August 2006

In This Issue …


never heard.


Other experienced NC prawn producers report that there is more than enough demand in the marketplace for NC raised prawns, but Joe’s experience with direct marketing, and the fact that this is a new product for the local market, has him concerned.  Even as he is anxious about the outcome of this year’s harvest, he is looking ahead to expanding his operation next year.  It’s still too early to determine the long-term success of the farm-raised prawn industry in the Piedmont, but there is no doubt that if it

does succeed it will be due in large-part to the determine effort of Joe Thompson.


Joe and his wife Geraldine are now taking orders for his upcoming prawn harvest.  Prawns will be packed, whole, on ice with instructions for preparation and freezing.   You can pick your order up at the farm on the day of harvest or at drop-off locations in Carrboro and Durham the day after.  Prawns preordered before September 15th will cost $8.50 per pound live weight.  The price from September 16th until day of harvest will be $10.00 per pound live weight, and after day of harvest the price will be $12.00 per pound live weight.  Preorders require a minimum down payment of 50%.  All payments must be made with a credit or debit card, cash, or money order.   Support Joe in this new venture by calling him or Geraldine at 919/563-3220 to place your order.

Sandy Beal had lived in a half-dozen places before where she had planted fruit trees and just as they were about to mature and bear fruit she would have to move.  This time has turned out differently though.  This time Sandy and her family found a home with an old apple, peach, and pear orchard.  Though it had been neglected for a number of years, Sandy had found what she was looking – a chance to nurture and already mature orchard and coax actual fruit from its trees.  When she arrived, the orchard wasn’t in the best of shape and when the Cooperative Extension Fruit Specialist recommended that she cut all the trees down and start over, she would have nothing to do with the suggestion.  Though, now, after three years, she can see that his suggestion had some merit, her joy in bringing the orchard back to some measure of productivity has been rewarded many times over.


Now Sandy is ready to share some of her bounty with the community.  She will open the small orchard to people who would like to pick their own

apples and pears from now through the end of October.  There are a number of varieties of both apples and pears, but since the previous owners left no records about what those varieties are she can only guess at some.  She does know that she has Gala, Arkansas Black, Comice, and varieties of Asian pears.


The fruit has been minimally sprayed and because of the limited spraying are not the perfect fruit you would find in the grocery store.   Regardless, the apples and pears are as tasty as any you could find anywhere.  Besides buying and eating this fruit as is, there are any number of ideas of food items it could be processed into, including preserves, cider, apple sauce, pies, and cakes.  Those of you interested in how you could use this fruit can visit web sites such as for ideas.


Anyone interested in picking apples and/or pears should call Sandy ahead of time and schedule a time to come out.  Sandy can be reached at 919/563-3643.  If you would like to have some of this fruit and don’t have time to come to the orchard you can talk to Sandy about buying already picked fruit and the quantities you would need to buy to make the picking and delivery worthwhile.


If you are going to the farm, click here for directions.

Parker Farm Vineyards Offers Local Mucscadine Grapes (including Scuppernongs)

A Labor of Love

Former Tobacco Farmer Looks to Net Profits With New Aquaculture Venture

Parker Farm Vineyards Offers Local Mucscadine Grapes (including Scuppernongs)

A Labor of Love

Former Tobacco Farmer Looks to Net Profits With New Aquaculture Venture

Joe Thompson stands in front of his first pond used for prawn production.

consumers attention long enough to explain what they are.


Prawns grow quickly.  Joe’s pond was stocked with juvenile prawns in early June that were about .25 gram in size.  By the end of September the mature prawns will be 8-10 inches in length and weigh about 50 grams.  During the first six weeks after the pond was stocked and while they were still relatively small, Joe was unsure whether his prawns were alive or dead.  Joe, normally a jocular man with a “can do” attitude, admitted he had been worried that all his prawns had died and that he had lost his investment before Mike Frinsko and Dennis DeLong, both NC Cooperative Extension Aquaculture Specialists, showed up with a fine seine net and retrieved a number of the growing prawns.  Now Joe feels much more confident that his operation will produce the kind of results this fall he has been expecting and that the last four years of work will finally begin paying off.


At a recent gathering of other NC prawn producers, Joe was given assurances by one of the more experienced North Carolina producers and Mike Frinsko that they would be on-hand for Joe’s first harvest day to provide assistance and support.  So far, Joe’s production system has run smoothly and he has gained valuable knowledge that will help him in future years.  Now, his attention is turning to marketing his new product of which many people have

The first fruits of four years of labor will be harvested from a pond in northern Orange County in just a few weeks.  Joe Thompson, a former long-time tobacco farmer with hip and other health problems that have limited his ability to do physical work, will soon harvest a crop never before produced in the Piedsmont region of North Carolina.  At the end of September or early October, Joe will be harvesting his first crop of prawns.


