On the weekend of November 22nd to November 24th, the NC Chapter of Alpha Zeta took their annual trip the Western part of the state for Mountain Weekend! Here, the Brotherhood learned about WNC agriculture were able to see a various set farm tours.
The first tour was on Friday, November 22nd at Bryant Brothers Hog Farm where our very own Brother White’s father worked! This was in Yadkinville out in Caldwell County, NC. This farm 8,640 hogs at a time. The Hogs come from a sow farm, where they stay until the reach 60 lbs where they are then moved to this location until they 300 lbs, or market weight. These hogs then go to Smithfield’s. All houses of hogs are two weeks apart in ages. When they are ready to be sent off, they eat twice as much as they did when they first arrived. All the manure they produce will go under the hog houses instead of directly into a lagoon so the manure can be used as fertilizer. When the houses are drained, it goes into a large in ground contained where the gas is trapped, and then filters into a lagoon to be fertilizer on the field. The gas is then used to repower the houses. Almost all of the hog waste is recycled. This was the first of its kind in NC. Some of the electricity provided, after being used for the five hog houses supply, goes back into the grid through a contract with Duke Energy.
Our next farm tour was the same day and we went to Stony Point Nursery & Farms. Here we met JD Sink who was the 1990-91 Censor for our NC Chapter of Alpha Zeta! He told us that after college he became an Ag teacher at East Ashe County High School. He then developed his nursery in 1999 and built up from there. In 2008, Sunny Purdue farms first contacted him to contract blackberries on his land but he originally said no. In 2012, they asked him again and he put in 10 acres of blackberries that did tremendously. In 2013, he added another 10 acres. While they add a lot of economic output, they are highly labor intensive. He now marketing his yield through Dole. They also sell 30 types of trees in their nursery which range from Hollys, to Dogwoods, to Frazier Firs. They dig their own trees generally in August and September. He also has angus beef and angus/Seminole mix cattle. In total there is 225 acres in the nursery, 20 are blackberries, and 200 in wheat, beans, corn, trees, and 5 for 70 cattle herd. 20% of the business is out of the state while almost 80% is just in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area. 30 acres of the land have been passed down for the past 4 generations since the 1800s. There are 24 H2A farm workers that 100% of the powering labor force. Sink says that they are still expanding the nursery.
The next morning, we had an early start at May’ Meats butchery. We learned the entire process starting with how when each cow comes in it will get its own tag which remain on for identification. It first comes through the hydraulic kiln and then is shot with a rod in order to kill it. This isn’t done with pigs and chickens. The cows are then hung and bled out and will then begin the skinning process at one part of the process and then break the bones and split them to was at the washing station from top to bottom. There is an inspector must be here from start to finish on killing day. Even after washing is done, a bacteria lactic acid is put on them to anything else off. Then are then weighed and then they stay hanging to be aired before going into the cooler. There are three coolers which are separated by time and da. It takes and hour from start to finish on one beef. Almost all the beef produced here is sent back to the local farmer. They use a farmers ct sheet in order to be cut precisely and then seal the cure and send them back to the farmers. Farmers can only get the sealing certification for hormone free by sending in all the paper work. The difference between grain fed and grass fed beef is the color difference of their fat. Grass fed will be more yellow fat. Anything not used for specific cuts is turned into hamburgers. Generally, their 4 employed butchers will get through 10-15 cows per killing day. There is a company that comes to pick up excess parts such as bones but it is possible for the farmer to get those back if they choose to do so.
