Wednesday, October 25, 2017


This vegetable looks strange. It presents itself to the world like a globe as it grows above the ground on a sturdy root. They almost look like alien ships surveying the ground they sprout from. But believe it or not they are of German origin and not Asian. Here are some facts about this interesting and tasty plant.

1. It's in season in fall and winter.
2. When raw, it tastes like a slightly spicier version of turnip, it's reminiscent of turnip and a parsnip.
When cooked, it is a bit sweeter, especially if caramelized. You can cut it into cubes or wedges and roast it, or slice or cut into matchsticks and stir-fry.
3. You will see white, pale green, and purple bulbs. At The Farm Stand we have the pale green ones. They all have a creamy white interior.
4. The leaves are edible (and loaded with iron); add them to a salad or sauteed with garlic as you would mustard or beet greens.
5. Kohlrabi is a good source of fiber, vitamins C and B6, and potassium.
6. A cup (raw) has just 36 calories.

Some easy ways to enjoy them is to peel the outside skin off, chop into bite size chunks, and toss in a salad.
Make them into fritters for the entire family! This is a great way to get kids to eat their kohlrabi!
Shred it and mix with an egg and a few tablespoons of flour or breadcrumbs. Heat oil or butter in a flat skillet, drop on small mounds, and flatten slightly with the back of your spatula. Turn after a few minutes, and serve when both sides are crispy.
Serve with dipping sauce or by themselves. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How to cook these

What does a person do with dry peas?
Dried peas must be soaked before they are ready to be made into an amazing dish. When I say peas my brain automatically goes to English Peas which these are not at all like. So, I've been thinking about them like dried beans. Dried beans need soaking and so do these.

First Step
Rinse the peas(Or Beans) several times and discard any “floaters.” Then, in a large pot, cover them with 4 cups of water for each cup of peas. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and keep at a low simmer for 2 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for an hour. The peas will soak up the water and become moist again and reduce cracking or bursting while cooking later. If you are not going to cook them till later you can soak them in water overnight as well at room temp. 

Second Step
Recipe for How to Cook These Peas: The Southern way
  • After they are done soaking, drain the water. 
  • You can use either cured pork side meat or bacon along with salt, pepper, onion ( yellow or spring variety) and dried herbs. Dice Onion and set aside.
  • Cut bacon or cured pork side meat into 1.5 inch slices.  
  • Place in a skillet and gently brown. Don't throw away all the grease. If it weirds you out you can put 2 tablespoons of fat into peas and discard the rest or if you don't mind all the fat then use it all. It adds flavor. 
  • Rinse the peas and put them into a pot with either just plain cold water or a mixture of water and stock, enough to cover the peas by about an inch.
  • After bacon is rendered down to golden brown put it and its juices in with the peas and liquids.
  • Add diced onion at this point as well
  • Add salt (taste it first to see if salt content is good with just the drippings in it or if it needs more). I don't want you to blow out your taste buds on salt, add pepper (coarser ground is better for flavor) and dried herbs. I like to use thyme, or basil, or powdered onion if you don't have the fresh stuff. 
  • Cook on med. or a gentle boil for 25-35 mins. Foam might form on the top, so just scoop it off. It's part of cooking peas. 
  • Peas need to be cooked but not mushy.
  • Taste for seasoning adjustments.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Party it up!

We are having a party!!

Harvest Celebration
Dover Vineyards
The Grapes are in, the vegetables are planted. It's time to celebrate as we being to relax after a trying, rainy, wet, 2017 Season. Come join us for a bonfire, dinner from the Cookin Coop Food Truck and Live Music from Dave and Court. Drinks for sale by the flight, glass, or bottle.
Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017
3600 Concord Pkwy S.
Concord, NC 28027
Bring the kids and the friends
See ya'll there! 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Feel the Chill

