Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2014 Agripreneur Series to Begin January 16, 2014

Boone, North Carolina – Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture announces the 2014 Agripreneur (Agriculture Entrepreneurship) series beginning Thursdays in January 2014 from 6 to 8 pm. Attendees will receive business and marketing instruction specific to farm operations in this 4-part series. There is no cost to attend.

The Agriculture-Entrepreneurship Series provides education to entrepreneurs who want to begin a farming business and to farmers wanting to transform their farm into a thriving business.  The 4-part series includes real-world scenarios and hands-on activities. Each session features an education session, facilitated by Arlene Childers, Certified NC REAL trainer along with an agriculture expert guest speaker from the local farming community.  Registering for all four workshops is highly recommended.

Topics and guest speakers for the series are:
·         January 16 – Agriculture Entrepreneurship & Business Planning,
Guest speaker: Carol Coulter, Heritage Homestead
·         January 23 – Market Research and the Marketing Plan
Guest speaker: Hollis Wild, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
·         January 30 – Business Operations,
Guest speaker: Holly Whitesides, Against the Grain Farm
·         February 6 – Business Financials,
Guest speaker: Barbara Smith, Farm Service Agency, Loan Officer

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute Small Business Center, Watauga County Cooperative Extension, the High Country Workforce Development Board, and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture co-sponsor the series. Seating is limited, only two registrations per family. Register for workshops individually at Descriptions and speaker bios can be found at For more information contact Evelyn Asher at or 828-297-8121.

Holiday Food Safety Do's and Don'ts

Holiday food safety: don’t wear the turkey on your head and other tips

NOVEMBER 15, 2012
After a 2011 trip filled with turkey and Black Friday shopping, my parents are coming to visit Raleigh next week for their annual U.S. Thanksgiving vacation. Sure, Canada has its own festivities in October but there’s something different about the American celebration. A Thursday event, followed with three days of recovery and constant football has vaulted Thanksgiving to the top of my holiday list. Hopefully the food, sports and chasing around two little kids doesn’t kill my mom and dad; it might be too much excitement for them to handle.
A colleague and I came up with our top-5 tips for holiday food safety last year. To supplement the list we have updated the holiday food safety infosheets for 2012 and added a set of videos on thawing, turkey preparation, thermometer use and leftovers. These were recorded with  fantastic cooking show host, and a not-too-shabby chef, NC State’s news services Matt Shipman. Check out the sheets and the video below.

Making your Thanksgiving more Energy Efficient

Thanksgiving is one of America’s most favorite holidays! Nothing beats a good Thanksgiving: tons of roast turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, not to mention having all the family together around the table. In today’s hectic world, that doesn’t happen very often, does it? But how many of us have actually considered the cost of the traditional Thanksgiving feast in terms of energy efficiency? It only hits later, after the turkey’s gone and everyone’s back home. That’s when you wonder, how on earth did my energy costs get so high? Fortunately there some steps you can take to make your Thanksgiving energy efficient this year and keep those energy costs under control.

Family sitting at a table eating turkey
1. Don’t Keep Opening the Oven Door to Check on the Turkey!
It’s tempting to do, but opening that oven even a crack to check the turkey costs you more money than it’s worth! Because each time you do, the temperature in the oven drops, forcing it to use more energy to maintain a constant temperature. So, instead of opening the oven door, use the light instead and monitor your bird through the window.

2. Maximize Your Oven Usage
Cut down on the amount of time the oven is in use by putting several dishes in at once. Pies, potatoes, vegetables, and the turkey, of course, all need to be roasted or baked. Try and combine as many as possible!

3. Use Your Microwave
Use your microwave to cook side dishes instead of the oven. Microwaves not only cook faster but also use just a fraction of the electricity that ovens do. Also consider using a slow cooker for some items to cut down on oven usage.

4. Use the Proper Burner
One of the biggest ways to lose energy is by putting a small pot on a large burner! Be sure to match pots and pans with the same size burners (or as close as possible). To increase stove energy efficiency even more, make sure you keep your burners clean and use heat reflectors.
5. Load Up the Dishwasher!
Before you start the dishwasher, make sure it’s at maximum capacity! The more dishes you wash at one time means using your dishwasher less. Also use the low-heat and energy-saver options. Result: less energy used, therefore more money saved! Also, scrape plates clean instead of rinsing before putting them into the dishwasher to save water.
These few tips can you help make your Thanksgiving more energy efficient, which is good for your bank account and good for the environment! Happy Thanksgiving!