The next farm we went to was Deal Apple Orchards in Taylorsville, NC. Here, Mr. Deal himself talked to us about his processing facility and gave us a tour. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rain, we were unable to go out and see the actual orchards. They grow 110 acres of fruits that range from peaches, pears and apples with apples being the most produced. His father started with his first orchard in 1939 and they have expanded from 12 acres of apples since then. They started on an orchard on the side of a nearby mountain, back when they didn’t clear cut or bulldoze the trees down. His father bought a case of dynamite in order to get rid of non-apple trees, and he’d blow the stump out of the ground with it. They began with a bushel apple box and now use large bins. The bins then go through a water emergence to have the apples float out and then they go through the washer and brushes so they can clean them on all sides of the fruit. The apple then go down a conveyer belt. The apples are then rated on a scale of 1-3, with 1 being the biggest. #3 apples will go to deer hunters, and #2 and #1 will go on sale. #2 go in red ink. #1 goes in green ink. The machine will weigh every apple and then the big apples will fall out of the belt first. The orchard is GAP certified, and work with farm to school with both their production of apples and peaches. They are only 1/3 farms in the region that do that. They have a cold storage of 9,000 bushels and another one further away from the main site that holds 20,000 bushels. Then have learned that now that families are smaller, it’s harder to sell bushels but if you put them in tote bags, it’s easier to sell to the market. Harvest season for peaches begins in June, and they harvest until mid or end of November. Mr. Deal also told us that if you have an apple and take the seeds out of the apple and plant it in the ground you will not get the apple you are eating. You will get an apple seedling and it could be any apple. There are hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of varieties. This is because of rapid mutation apple seeds. Overall we learned a lot about apples and the importance of proper agriculture techniques such as grafting and pesticide application.
After this, we went to Call Family Distillery and learned their history. Reverend Dan Call made whisky in Lynchburg, Tennessee. They had a son name Jack and the reverend taught Jack how to make whisky and then they made a distillery. It’s been open since 1875 and then Dan gave Jack all of the shares. Jack later became the Jack Daniels. They since have been making liquor for 7 generations. They had 22 moonshine cars to transport the liquor. NASCAR started because policeman would chase moonshiners. They have multiple types of liquors from moonshine to brandy to whiskey and sometimes bourbon. They are aging some of the whiskey and will try for about 5 years. Next projects include a barrel house to add onto their distillery. They use limber twig apples that are used for apple pies and are said to make the best cider and for the Calls, they use it to make brandy. They leave the skin on and then put the pulp in the still and then heat it up with direct steam injection and don’t go over 200 degrees. They distill off 1000 gallons at a time. They make it with barley malt and wheat. In 3 hours they can make about 200 gallons of moonshine. In two hours, they can take a 12% alcohol content and turn it into 150 proof once it finishes processing.
The next place we went was Ashe County Cheese & Diary. Ashe County Cheese was started in 1930 by the Kraft Corporation. Kraft helped consolidate several small community cheese plants in the area and provided the means and expertise to produce cheddar daisy wheels for distribution nationwide. They operated the plant until 1975 when they sold it to then manager, Chesley Hazlewood. Mr. Hazlewood operated the business until his death in 1980. In 1981, Mrs. Hazlewood sold Ashe County Cheese to Jerry Glick and Doug Rudersdorf, two cheese men from Wisconsin. Glick and Rudersdorf remodeled and upgraded both the cheese plant and the cheese store, located across the street. They also added a viewing room to the plant. It was at this point that Ashe County Cheese became one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Carolina. Ashe County Cheese Store has remodeled and expanded several times through the years, with the most recent remodel and addition being completed in the spring of 2007. The store now offers not only all the products made here, but also a wide variety of other food and gift items. The plant has also undergone several upgrades since 1994, and though it still makes old style cheddar daisy wheels, it now produces a wide variety of cheeses and butter. It has developed a strong following for its original Sienna cheese, its many flavored cheeses, and its newest variety Juusto cheese (a mild Scandinavian cheese).
We ended the weekend of farm tours with a trip to Grandfather Winery in Boone, NC. Here, 129,000 lbs of grapes have been harvested this year. We learned that for the fermentation of red wine you keep all parts of the grape on the fruit except for the stems. All the flavor for red wine is found in the skins. For the white you ferment only the juice of the fruit which is why it is so sweet. They use 15-30 different types of grapes. If not from their own vineyards, they get the grapes from California, Oregon or the Yadkin Valley. They also have secondary fermentation after yeast fermentation with bacteria so that the wine is no longer intense in terms of flavor.
Mountain weekend is always a great time or fellowship and education in Agriculture. We were able to make this trip possible by the efforts of Brother Makayla White, Brother Cari Mitchell, and Brother Kristina Phelps! Can’t wait for Mountain Weekend 2020!