Good day everyone. Good chilly mornings and cooler evenings. Here at The Farm at Dover Vineyards we are looking forward to our Harvest Celebration on Oct. 14, 2017 5-9pm! It has been a tough season but we are thankful for all we have and will celebrate no matter what! Please join us for this celebration.
 There will be a bonfire, dinner from the Cookin Coop Food Truck and Live Music from Dave and Court Drinks for sale by the flight, glass, or bottle. It will also be kid friendly, there will be Wine tastings and Wine for purchase.
Lock this address into your GPS: 3600 Concord Pkwy S. Concord, NC 28027
Also I wanted to share with you some ideas for these gorgeous pumpkins we have. I know that a lot of people will carve these pumpkins for the Halloween celebrations and the ringing in of Fall. Be what other sorts of things can be done?
 A good way to start with a pumpkin is roasting it. It is daunting to look at the round, mostly hollow item you just bought and think, "What do I do with it now?" You can roast it for a recipe with instruction below. 
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Using a spoon, remove the pulp and seeds from the pumpkin. Discard the pulp and reserve the seeds for roasting, if desired. Using a sharp knife, remove the skin from the pumpkin and cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes (you will have about 6 cups if not more depending on the size of the pumpkin). Toss the cubes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
3. Spread the pumpkin on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until golden and tender-firm. It should be a little charred but not too tender, about 25-30 minutes. (Stir the pumpkin once after the first 20 minutes.) Remove from the oven to cool, and reduce the oven’s temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can then add the pieces to stew or soup or you can eat as is as a side dish.
In other exciting news!
We are going to be on Flavor, NC!! so excited. Thanks for visiting with us, Lisa Prince! It was a great visit, despite my car breaking down and stepping in tons of ant hills.
Hope we see you at the Harvest Celebration and follow us on Facebook at Dover Vineyards. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


It is about to be October, where tree leaves are turning and pumpkins are on the front stoop or being made into pies. There are also winter squashes coming along and I wanted to share a recipe today for that. At the farm stand we get all kinds of questions and often it's how to cook something.

Winter squashes are a familiar item to see at the end of summer and into fall along with spaghetti squashes as well. Today's recipe is about roasting winter squash. You can interchange between the the squashes, butternut, spaghetti squashes, acorn squash, pumpkins, and any other squash varieties you can find.

To start:
Wash the outside of the vegetable and cut in half or cut into large chunks. Some times you can cut off the outside layer and just have the inside flesh or for Butternut squash specifically you CAN leave the outer layer on, it is edible.  Pre-heat over to 400 degrees F. Scoop seeds out with a spoon. Place squash halves or pieces into a flat pan or casserole dish. Sprinkle with Salt, Pepper, and a touch of Cinnamon or savory Thyme. This will depend on what taste you're going for. You can add other spices or herbs here too. Lightly drizzle olive oil onto squash.

Start the roasting time at 45mins then go up 15-20mins depending on size and weight of squash. Smaller acorn or butternut squashes won't take as long as the larger more dense squashes. If you have chunks, take a spatula and move the pieces around and then smooth them out again so they cook evenly.
It will be ready when a fork can easily slide into the squash and come out clean. If there is a slight tug when you try to extricate the fork, you need a bit more time.

Now the fun part. When they are tender, remove the pan from the oven. You have many options here on how to eat this awesome roasted squash.
1. Carefully remove squash from baking container and place it in your serving dish. If in chunks you can drizzle with butter and sprinkle more salt and pepper to taste and serve.
2. If in halves you can scoop the insides out, if outside layer is still on, and whip it in a food processor or with a hand mixer while adding butter or heavy whipping cream to get more of a mashed feel to it.
3. If it is a small squash you can serve in halves. Simply place the half on plate or in a bowl and serve while hot.
4. Larger squash can be sliced in its shape and served with drizzle of olive oil or butter.

Check out the Farm Stand this Fall or Plaza Midwood Farmer's Market on Saturday and see what kinds of squashes we have in so you can get going on your new recipe!
Enjoy your time making roasted squash!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Catch up on good times

We had a contest on who could use Two Pigs Farm Pork Product in a recipe the best!
The winner is Chelsea Stone!! One of Dover Vineyards own. She made a delicious Mexican style Chorizo dish.
How to make it:

Cornmeal Biscuits with Chorizo Gravy and Scallions

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    ¾ cup cornmeal
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1½ teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    ¾ cup buttermilk
Gravy and Assembly
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    1 pound fresh chorizo, casings removed
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    2½ cups whole milk
    Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
    Hot sauce
    1 avocado, sliced
    4 scallions, thinly sliced
    2 radishes, thinly sliced (optional)
    ½ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
    ½ cup Cotija cheese or queso fresco (optional) (Cackleberry Queso Fresco)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, work butter into flour until pieces are chickpea-size. Add buttermilk and mix just to blend.
  2. Drop dough by heaping ¼-cupfuls into an 8" cast-iron skillet, spacing about 1" apart. Bake, rotating skillet once, until biscuits are puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 12–15 minutes.
Gravy and Assembly
  1. While biscuits are baking, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium. Add chorizo, breaking up any large pieces with a spatula. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chorizo is browned and crisp, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl with a slotted spoon.
  2. Whisk flour into drippings in skillet and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is very smooth and starting to turn a light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly until incorporated. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook gravy, whisking constantly, until thickened, 5–8 minutes. Stir half of chorizo into gravy; season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
  3. Spoon some gravy over hot biscuits and top with avocado, scallions, radishes, cilantro, Cotija (if using), remaining chorizo, and more hot sauce. Serve remaining gravy alongside.
    Great job Chelsea!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