Laura Langham
E-Conservation - Energy Conservation Program Manager
North Carolina Cooperative Extension

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Well Water 101

Great information for private well owners with many FAQ's. Find out when to test your water, what to test for and much, much more.  There will also be some free online lessons beginning in December.  For more information, visit the link  - WELLOWNER.ORG

Sweet Stuff

Dip into the world of sweeteners

Whether crystals, powders, liquids or syrups, there are plenty of options to enjoy a sweet taste in today’s marketplace. While high amounts of added sugar are associated with a greater risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, a little sweetener used judiciously can enhance sweet and savory dishes alike. Some sweeteners add more than just taste to foods. Sugar, for example, lends tenderness and a golden brown color to breads and stability to mixtures like beaten egg whites.
Sweeteners can be divided into two groups. Nutritive sweeteners contain calories, while nonnutritive sweeteners are either extremely low in calories or contain no calories at all.
Although they may differ in form, most nutritive sweeteners — honey, sugar or maple syrup — are similar in terms of calories and carbohydrates as well as their lack of nutrients. These types of sweeteners are often referred to as added sugars. While the body metabolizes added sugars and the natural sugars found in foods like fruit and milk the same way, foods containing added sugars are often higher in calories and lower in nutrients.
Nonnutritive sweeteners — sometimes called high-intensity sweeteners — sweeten foods with minimal or no carbohydrate and calories and can be a boon for those with diabetes or anyone looking to cut back on calories. However, nonnutritive sweeteners can’t always be used interchangeably with nutritive sweeteners in recipes, as their taste and cooking qualities may differ. Check packages and websites for sugar equivalent amounts when substituting in recipes and for preparation tips.

Types of Sweeteners

Monk Fruit: Native to Asia, monk fruit contains a supersweet compound called mogroside. It’s 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, but has no calories. You’ll find it popping up in a number of sweet foods and beverages, and as a standalone sweetener.
Agave Nectar: The juice from the agave plant is processed to make agave nectar, a thick syrup ranging from light to dark amber in color that’s about one-and-a-half times sweeter than sugar. Although often promoted as a healthier sweetener, agave should still be used sparingly.
Stevia: Offering calorie-free sweetness that’s 250 times sweeter than sugar, compounds extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant are highly purified and sold as sweeteners under various brand names. Whole stevia leaves must be sold as dietary supplements.
Brown Sugar: A combination of table sugar and molasses, brown sugar comes in light or dark varieties. Keep it moist by storing in a sealed plastic bag. To soften hardened brown sugar, heat in the microwave for 30 seconds or add an apple wedge to a tightly sealed bag for a day or two. Firmly pack brown sugar into cup or spoon when measuring.
Table (White) Sugar: Sugar cane and sugar beet are the main sources of this highly refined pantry staple, also known as granulated sugar. A teaspoon measures up at 16 calories, while a small sugar cube delivers similar sweetness for 9 calories.
Turbinado (Raw Sugar): Its light brown, coarse crystals have a slight molasses flavor. Raw sugar is made from the juice that remains after the sugar cane has been processed to remove the sugar crystals and molasses. Although its color and name suggest it may be a healthier alternative to table sugar, it’s not.
Pure Crystalline Fructose: This form of fructose derived from corn is found in some calorie-reduced foods and beverages. Since it’s 20 percent sweeter than sugar, you can use less. You’ll find it in some enhanced and flavored waters, energy drinks, yogurt, nutrition bars, powdered beverage mixes and baked goods.
Molasses: The liquid remaining after refining sugar cane or beets becomes molasses. Light molasses results from the first boiling; it’s lightest in flavor and color. Dark molasses, thicker and less sweet, comes from the second boiling. The third boiling produces blackstrap molasses, a very dark, thick and slightly bitter variety that's an excellent source of calcium and magnesium.
Corn Syrup: Not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup is a concentrated solution of dextrose and other sugars made from the starch of corn. Check package labels to be sure you’re getting the real thing. Famous as a key ingredient in pecan pie, corn syrup keeps crystals from forming, so it’s ideal for candies, jams and frostings too.
Superfine Sugar: As its name implies, superfine sugar is more finely granulated table sugar. It dissolves almost instantly, making it ideal for whipping into meringues and stirring into cold liquids. Keep a box on hand or make your own. Just whirl table sugar in the food processor until fine.
Maple Syrup: Although often imitated, pure maple syrup is made by boiling down sap tapped from maple trees. The amount of sap needed to yield 1 gallon of syrup depends on the sap’s sugar content, but it can be upward of 50 gallons. A quarter-cup serving of maple syrup packs 216 calories — not including pancakes.
Powdered (Confectioner’s) Sugar: Made from granulated sugar crushed to a fine powder with a smidgen of cornstarch added to help prevent clumping, powdered sugar is sometimes used to decorate baked goods. Easily dissolved, powdered sugar is preferred for candy and icing.
Honey: With more than 300 varieties, honey’s flavor, color and aroma differ depending on the nectar of the flowers visited by the bee. Generally, the lighter the honey’s color, the milder the flavor. Honey may harbor botulism spores, so avoid feeding it to infants less than 1 year old.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Whole Chicken Cooking Tips

We have had several questions about how to cook a whole chicken.  We now have an information sheet to answer a few frequently asked questions.  There is an English version and a Spanish version available.

For more information contact us at 336-372-5597.

Friday, November 15, 2013

2nd Annual 4-H Holiday Plant Sale

It's time for the 2nd Annual 4-H Holiday Plant Sale!  There will be 3 different sizes of poinsettia plants offered again this year.  If you are interested in helping Alleghany 4-H raise funds for their summer programs, order your holiday plants today!  Click here for an order form.

The deadline for orders with payment is Monday, December 2, 2013 and the pick-up date will be Friday, December 6, 2013.

For more information, call 336-372-5597.