About Local Food

Qualla Berry Farm is part of a loose community of growers and marketers throughout western NC who are seeking to provide locally grown food to people who live and visit  the mountains. We are helping to develop ways to keep our rural land in agricultural production. We are listed in the Local Food Guide produced by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. For more about U-Pick farms, tailgate markets, and community supported agriculture growers, see their website: www.buyappalachian.org

News and Blog

Karen and John's Blogs
Posted 6/22/2013 1:18pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Spotted Winged Drosophila

Posted 4/20/2013 4:16am by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Its a busy time in April. Seed starting, transplanting, and soil prepping for season. John is putting solar louvers in hoophouse to help with heat release. Francis told me Cedar Valley farmers mkt is full tilt open in Murphy.

Celebrate Earth day all week and support your local pollinators by creating habitat by planting native trees and shrubs. Donna McAuliffe is donating 10% of BodySense store profits Saturday, April 20th to our Three Sisters Apalavhe Agriculture. We are going to do a special community event showcasing Pollinators,local food,and farms.

The winter food class was a complete success. Grinding and cooking corn for polenta, using local winter squash for soup, roasting rutabagas, stuffing porkl with dried fruit, steaming winter greens...it was a fun morning and delicious lunch shared together. We hope to do offer a class each season but time flies and we'll aee what we organize. 

on our farm we  just finished inoculationg over 300 shiitake logs, now carefully stacked in the shade. Thank you helpers who dropped by to assist...Linda, Tom, Annie Fain, Olivia, Robert, David, Susanna, Julie, and Brenda. We will wait 6-9 months and see what mushrooms appear.  Tulips are gorgeous but were too short stemmed at correct cutting time for good bouquets this year. We cut some tulips for the fun to give the folk school one Saturday for short vases. They are gorgeous to look at and I love their bold color and stately form. I found out tulips are one of the more  challenging cut flowers to grow commercially. Originally they came from Turkey. Like the tulip nd the honeybee, many fruits, flowers, vegetables and grains did not originate here but have been imported and cultivated by humans over centuries. Discernment is important here becausecwe also imported chestnut blight and thevrecent Drosophila suzuki fruit fly in our raspberries.  I have begun to change my view anout insects overall, seeking to creatie healthyhabitat for beetles, native bees, butterflies, and even species of flies and wasps I never knew were helpers. I allow more space for the wild side of life, messy edges, watch our mowing schedule. Joined the Xerces Society and The Pollinator Project. Ongoing study and amazement of web of life...

Join us and inform yourself and get outside with friends and family to catch the waves of spring ephemeral wildflowers. The forest and garden is bursting with roots, shoots, leaves, and flowers. Loveliness exists amidst a world of human sorrow. Celebrate and cultivate the Good in us, in the home of our Earth. I will be teaching a class in gardening with pollinators this week at the Folk School. Hope to see you in fields and forests and on the farm.

Spring Forward.

Posted 2/7/2013 8:45pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Sometimes the answer is No.  No more Qualla Berry farm raspberry u-pick. We are now working on other crops.  We gave our best effort to berries. This past January 2013 we began tearing down raspberry rows to make way for something else. We have surrendered after a long decade of work to create a successful u-pick commercial organic red raspberry farm.  We cannot grow the berries affordably but we did succeed in providing our community with many berries over the years. In 2012 we succeeded in harvesting a fall raspberry crop. I so appreciate every bag of berries in the freezer now. One day last fall I called some friends over and they helped clean the berry rows of fruit before the big November freeze because John and I couldnt keep up.  Cold weather is unfavorable to the fruit flies at the end of season so some nice berries were in the fields among many ruined ones.

We had two picking baskets, one for wormy mushy berries and one for good berries.  It is very laborious to pick all the ruined fruit and to take away and destroy the larvae infected fruit. The Drosophila suzuki fruit fly is apparently here to stay and we trapped thousands of them in vinegar traps, just to prove to ourselves they were in full force. Alternating weekly, the Spinosad and Pyganic were applied at night while John listened to baseball games on the radio. We need a better sprayer to be more effective but spraying did work but we need to make adjustments. In 2013 we will maintain 4 rows meticulously for ourselves to see what happens and will monitor the berries closely. We are like a science experiment in agricultural research and will keep experimenting.

Now we have exchanged our plans for season extension on raspberries in the fall to putting up an Atlas 72 by 30 ft high tunnel next to our berries instead of over our berries.  We planted half of the hoophouse in tulips, half in cover crop.  Flower bulbs...an old love of mine...were on sale at Lowes and we needed a new dream...so Tulips this spring.  