More summer recipe ideas

Hey customers, cookers, and eaters! These past two weeks have been ripe with more ideas for what we have in the stand right now. For the Forth of July, I made a vegetable-centered meal featuring a tomato and roasted vegetable risotto! One of my CSA members gave me an idea on how to make a less-cheese centered mac and cheese, and then yesterday, I took some of Bill Logan's Carolina Artisan Bread and made a quick pizza/flatbread sort of thing. It's been a fun two weeks of delicious, locally-sourced eating for me and my family.

The first step in making the risotto was to saute all of the arborio rice and some onions in olive oil for a few minutes. While this was going on, I chopped up some squash and zucchini, tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper and threw them in the oven to roast at 350 until tender. I also put 6 tomatoes, cut in half on an oiled baking (cut side down) sheet and tossed them in the over as well. Then I started adding the liquids, first with vegetable stock. I stirred it till it absorbed, then added some soy milk. I stirred that till it absorbed, and then I added some white wine. Guess what I did next? I stirred it till it absorbed. I added some more vegetable stock and kept stirring, repeating till almost finished. When the tomatoes looked like they had cooked  through, I took them out, let them cool a bit and removed the skin. It slid right off. I put the tomatoes and the juices from the pan into the risotto and cooked it some more, stirring and letting the tomatoes assimilate. When it was creamy and smooth, I put it in a serving dish and topped it with the roasted vegetables. We served it with a cucumber salad (thinly sliced cucumbers, onions, a tiny bit sour cream, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and celery seed) veggie burgers, and some sliced tomatoes.

One great idea a customer of mine gave me was using squash and zucchini to cut the amount of cheese in a mac and cheese. Not only does it cut the amount of cheese, but it increases the amount of vegetables (from zero to like 6). Plus it's delicious. First, you roughly cut 10 squash and zucchini, a sprig of rosemary, some garlic, and one onion. Toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them in the oven to roast. Start boiling your water for your macaroni. Add in the macaroni, but remove it from heat and drain about minute before its finished. Next, take the roasted squash, zucchini, garlic, rosemary ( just the leaves) and onion from the oven and put them in a blender. Add in enough soy milk to get the blender going and let it develop into a thin paste, like pancake batter. Add in some poultry seasoning if you feel like it. Don't if you don't feel like it. Then, toss your pasta in the mixture so that it coats it like a regular mac and cheese. Add in some Parmesan cheese if you'd like. Top with a bit of mozzarella, provolone, or white cheddar if you want. Or don't. Pop it back in the over and let the macaroni finish cooking.   Then you eat it. You can tell your kids its full of vegetables, or don't. I served it with one of my favs: cucumber soup. Just peel and quarter some cucumbers and an onion. Place them in a blender with an avocado and some soy milk to get the blending started. Add salt and pepper and your choice of herb: either dill or cilantro. Blend until smooth. SOOOOOO good and refreshing. Great as a dip too if you make it a little thicker!

One final recipe/food idea I 'd like to share with you is for a quick farm fresh pizza or flat bread sorta thing. I took one of Bill Logan's classic loaves and split it in two. if you want a thin crust, you can easily split it into three. I then stuck it in the oven to let it toast. I chopped up four tomatoes, a bunch of basil, one hot pepper, and a small onion. I tossed them in olive oil salt and pepper, took the bread out from the oven, and topped it with the tomato mixtures. I put it back in the oven while I chopped up some squash, zucchini, and peppers. I tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, removed the bread from the oven, and then topped it with the squash mixture. I sprinkled it with a little cheese and put it back in the oven for enough time for the squash to soften. Then I ate it. It was delicious and easy and made very few dishes. Perfect for a weekday evening when you don't want to get your kitchen messy and hot.

