Employee Spotlight: Trey Poole!

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Q. What is your hometown?

A. Wendell, NC

 

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A. A retiree.

 

Q. When you’re not working here, what are you doing?

A. Playing with my dog or doing things for my fiancee.

 

Q. You get one superpower: what is it?

A. Flying. Actually, don’t do flying. Well, I guess you can’t really say that “flame on” is a superpower, so just say flying.

 

Q. What was the last thing you read?

A. Probably “The Politics of Injustice.” I had to read it for a class.

 

Q. If you could do or be anything in the world, what it would be?

A. If I could do anything, it would be go to space.

 

Q. What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without?

A. Beer. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t drink beer.

Employee Spotlight: Kether Smith!

Kether Smith

Kether Smith

For the first installment of our Employee Spotlight, we focused on owner Kether Smith. Kether took a few minutes from greeting u-pickers and wrangling her two sons to answer a few questions for us.

 

Q. What is your hometown?

A. Chapel Hill, NC.

 

Q. If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A. Vimala’s dosas.

 

Q. When you’re not working here, what are you doing?

A. Being mom!

 

Q. What’s your favorite part about working at Cedar Grove Blueberry Farm?

A. Seeing the joy that the farm brings to other people.

 

Q. One quote that you think best sums up who you are and what you’re all about:

A. I’ll give you the one that was under my high school yearbook photo: “If there is no happy ending, make one out of cookie dough.”

Why Organic?

by Emily Scholle

 

When I signed on to work at an organic blueberry farm over the summer, I (and everyone else I knew) had idyllic images in mind of what that would look like: pleasant days in the sun harvesting/eating blueberries, my fingertips stained a pretty shade of purple-blue, befriending all the woodland creatures…

 

Good luck avoiding the poison ivy with those bare feet.

Good luck avoiding the poison ivy with those bare feet.

 

While this may be more along the lines of what I’ll be doing in a few weeks when the berries collectively ripen, I had no idea how much sweat and hard work actually goes into organic farming practices. Now that my body has started to acclimate to the process, it seems fitting to revisit the notion of why we are doing what we do at Cedar Grove Blueberry Farm. (The academic paper-writing grad student in me is going to get fact-y here for a second, so bear with me).

 

There has long been a debate over whether organic (grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals) is really better for you than conventional (using synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides) when it comes to buying your produce. As a broke college student, I was especially skeptical for years: “You want me to pay more money for less food? Madness! Ain’t nobody got time for that!” What I have found in my own experience is that organic produce tastes better than its conventional equivalents, and research actually shows that it’s better for you.

 

I’ll try to spare y’all the boring details since, as Leslie Knope says, “All I have on my side is facts and science, and people hate facts and science.” But check this out: the USDA did a study a few years back on whether there was any difference between conventional and organic blueberries, and here is what they found:

 

Organic blueberries contain more fructose and glucose than conventionally grown berries, which makes them sweeter. They also have about 50% more antioxidant capability, which means that they better protect the cells in your body from being damaged.

 

There’s that buzzword again, “antioxidants.” Who cares? Well, I do. Especially as I get older. And here’s why:

 

The body is full of free radicals (an atom that can damage cells, proteins, and DNA by altering their chemical structure) and antioxidants (a substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals) already, living in a symbiotic balance of good and evil. The free radicals are Lex Luthor, the antioxidants of course being Superman (or Clark Kent if you prefer a man in glasses, which I do). The two fight each other, with antioxidants generally winning out and keeping things in harmony. Free radicals outside the body, however, are kryptonite.

Must... resist... free... radicals...

Must… resist… free… radicals…

 

When we get exposed to external free radicals like toxins, pollutants, and pretty much anything we encounter living in a civilization, they get the upper hand and that’s when bad things start to happen: we get sick easier. Our skin ages faster. Our eye health can deteriorate quicker, memory isn’t as fast. This is where we need to supplement our diets with antioxidants, like the Justice League coming to help Superman in his times of weakness.

We don't think so, free radicals...

We don’t think so, free radicals…

 

Blueberries especially have a high level of antioxidants in them, and as you can see from the USDA study, the organic ones have an even higher level. So exactly how different is the process of growing something conventionally versus organic? Ends up, it’s a lot of hard work to ensure that your berries are the best they can be.

 

At Cedar Grove Blueberry Farm, each blueberry bush goes through a rigorous process to make it ready for you, the U-pickers! Kether, Lyndon, John Paul, Trey, Rachel, Jake, and myself are working hard every day to keep this process in motion, an arduous marathon of manual labor since we are growing the berries free of any chemical helpers. So what exactly does this process entail?

 

Were we growing the berries conventionally, we would rely on pesticides/insecticides, weed killers, and other harmful chemicals to do the job for us. Since we are committed to organic practices, however, our process goes a little something like this:

 

1. Each blueberry bush is pruned up top to allow for nice open rows for y’all to walk down and collect your berries.

 

2. We define the base of each blueberry bush, which means cutting down other plants (Virginia creeper, wily maple trees, honeysuckle) that want to join the party and soak up all that sun!

 

Jake takes a breather from battling vines.

Jake takes a breather from battling vines.

3. All the felled branches and cuttings are hauled away to keep those rows clear.

 

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4. Weeds are gotten rid of either through pulling them out by hand or chopping them down with our designated bush hog.

 

5. Mulch is transported in smaller loads from the mountain out front to the bushes, tucked around each plant to create a nice path and keep those tricky weeds and plants from coming back!

 

Rachel is probably thinking what the rest of us were thinking: "we're supposed to move that where??"

Rachel is probably thinking what the rest of us were thinking: “we’re supposed to move that where??”

 

6. Our progress is documented continuously to keep you, our wonderful audience, updated.

 

John Paul, our resident professional photographer.

As the temperatures climb higher and the days grow longer, it is even more imperative to remind ourselves and others why we do what we do. When we are knee-deep in cut branches, chopping through impassable walls of briars and thorns, moving huge mounds of mulch, it is worth it to see how the bushes breathe easier when the vines are cut out, how every morning there are more ripe berries than when we left the day before. We work hard so that you can spend the day picking blueberries here with your families, and creating the kind of memories with your loved ones that owners Lyndon and Kether have of picking blueberries as children with their grandparents.

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Photo Credits: John Paul Henry

 

Visit Emily Scholle’s personal blog here

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

8oz butter
10 oz sugar
.25 oz salt
6 oz egg
15 oz All Purpose flour
5 oz cake flour
1 oz baking powder
15 oz milk
8 oz blueberry (fresh or frozen)
1 lemon, zested

Cream butter, sugar and salt with the paddle attachment in a stand mixer. Add eggs and beat until fluffy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
Add dry ingredients alternating with the milk, mixing a little after each addition.
Fold in blueberries and lemon zest.

Scoop batter into lined muffin pans, or a sprayed silicone muffin pan.

Bake at 350. Turn pan after 10 minutes, bake a total of 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Yield- enough for the whole family to enjoy and more to freeze or share
(aka, a lot but I’m not sure how much)

Blueberries in Vanilla Sauce

16 oz half and half
4 oz sugar (2oz+2oz)
5 oz egg yolk
1/2 vanilla bean pod, scrape out the seeds
Or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine 1/2 & 1/2 with 2 oz sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve sugar.
In a bowl whisk egg yolks with remaining 2 oz sugar.
Temper the yolks by adding 1/3 of the hot milk to the yolks while whisking constantly.
Add the tempered yolks to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula until nappe (it’s thick enough that you can run your finger through the sauce on the back of the spoon and it leaves a line)
Strain through a mesh strainer into a container sitting in ice water. Allow to cool.