Let the good times roll with flower power to lift our hearts in gladness.  It was comforting to plant 1400 brown papery bulbs late all January. I wonder if we will get any blooms.  Time will tell. Meanwhile, I almost have seed orders ready to send off(yes, late). I am studying my Growing For Market magazines. Plus in a week we are having a Brasstown local winter food cooking class and that is a lift to my spirits.  With friends and happy times in community, we can meet every challenge. Our world needs beauty, healthy food, farmers, forests, clean water, peace, and the experience of belonging together on earth. We begin again.

Posted 10/9/2012 9:03pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Once again this year we are dealing with the same pest which destroyed most of our fall crop last year, the Spotted Wing Drosophila.

The fruit flies have again created a major loss of our raspberry crop and we have been unable to offer U-Pick this fall 2012. We are using apple cider vinegar traps to monitor the level of infestation and we are finding damage in nearly all of the ripe berries. We have used some organic insecticidal sprays with very limited success. We are still trying to learn if there is an effective way to control the fruit flies but so far we have not had much luck.

We wish we had better news to report but unfortunately this is the reality of life in the age of SWD. It is a game changer for all fruit growers.

Thanks to all of you for your support over the years. Our U-Pick started in 2001 and it has been a pleasure to make the acquaintance of so many nice folks who love raspberries as we do. Let's hope for a miracle!

Thanks, John & Karen
Posted 7/23/2012 9:16pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Dear Berry Lovers:

Its hot! Our garden looks great although most of you know, we are having an unusual year here at Qualla Berry Farm. The arrival of Spotted Wing Drosophila in our fall raspberry crop was a game changer for us. Fruit growers in affected areas all over North America are figuring out new strategies.  Since we completely lost our fall crop to the fruit flies in 2011 our commitment has been to learn about these new pests from Japan. (See http://ncsmallfruitsipm.blogspot.com/p/spotted-wing-drosophila.html for a very good set of reference information on Drosophila suzukii put together by Dr Hannah Burrack of NC State). We are grateful for all the researchers and folks willing to share information and will continue to experiment in this new environment.

We decided to follow a strategy being used by other growers and grow out our primocanes this year so they come in during hot weather when the fruit flies are dormant. Over the winter we cut our canes to the ground, which eliminated our usual crop of overwintered floricanes but is producing a strong growth of first year growth which is just starting to bloom here in late July (see photos in the gallery on our website, http://www.quallaberryfarm.com/gallery).

We are in new territory with this plan. We know that our canes are in really good shape, having been thoroughly weeded and mulched this spring, and that the irrigation we installed last year will get the berries through any upcoming dry weather. Rains of the past two weeks greened up everything. We will set vinegar traps to check for the presence of the fruit flies and will closely monitor the ripening berries to see if they have SWD larvae inside.

Hopefully it will stay hot while the raspberries ripen and we can get folks in for some picking while the fruit flies sleep! We remain committed to using organic methods and will not spray with malathion or other hazardous chemicals. Even the organically approved sprays like Pyganic and Spinosad are potentially harmful to bees, as well as expensive, so we are going to try using cultural strategy instead of spraying to outwit the little buggers.

Thanks to all of you who have been checking with us and offering support. We will let you know if and when we'll be open for picking, possibly in late August.  Late spring frost killed our mulberry, sour cherry, and blueberry blooms so its been a lean fruit year thus far. Here's hoping for red raspberries!


John Clarke and Karen Hurtubise

Posted 7/21/2012 8:59pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Raspberry plants are looking strong and the rain has helped everything.  We are back from the Oregon Country Fair where we help run a food booth featuring tempeh burgers, vegan philly cheese and tofricken sandwiches, corn dogs, vegan donuts, coffee, and herb tea.  Its called The Vegan Truckstop has been something we have done since 1987 with our friends.  Our hope is for August raspberries to ripen and outmanuever the Drosophila suzuki fruit fly which does not like the heat.  Unfortunately, our raspberries arent so keen on heat either so this is an experiment.  They are blooming nicely. Thank you to everyone who keeps asking about the berries but we dont have any right now. 

We had zero mulberries, sour cherries, and very few blueberries due to the late frost.

Posted 1/22/2012 1:35pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Wet, grey, warm weather. Today we began cutting the raspberry canes down to promote only one crop in June this year to attempt to outwit the new fruit fly pest that arrived last fall.  Hot weather and wetness is less to their liking from what we have learned from some organic berry growers in Oregon.  We are beginning our research and welcome any experience or information you find on successful strategies to outmanuever the Drosophila suzuki fruit fly in our berrry crops.

Two weeks ago we heard the first woodcock bzzzing then the whirrring whisper of bird wings as the male  does his diving mating dance.  We thought they had disappeared from our farm because we missed hearing them for the first time ever last year.  Miracles...the simple familiar bird sounds returning, yellow winter aconite first blooms low and bright amidst drooping blooms of cream, green, and purple shades of winter hellebore.  Multitudes of green daffoldil blades have popped up 1 to 6 inches tall.  We see the pink purple buds fattening on the plum tree.  Seems early.  More cold to come.