So how are you going to make these recipes your own? 
Happy Cooking and Be Creative! 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My parents let me cook them dinner

Cooking dinner for your parents shouldn't be a big deal, especially for someone, who like me, cooks all the time! But this, in fact, was a momentous occasion. My dad was out at my house mowing one of the vineyards and mom didn't have any dinner plans. I miraculously convinced my mom to come to my house to eat and convinced my dad to stay! My mom is a notoriously picky eater. She only eats things that her grandmother would have fixed. She's not too impressed with my 1001 uses for radish tops. My dad will try anything I cook and most of the time he likes it, but any time I'm cooking for mother, I have to do it by the book, southern style.

breading squash
So what did I decide to fix? What did we have at the farm stand that day? Why tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, onions, potatoes, rosemary, a bit of butter, and a few peppers. Why not peel the cucumbers and put them in a blender with the onions, peppers, tomatoes olive oil, salt and pepper, and make gazpacho? And how about roasted potatoes? Just cut them up, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them in the oven at 400 until tender. I knew that dad and I would want a sauce on our potatoes, but that mom hates, I MEAN HATES, rosemary. Solution? Put two table spoons of butter in a skillet and chop up some rosemary in there. Let that roast with the potatoes and then add a little bit of white wine. Stick it back in the oven for 5 minutes, let it reduce, and voila, there is a sauce! For me and dad! Mom doesn't get any. 

frying squash
Finally, while the gazpacho was chilling and the potatoes were roasting, I set to frying the squash. I know I sound like I'm a sales person for House Autry products, but I'm not. They are simply a staple in my family's kitchens. So I cut up the squash into little medallions, put them into a tupperware, throw in some House Autry Seafood Breader, and then shake. Then I go back and separate the pieces which have stuck together, add a bit more seafood breader, and shake again. Finally, once they have sweated a bit, I throw in a bit more seafood breader and give them a final coat. I get my oil hot in the pan and start frying. Once they get puffy on one side, I flip them. It doesn't take long, and these things are sweet and golden brown and delicious. I do one frying pan full, unload it into a pan for the oven, and do three more, keeping them warm in the oven all the while. Once I've finished, the potatoes are roasted, the butter sauce is made, and the gazpacho is cold.

yep. this is food. i can eat this.
Dad gets in from mowing, complains a bit about something, I get him a glass of the new Rose (Come to our party on July 15th to celebrate all things ROSE!!) and serve him a plate. He doesn't complain. But he never does. Mom gets herself a plate (she had brought over other food just in case she didn't like my cooking), and I get a compliment. The squash a perfectly done! WOOHOO!! She liked the potatoes and even tasted the gazpacho. Said it was well balanced. I'll take that! 

my plate, and yes, i turned the label to the
 wine to face the camera for extra brand management.

Farm fresh food doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming. I even cooked extra so I could make additional meals out of it for the rest of the week. I've been eating the left over gazpacho with Volkhorn from Carolina Artisan Bread for lunch. I've made fried squash and tomato sandwiches (re-heat fried squash in the oven or George Foreman-like grills). I'm going to make a tortilla espanola out of the left-over potatoes and sauce. 
ok. i'll try this.

And this is just what I did with the produce I had on hand from our farm store. My customers are doing even more things and I can't wait to share with you their ideas of how to eat the food that's coming off the land right now. 

they belong to the clean plate club. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Eat the squash like it's your (delicious) civic duty

Happy Early Summer Everyone! It's the time of year when most farmers have squash coming out their ears! We love this time of year because we get to eat and produce one of the most sustainable crops out there- squash and zucchini! But it's also quite frustrating when customers are scared to buy it because they "just don't like it. I mean how do you fix it? Mom just always boiled it and it was terrible!"

Recently, I have been struggling with the fact that many people don't know how to prepare the vegetables we grow, and thus don't know how to support local farmers with their purchase dollars. I was luckily born to a home economics teacher and an owner of a grocery store, not to mention the granddaughter of two wonderful "country cooking" experts. But I realize that not everyone is as comfortable around the farm-to-fork concept as I am. I feel like I need to change this. As much as I hate taking photos of my food, I know that for my business to survive, and for us to have a sustainable, local food system, we are going to have to re-educate massive amounts of people on how to eat seasonally and what that means.

Right now, eating seasonally and eating locally means eating squash. This is the time of year when squash can really shine. It's delicious. It's tender. It comes in about 20 different varieties, all of which are beautiful and fun. And there are so many different ways to fix it! You don't just have to boil it! Or saute it! Although both of these are great logical options! I'm going to go Bubba Gump on squash for a second. You can roast it. You can fry it. You can make it into fritters. You can put it in curry. You can put it on your burrito. You can put it in pasta salad. You can toss it with marinara sauce for pasta primavera. You can saute it with broccoli, carrots, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce and pretend that you got take out.