Chefs at white-tablecloth restaurants are familiar with this shrimp-like crustacean, but much of the public is not.  Unlike shrimp, prawns can be grown in freshwater ponds.  They “… do not have the iodine content of marine shrimp and are low in fat,” says Patti Coggins, director of the Garrison Sensory Evaluation Laboratory at Mississippi State University.  “Their taste is sweet, comparable to lobster, and has consistently scored high in sensory evaluations,” Coggins continued.  Shrimp, however, are the food to which prawns are most often compared.  Many farmers still refer to prawns as shrimp, at least initially, to avoid confusion and at least get

Text Box: Orange County Master Gardener Volunteers Heritage Apple Tree Sale

Americans love the apple.  We bake it, sauce it, slice it, juice it, but most of all, we like to just bite into it.    Commercially grown apples found in your local grocery store tend to be blemish-free and perfect but often don’t taste as good as they look.
The Orange County Master Gardener Volunteers are happy to announce our Fall Fundraiser Sale of Heritage Apple Trees.   These old southern apple tree varieties were once widely grown on farms in the southern United States and are good producers in our warm, humid climate.  All trees are grafted onto semi-dwarf root stock and are an excellent choice for the home garden.
The sale is currently in progress through October 26th and trees should be ready for pick up at the Cooperative Extension Agency in Hillsborough on November 10th and 11th.   Guides on how to plant and care for your apple trees will be included with each purchase.
For more information and to get your order form, call the Master Gardener Volunteer line at 919-245-2061.  You may also visit the Master Gardener Volunteer booth at the Hillsborough and Carrboro Farmer’s Market. 
Quantities are limited on some varieties so order early for best selection. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow the apples that older generations grew.

This is Clay Parker’s sixth season of growing muscadine grapes.  Although Clay has had some setbacks with this new crop, the experience has been positive for the most part  -- and the future looks to be even brighter.  These native grapes with their rich history are now attracting attention from the nutraceutical industry due to research that indicates they provide significant health benefits.  Interest by this small, but growing industry opens another chapter in the history of muscadine grapes in North Carolina.  In addition to interest by the nutraceutical industry, the development of new uses for and value added

Clay Parker at his muscadine grape vineyard on a recent August day.

products from muscadine grapes is expected to increase demand and provide greater opportunities for Clay and other farmers in North Carolina who are in great need of profitable new agricultural enterprises.


The season for muscadine grapes arrives in late August in North Carolina and runs until the middle of October.  This year’s crop is bountiful, as it usually is, due to the fact that native species are better adapted to climate conditions and more resistant to pests and diseases than non-native species.  Ninety percent of Clay’s crop is under contract to Duplin Wine Cellars, the oldest and largest muscadine wine producer in the country.  The other ten percent is reserved for sale to local markets, roadside stands, and for people who would like to come to the farm and pick their own.   The contract with the winery provides a secure source of income, but the fresh market grapes are more profitable.

It’s impossible to talk about muscadine grapes without some knowledge of their history.  An entry  from the Florentine explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano’s logbook in 1524 as he explored the Cape Fear River Valley for France, says he saw “…many vines growing naturally there..” and that “without doubt they would yield excellent wines.”  Later, colonist in Sir Walter

Raleigh’s colony at Manteo cultivated the first grape vine in the “new world” which today is known as the “mother vine” and is now over 400 years old with a trunk two feet in diameter.  The grapes from this mother vine are bronze in color and are a natural variety of the more common dark colored muscadine fruit.  The bronze muscadines are native only to North Carolina, were widely cultivated and until recently were common to most farmsteads in eastern North Carolina.  Early on the bronze muscadines were referred to as the “white grape” and just a little later obtained the name scuppernongs which is the name they are known by today.

Clay’s vineyards contain about a 50-50 mix of bronze and dark varieties of muscadines.  The fresh market grapes are varieties that produce large fruit, whereas the winery prefers a variety that produces smaller grapes.  The fresh market grapes have an appealing sweet, musky flavor, but are seeded grapes with a thick hull.  Natives who grew up with muscadine grapes were taught to hold the end of the grape that was attached to the stem to their mouth and gently bite that end to break it open and squeeze the opposite end between their thumb and forefinger.  This pushes the pulp and seeds into ones mouth and leaves the hull.  Since the hulls are so thick and their taste doesn’t appeal to most people, they are generally discarded.

Research has found that all parts of the muscadine grape, the pulp, hulls, and seeds contain nutrients that are very beneficial to health.  In fact, the discarded seeds and hulls have higher levels these nutrients than the pulp.  Levels of resveratrol found in muscadine grapes are about forty times higher than they are in the more common vinifera grapes used to make wine and table grapes.  Resveratrol is an anti-cancer agent as well as a possible treatment for many other health problems.

Anyone interested in visiting Parker Farm Vineyards to pick their own muscadine grapes should call Clay ahead of time to make sure someone will be there to help with things such as directing pickers to the varieties that are ripe and how to determine ripeness.  Those interested in buying, but not picking should look for the Parker Farms Vineyard label in local natural and specialty foods markets.  Clay can be reached at 919/451-0320.  Click here for directions to the pick your own vineyard at Parker Farm Vineyards.  Those interested in more information about the history of muscadine grapes and their health benefits should visit the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Association website.

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