Hope weather is good for the Local Food lunch and learn this upcoming February 4th in Brasstown.

Posted 1/21/2012 3:07pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

You are invited to a “Local Food Lunch and Learn”
Topics include Community Supported Agriculture and Value Added Products

Saturday, Feb 4, 2012 from 10AM to 2 PM
At Brasstown Community Civic Center, 255 Settawig Rd, Brasstown, NC 28902
Workshop features guest speakers from Blue Ridge Food Ventures, Asheville
And a winter menu luncheon featuring locally sourced ingredients
Registration fee of $10.00 includes lunch

For more information contact: Karen Hurtubise, Qualla Berry Farm 828-389-3551,
Frances Juhlin, Candy Mountain Farm 828-494-2083,
or Pattie Reynolds, Firefly Farm and Wine Garden 828-494-5608
Updates and details posted at www.quallaberryfarm.com

Join us in a wonderful community wintertime opportunity to visit, eat some good food, and discuss ways to promote and encourage our local small farms and food producers. Enjoy winter soup, fresh greens salad, freshly made vinaigrettes, homemade bread, and dessert with friends and neighbors and get ideas and information on how to build and support our local food network with community supported agriculture and value added farm products.
Martha Vining, Product Developer, and Chris Reedy, Program Manager, of Blue Ridge Food Ventures from Asheville will be the keynote speakers. Blue Ridge Food Ventures, winner of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Business of the Year Award, is a unique business incubator for area farmers, chefs, artisan food entrepreneurs, caterers, bakers, and natural product manufacturers located in nearby Asheville, NC. To discover more about Blue Ridge Food Ventures, visit their website at:  www.blueridgefoodventures.org.

We welcome small farmers, gardeners, value-added producers, and people who support healthy food, farms, and community. If you have a garden, farm, agricultural or food related business or group, bring a display or literature to share information at one of our tables.

Please pre-register so we can plan for enough food and chairs.

Sponsored by Three Sisters Apalache Agriculture with generous help from the Clay County Small Farm Initiative, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, and community volunteers.

Make checks payable to “TSAA” or Three Sisters Apalache Agriculture,
Mail your payment c/o Frances Juhlin, 135 Candy Mountain Heights, Murphy, NC 28906
Name________________________________________ Phone_________________________

Total Number of Local Food Lunch and Learn tickets:_______ Cost: $10.00 per ticket
Would you like to be notified of future events related to local food and sustainable agriculture in our area? Y___N___

Posted 10/1/2011 8:04pm by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.

Fruit fly fiasco. Our berries have gone to mush as this new fruit fly pest lays eggs like crazy in each berry druplet.  The eggs hatch into tiny maggots which eat the fruit.  It's gross but there you have it.  We caught lots of them in 60 vinegar traps John set out which just shows us how efficient they are at invading our raspberries.  Still shocked.  This will take time to work out a new strategy.  Will keep you posted.


Posted 9/10/2011 8:57am by John Clarke & Karen Hurtubise.
Dear Friends-

Normally at this time of year we would be announcing the beginning of the Fall U-Pick season. However, this year our fall season is in serious jeopardy due to a new pest problem.

We have found the Spotted Wing Drosophila in our raspberries and we are going to have to take some drastic measures to deal with it. This is an Asian fruit fly (Drosophila suzukii) that appeared on the west coast within the last two years and has been spreading through the Carolinas, including a very rapid spread across North Carolina this year. This is the first time we have seen them.

The fruit fly attacks ripening berries and lays eggs inside them, leaving a scar and damaged fruit. It goes after raspberries and blackberries, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries.

We have been searching for information on the internet and have been getting advice from NC Agricultural Extension. They suggest getting rid of the currently ripe fruit and freezing or baking it to kill the larvae. They also suggest very aggressive spraying programs to kill the adults. However, as an organic operation we are not going to use organophosphates like malathion or diazinon and as beekeepers we are reluctant to use organically approved insecticides like spinosad or pyganic which can be harmful to honeybees and native bees. Our current plan is to dispose of the damaged fruit and use traps baited with apple cider vinegar to reduce the numbers of adult fruit flies.

Because of all this we are postpononing our fall U-Pick season until we can get a handle on the fruit flies. It is doubly sad because we had just installed drip irrigation this sumer and the berries are all mulched and weeded and ready. It was looking like a good harvest in spite of the heat and drought. The rain last week was bringing on a flush of ripe berries. We will keep y'all posted and will let you know if we can harvest again later in the fall.

Thanks for your support.  Wish us a miracle!

Karen Hurtubise
John Clarke
Qualla Berry Farm