I love experimenting with our vegetables and I've recently created a new sort of recipe for a vegetable loaf. I used squash, zucchini, and kohlrabi, but you can pretty much substitute any kind of veggies in this recipe that you have during whatever season! I even made a mustard greens loaf a few weeks ago and it was AWESOME!

Grate up your squash, zucchini, kohlrabi. Chop an onion. Pour in some House Autry Hush Puppy Mix. Add in the required oil for the volume of mix you're using, but use only half the amount of milk/water. Add in an appropriate number of eggs, and mix. It should end up thicker than pancake batter, but not like cookie dough. Bake in a well greased cast iron skillet. Eat like cornbread with some beans or even use it to make a tomato sandwich!

The classic way I grew up eating squash was stuffed squash (or zucchini). My mom would parboil the squash, but it in half, scoop out the middle and mix it with some onions, bread crumbs, sausage, and an egg. Then, she would re-stuff the squash, top it with cheese, and bake it till the cheese was lightly brown. A few weeks ago, I made a vegan equivalent by substituting the sausage and egg with ground up chick peas, some sage, garlic, time and oregano. Sorta like mixing hummus with your squash and onion mixture. Then I made my cheese sauce by sauteing flower in some oil, thinning down the mixture with some of the left over ground chick peas and white wine. Then I flavored it with salt and pepper. Dad ate it. He was a meat cutter for 50 years. He couldn't tell the difference!

So guys- This time of year, we, the farmers of North Carolina, would love for you to experiment with squash and zucchini. The key to eating locally and seasonally, and preserving our small farms is changing the way we eat throughout the year. You will not regret it. You will become more creative and nutritious as you add more locally grown products to your diet. It's the best way ever to not get bored with your food!!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Internship 2 Week Experience

My name is Zenethia and I am an Agricultural and Technical Systems student with a concentration in Horticulture. I came across Dover Vineyards when looking for internships to apply to for the summer experience. I wanted a hands-on learning experience and the Dover Vineyards was the perfect place. Just within 2 weeks of working here I learned an abundance of things. From learning how to plant and pick properly to learning about different methods and different types of fruits and vegetables, it has been a great experience thus far. My coworkers are very friendly and have been great teachers. From their teachings I can tell they have learned a lot themselves from Elizabeth. I literally learn something new everyday and starting to get more comfortable with task that are asked to be done. The main thing that I love about working here is that we do something different everyday and there is never a dull moment. It takes a lot to keep up a farm and garden but with hard workers like we are at the Dover Vineyards we always get things done while satisfying customers. Other than learning the horticultural side I have learned to work with customers and run the farm stand and farmers market. As my career I want to open peoples eyes to growing their own food no matter the environment and promote healthy eating and living. I also want to make my own products from oils and soaps to smoothies and juices. Although I will be going back to school in the fall I will take everything that I'm going to learn this summer and apply it in the class room. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer at Dover Vineyards is going to bring me!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Can we just talk about last week?

Guys- last week, we had almost 6 straight days of below freezing temperatures. Yes, we were prepared (well, as much as any farmer can be). It is often common this time of year to dip below freezing once things start to bloom, but for us to have such growth so early (almost a month before normal Spring), and then have such a cold snap, we were scared if our emergency measures would be enough.

Well, we will have strawberries! YAY!! We covered them and irrigated them and, from what we can tell right now, the plants look mostly fine. The berries we had, survived. It's the flowers that took the biggest hit. That means we will have berries for a while, then go for a dry-spell, and then pick back up where we hopefully were going to be this time of year.

But another crop wasn't so lucky: peaches. No, we don't have any peaches on our farm, but we sell peaches from other local farmers. They are a HUGE draw to our stand in the summer and a big part of other farmers' livelihoods.

And this is where I need you to pay attention. Peaches are one of the impulse items which makes our farm stand profitable. Their sweet juicy deliciousness is what makes small diversified farmers and farm stands an economic viability. When you're driving down the road and see a sign that says "squash" do you say- Hold up, Honey! Stop the car! We gotta get a bushel of those squashes! No. You don't. Squash aren't sexy. Neither are cucumbers, beans, basil, beets, kale, lettuce, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, winter squash, basically 80% of what we grow. We count on those eye catching crops, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, and pumpkins, to get the customers in the door. And, most of the time, once the customers arrive, get their impulse buy of peaches or tomatoes, they purchase other ancillary items, the items which make running a sustainable, diversified, small family farm, possible.

