorrhizal fungi I’ll tell you more about later. The second are the first of our Cascade and Centennial hop rhizomes! They’ll go in our freshly cut beds as soon as the weather permits.

Half Hill Farm is the only farm in Tennessee providing a local source of USDA certified organic hops (certifying April 2013). The Tennessee Department of Agriculture stopped keeping records of Tennessee’s hop production sometime before Prohibition when machine harvesting began concentrating the nation’s hop production in other states. The USDA could find no records of commercial production in Tennessee.

Half Hill Farm is proud to serve the needs of a growing craft beer culture in Tennessee that celebrates an American craft spirit of community, ingenuity, and sustainability. If you are a local craft brewer and want to visit our farm, get in touch, and grow with us!

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

First organic seed starts for Half Hill Farm

Vince got our very first organic seed starts going in the greenhouse this weekend as the last of the snow melted. This first batch is:

  • Organic tomatoes: Roma, Lemon Drop, Kellogg’s Breakfast, and Giant Beef Steak
  • Organic peppers: Jalapeno, Peperoncini, Orange Bell, California Bell, and Sweet Pickle Peppers

After finding the temporary greenhouse temperature dropping below freezing, we decided to use this germination pad. It will keep the soil between 70-80 F degrees. We ordered a much larger 2ft x 4 ft pad for more starts we’ll plant later this week as well as for re-potted plants.

The soil we’re using consists of an OMRI-listed peat, soil from our orchard field and garden compost. We’re also using Jiffy peat cups for transfers.

200 years of cover croping with clover in Tennessee

A lot of the required organic practices aren’t new ways of doing things at all. Planting clover as a cover crop is a practice that goes back to our state’s founding.

Using a cover crop does a few things in organic farming. It protects soil from erosion, helps build organic matter, mineralizes key elements and catches leeched nutrients needed by subsequent crops, and prevents weeds and pests. It’s the only choice farmers had 200 years ago and wisdom we are abandoning at great cost.

The use of clover as a cover crop in Tennessee impressed at least one observer whose notes in the 1836 edition of the Tennessee Farmer show a fading appreciation for perfected systems of nature.

ON THE CULTURE OF CLOVER:
Few things have contributed to the modern improvement of husbandry, then the introduction of clover, in connexion with the rotation crops. The plant serves to ameliorate and fertilize the soil, and at the same time it affords an abundance of wholesome food for every description of farm stock. Whether cut for winter stores, for soiling in the yard, or fed off by stock but few crops surpass it in the quantity of cattle food which it affords.

Cannon County’s use of clover in particular was cited by Tennessee’s Bureau of Agriculture report of 1874 as the best in the state.

Great attention is paid to the sowing of clover and no farmer deserving the name fails to have a considerable part of his farm given to clover every year. The consequence is there are no abandoned old fields to be seen. Scarcely an acre of land has been turned out. Gullies are scarce though the land is rolling. In no county in the State do the farmers pay more attention to the preservation of the soil.

The two strips pictured here are sewn with certified organic red clover. We’ll follow this with an overwintering of cereal rye then Spring plant our crops. We may try crimson clover next year.

Learn more about the use of red clover as a cover crop in Tennessee from the University of Tennessee Extension Office.