So what happens when you don't have peaches for sale? Last year, we saw a drop in sales of all things, simply because we were not able to put out our sign that said "Peaches." We didn't get the traffic of previous years when we were able to sell the peaches of our Cabarrus County neighbors. People would stop in, ask if we had peaches, we would have to turn them away, and then they would drive away, not making a purchase. This pattern proved detrimental to our sales during the summer. We had all of the rest of the crops, just not the Sexy Stars which make consumers stop and pick up a pound of beans, three squash, 4 cucumbers, a jar of jelly, honey, and a bar of soap.

So, not only have our friends lost their profitable peaches for two years in a row, now, according to smart business models across the southeast, small diversified farms are not as profitable as they should be when we have our Sexy Stars.

What we need from you, our customers and friends: Please Please Please continue to support us and other small farms this year even though we don't have peaches! Please stop, see what we have, and make your meals according to what's in season. It's easy to cook seasonally when the season is literally fruitful. What's tough, and what's vital, is to support the farms when the weather is difficult and the Sexy Stars aren't so bright. There is still a ton of great, delicious produce out there which will carry our farms through the dim summers-of-few-peaches. If you ever have any questions of how to work our produce in to your diet, just let us know. All of our staff can help you with recipe ideas. We, the farmers of Cabarrus County, need your support in the good years and the bad years. We have bills, just like you, regardless of how the weather treats us.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It's Spring and look who's Blooming!

We get asked all the time as farmers, "What do you do in the 'off' season? What if it snows? What if the weather changes?"... etc. And the answer is pretty simple... There is no "off" season. Sure, the weather may not cooperate from a day to day basis during the Winter months. But if plants aren't growing, it doesn't mean that we are sitting, waiting, and watching.

This year in fact we had a totally different approach. Due to the success of Charlotte's first Kriskindlmarkt (Christmas Village) and a grant from the local group Farm Hands Charlotte, we were able to get a head start on Spring like never before!

Strawberries were planted late October.. in hopes of harvest in late April. Spring, however, had other plans! We will probably be harvesting within this month or so! "So soon?" you ask. Trust me. We're just as floored as you. So with weather changes comes ingenuity and careful planning.

As most of you may or may not know, Farming is not an exact science. In fact it is a lot of trial and error. We do precision based guesswork, based on data and information that can change at any time. So basically a nicer way of stating that we "roll with the punches". And our team is taking those punches like a champ!

Not only are we over a month ahead on planting; we have finished constructing our new beautiful greenhouse, we have finished updating and securing 'Chicken Run' (our coop), we have started germination of all vine clippings, and now we begin our new seed cells for our Summer crops!

It is so rewarding to put a seed into the ground and days later see the green peeking through the soil...

We can't wait to bring this year's produce to market! We will, of course, have our usual... tomatoes, onions, lettuce mixes, asian green mixes, arugula, strawberries. But we are also trying our hand at some new veggies. Jerusalem Artichokes (a totally tubular tuber!) shaped like a ginger root and tastes like a potato... we are excited for the new addition to the family!

As always with changing weather, comes changing growth rates... therefore, when strawberries are ready to harvest.. we will be opening the Farm Stand. It is a little earlier than normal... but then again when is the last time we had an 80 degree day in February?? That being said keep an eye out for updates at the farm. We love providing fresh, local, organic produce to the public.... so the sooner we can do it... the better!

Thank you for all the support. We really are having a great year at Dover Vineyards so far.. and there is so much more to come!

 Our New Greenhouse!
 Sprouts of mixed greens!
 The start of a pea plant!
 Jerusalem Artichokes
 Green strawberries ...almost there!

-Olivia, Dover Vineyards

Monday, February 27, 2017

Farm Life by Nina

Well hello everyone!! My name is Nina and I have had the pleasure of working on the Dover team for almost 4 years. My first memory of farming was when I was about 15 doing volunteer work for the Gracious Greens for the Needy team. There I met Elizabeth Ann Dover where I later landed a job as a farmer! I had always loved working and being outdoors so for her to have asked me to join her, was truly an honor. I have learned so much through working on the farm, it really is amazing to be able to say I love my job! The long hours we as a team put in day out and day in throughout our busiest season is amazing and goes to show how hard everyone works to make sure you get the vegetables you ordered and even though there is a range in age, we all come together as one and I can say that I am apart of a wonderful team that remind me why I love working on the farm. I am so excited to be able to share a few things with you all for this upcoming season!

 Since the weather has been so lovely lately, the Dover crew has been getting a head start on planting our Spring crop!  So far we have planted three different types of peas which include; sugar snap peas, snow peas, and shell peas. Along with the peas, we have many different varieties of lettuce heads, carrots, onions, and Jerusalem Artichokes which is a new crop for us this year!  Jerusalem Artichokes have a sweet, nutty flavor to them which is great for roasting with other yummy vegetables! We are very excited to welcome Spring and start yet another year of growing fresh vegetables for our local customers and restaurants. Another little project we have been working on is the chicken run. We are ready to have chickens back on our farm so we can supply their fresh brown eggs to everyone who loves the taste of farm-fresh eggs! The best part about having the chickens back is being able to hand pick their eggs from the chickens' laying area and hangout with four rambunctious goats, because not too many people get to say they hung-out with animals at work. Well with that being said, I  hope everyone has a great rest of their week and we hope to see you at one of our two locations or our markets on the weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

We're NOT expanding! and I'm ecstatic!

pruning grapevines

Friends and Customers, every year, since we planted the vineyard in 2009, we have expanded our operation. I am happy to say that this year, we are not taking any more acres into production! I am grateful for the rapid (in farming terms) expansion, but the learning curves each year have pushed me to my limits. It's time for a break and just fine tune our operation at our current size, approx. 13 acres. I first wrote the business plan for this project back during the financial crisis in 2009 at Appalachian State. If you had told me that in 2017 I'd be running a 13 acre farm and attending up to 7 farmers markets, I would have told you that you were flat out wrong. At that point, I had only worked and studied on smaller scale farms: 1-2 acres. We started out that size, but I soon saw that that scale of farming was not going to produce what we needed, and what the Charlotte area demanded.

As we have grown, each year, I have found myself developing a new skill set. During the first few years, I learned what I needed in order to be able to work long hours in the field and go home and follow up with office work. Then I had to learn how to manage the farm as I took on another job at Raylen. Next, I had to learn all about the whole Farmers Market scene and how to move the majority of our sales to a Saturday-based business model. Then, and most recently, I have had to learn how to mechanize (tractorize) as much as possible and how to delegate and manage staff. We now offer food from up to 10 local farmers at our Farm Stand, so I'm getting lots of on the job experience with inventory control and purchasing! I still get out in the field, but gladly, we are past the days when I would have to put in extra hours before and after the employees were at the farm.

Nevertheless, we are not successful quite yet. I still anticipate about two more years until profitability, but it's so nice to finally see the hard work paying off. I cannot tell you how many gallons of sweat or tears of frustration I have shed to get us to the point where we, at Dover Vineyards, are working humane hours.

We are trying some new things this coming year at Dover Vineyards: ginger, turmeric, and sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes. We are also going to try our hand at doing our own eggs and will start using fertigation. But none of these new undertakings involve installing new farm-wide infrastructure, clearing of land, establishing new markets, or massive plantings. We will keep you up to date with our successes and failures as we try these new things.

This past December, thanks to a very successful holiday sales season and the Christmas Village at Romare Bearden Park, we sold more wine that I could have imagined. We have found ourselves in a strange position. We will need to supplement our harvest this year with grapes from other local vineyards. I know some people will think this is heretical. How could we ever dare to produce non-estate grown wine? Well, honestly, quite easily. My favorite human, Pancho, happens to work for about 3 NC vineyards. He has access to and knowledge of the best grapes in the state and is helping me find what we need to grow the Dover Vineyards brand. We will be working closely with the people who will be growing our grapes and will always stay transparent about who is growing what and what is going in every bottle of our beloved wine.

We thank you so much, customers and friends, for your patience as we get our business off the ground. Yes, we started 8 years ago, however, in farm years, we haven't even gotten through the first three months of a normal business. We still plan on doing a tasting room on our property (and are seeking investors), however, we will have to replenish our inventory of wine first, and that will be at least another year. Hope to see you this coming season at the Farm Stand, Plaza Midwood, or at an area wine tasting.

Monday, February 6, 2017

From Kokoro Shears to Fiskars Pruners: My First Six Months on the Farm

If you had asked me twelve years ago what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have had an exact answer for you. Marine Biologist. But, that was a pipe dream. Short-lived to say the least. After graduating High School, I (like most), had a much tougher time answering that same question.

What did I want be when I grew up? I was a good student. I didn't try bringing much attention to myself. I made good grades, and stayed out of trouble. However, it was difficult for me to put myself into a four year university state-of-mind. I enjoy change. I like being creative. I love learning. But something about those four walls, for four years, scared the daylights out of me.

So I worked. I worked hard. Two jobs, Seven days a week, 75 hours a week. I wanted to prove to myself that I could support myself on my own. In turn, bettering my skills in the customer service line of work. While working for a restaurant, I met a woman who's hair was as flawless as her personality. She, after one conversation, convinced me that cosmetology may be the path for me. I had never considered the option, but why not? I'm creative, I like being hands-on, and I'm a good people person.

So I did it. 1500 hours of cosmetology school over a series of 14 months. It was the most exhausting, yet liberating experiences of my life. I learned so much about myself and who I "thought" I wanted to become. I really found a home with hair care.

About five years had passed. I still enjoyed my choice in career. I'm being creative. I'm taking on responsibility in the work environment. I'm actually doing something hands-on, that I truly feel may be changing someone's life. And then it hit me...

.. What about me? Can I do this for the rest of my life? And, am I truly, happy?

Happy. That's a word we take for granted nowadays. I realized I was doing so much for everybody else at work, at home, in public, that I forgot about... me. What did I really want?

So I sat down. I thought really hard. It was at this point that I thought back to my garden that I had planted the previous Summer. It was my first attempt at an above-ground plot. I didn't know the rules, but I gave it my best shot and learned as I progressed. I thought about the feeling I had going out everyday pruning my tomatoes, and picking my squash. The heart-break of a dry week, and the elation of a hearty yield.

There it was. There was my happy. Dirt, seeds, vegetables; getting sweaty and sore, but feeling so accomplished. That's where my happy was and that's where I needed to be.

Lucky me, Charlotte/Concord is a smaller world than I imagined. You rub enough elbows, you find your connections, and networking blossoms! I met Elizabeth Anne Dover through my best friend. They had gone to school together and she knew I had the farming-bug buzzing in my ear. We connected and set up an interview.

First impressions are important to me. It doesn't matter whether your interviewing for the position of CEO or cashier at your local grocery store, you need to convey who you are; and I think dressing professionally speaks volumes. So I came in what I wore best. Black slacks, white button up shirt, and my emerald green cardigan. Needless to Elizabeth Anne was taken aback. No one expects to see a farm hand dressed in their Sunday best. What was I doing? "She's not going to take me seriously," I thought to myself. In fact, it was just the opposite. She welcomed me with open arms, rather relieved that I hadn't picked up a new pair of Carhartt's the day before to "look the part". She hired me on the spot, and I began my transition into the agricultural world two weeks later.

February 2017:
I have been working for Elizabeth Anne, Dover Vineyards, for about six months now. I can honestly say, without any hesitation, that I am happy. More than happy, even. This job has done more for me than I can explain. I wake up every morning happy to start the day and I go home every night, worn out with satisfaction of a hard day's work. And although it may not be in a classroom, I am learning so much and so many life skills, that I don't feel that I have missed any opportunities taking the path I did.

When people hear farm they automatically think of cows, goats, chickens, vast cornfields, overalls, and tractors. Little do they know it's precise calculations, trial-and-error, understanding your land and taking those risks to see if what you had planned can become a reality. Farming is much more than laying seeds, watering occasionally, and fertilizing. Some days we walk through the vineyards collecting clippings from every individual plant in hopes of germinating a new vine. Other days we hand shovel compost into the back of a Ram 1500 and hand spread across two of our acres to enrich the soil before tilling for the next crop. Farming is planting 600 feet of collards and Kale, hoping you won't lose your crop to snow

. Farming is camping in the middle of your vineyard with controlled fires, at midnight, when it's under 10 degrees to make sure your vines are sterilized, but not killed off. Farming is a loving, frustrating, hard-work inducing industry, and is not for the faint of heart. And I love every minute of it.

We are small little work family with a lot of gumption. From all walks of life, we have come together and have found who we are. I still have a lot to learn, a lot. However, everyday is something new. Everyday I learn new skills, new techniques. I am becoming more rounded. Which ultimately is helping me find my center. I may not know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know one thing...

I'm happy.