Q: Can I still apply for the Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program?
A: The application process will be open through January 11, 2013. Chefs may apply online at www.garestaurants.org/GeorgiaGrown. This program, a partnership between the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Restaurant Association, offers participating chefs a mark of honor and distinction, while increasing awareness for both restaurateurs and consumers about Georgia commodities and products. Last year’s program was a big success. We encourage any interested chef to apply.
Q: When is Youth Equine Champions Day?
A: Youth Equine Champions Day at the Capitol is scheduled for February 5, 2013. The event will honor young people (19 and under) who qualified and participated in regional, national and world championship horse shows as well as Georgia State Champions. Georgia State Champions include all first-place winners in the Pony, 1-12 and 13-19 age groups from the Georgia Federation State Show. Those interested in attending need to contact John Clements, Georgia Equine Commission, at email@example.com or call 404-863-2173.
Q: I just saw an interesting television segment on pecans on Georgia Public Broadcasting. Will other crops be featured?
A: A new video series “Pick, Cook, Keep” began airing on Georgia Public Broadcasting in December. This series of vignettes will educate viewers on various specialty crops grown in our state.
Georgians will see the crop in season and how it is grown on the farm (PICK), watch some of Georgia’s elite culinary experts prepare easy-to-follow recipes that can be recreated by anyone in their own home kitchen (COOK), and finally, learn how to preserve these nutritious and delicious specialty crops for future use and enjoyment (KEEP).
Each vignette showcases a healthy, tasty and easy-to-prepare crop. One crop will be featured each month, beginning with pecans in December. In 2013, Georgians can look forward to learning about Georgia Grown greens, wines, honey, blueberries, Vidalia® onions, melons, peaches, tomatoes, peppers and apples. Stay tuned!
This project is supported by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program at the United States Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
Q: Can I plant my poinsettia outdoors after Christmas?
A: Poinsettias cannot tolerate frosts and freezes. Adventurous gardeners in the warmest parts of Georgia may try planting a poinsettia outdoors in a protected spot, but even they should wait until spring as their indoor poinsettia is not acclimated to go from the warmth of indoors to the colder temperatures outside. For most people, poinsettias are best added to the compost pile after they finish blooming.
Q: How can I tell when to repot a houseplant?
A: One of the first signs that a plant should be moved to a larger container is frequent wilting due to rapid drying of the soil. To determine if a plant needs repotting, turn the plant out of the pot and look at the soil ball. If a thick mat of roots is present on the outside of the soil ball, the plant usually benefits from repotting.
Q: I need information about the new tax-exemption program for farmers. Can you help me?
A: Please visit our website at www.agr.georgia.gov or call us at 1-855-FARMTAX (327-6829). The new GATE (Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption) program was created by Georgia HB386, a law passed by the Georgia Legislature, which offers qualified agriculture producers a sales tax exemption on agricultural equipment and production inputs. This program will replace the Agricultural Certificate of Exemption (ST-A1) form, effective January 1, 2013. The old certificate of exemption will not be valid after Jan. 1, so farmers are encouraged to sign up for the new program as soon as possible.
Q: I want to grow herbs on my kitchen windowsill. Do you have any suggestions?
A If you want to try to grow herbs indoors, put them in the sunniest window in your house whether it is in your kitchen or not. A south-facing window is best.
Many of the herb-growing kits sold at Christmas have pots that are too small to adequately grow anything but a few seedlings. Your pots should be at least five or six inches deep and wide. They should also have one or more drainage holes at the bottom.
A few herbs you may want to try are basil, thyme, oregano, poliomintha (Mexican oregano), chives and parsley. In Georgia we can grow many herbs outdoors, even in the winter. While a kitchen herb garden sounds clever, it is usually less productive and practical than growing herbs outdoors, at least as far as cold-hardy herbs are concerned. Consult your local nursery or garden center for more tips and supplies including plants and seeds.
Q: I want to go into business baking and selling specialty cupcakes in my home. Can you help me?
A: We can make sure you are properly licensed and informed about state food safety regulations. You also need to check with your city and county about any local ordinances that may apply.
Please visit our website (www.agr.georgia.gov) or call us at 404-656-3627 to get information and to learn about getting a Cottage Food License. It allows licensees to produce non-potentially hazardous foods in their home kitchens for sale to the end consumer. Among the foods covered under this license are: loaf breads, rolls and biscuits; cakes; pastries and cookies; candies and confections; fruit pies; jams, jellies and preserves; dried fruits; dry herbs, seasonings and mixtures; cereals, trail mixes and granola; coated or uncoated nuts; vinegar and flavored vinegars; cotton candy and popcorn and popcorn balls.
On our website you can find a brochure on starting a cottage food business, food safety regulations, frequently asked questions and other information. The direct link to this part of our website is http://agr.georgia.gov/cottage-foods.aspx. If you do not have Internet access, give us a call.
Q: Where can I find seeds for rice peas? The rice pea is a small field pea (cowpea).
A: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704, Phone: 417-924-8917) carries a rice pea it describes like this: “Tiny white seeds are just larger than rice and cook in 40 minutes. Very tasty. Bush plants yield well. A pre-1860 Southern cowpea.”
Because common names vary from place to place, and there may be several strains or varieties of peas known as “rice peas,” this may or may not be the one you are looking for.
If you are a subscriber to the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, you can place a free ad in the “Ag Seed/Plants Wanted” to see if any of the other readers have rice peas to sell or to share. For more information, call 404-656-3722 or visit http://agr.georgia.gov/subscription-requests.aspx.
Q: I have a number of pecan trees with mistletoe growing in them. I am considering selling sprigs of mistletoe over the Internet. Are there any special restrictions regarding sales?
A: Georgia has no regulations regarding the sale of our native mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum, formerly listed as Phorandendron serotinum). The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that this species is not federally regulated for interstate movement. Other states may have regulations or restrictions on it, although probably none within its native range of New Mexico to New York and southward. You may want to check with individual states about any labeling requirements or restrictions they may have.
Q: I heard that the Agricultural Certificate of Exemption (ST-A1) I have used in the past in making farm-related purchases will not be valid after the end of this year. What is replacing it?
A: The Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption (GATE) is a new program created by Georgia HB386, a law passed by the Georgia Legislature, which offers qualified agriculture producers a sales tax exemption on agricultural equipment and production inputs. This program will replace the Agricultural Certificate of Exemption (ST-A1) form effective January 1, 2013.
Applications are available online at the Georgia Department of Agriculture website (www.agr.georgia.gov). There is a $20 fee for online applicants and a $25 fee for all applications mailed in.
HB386 specifically broadens the sales tax exemptions for agricultural inputs by including equipment parts, energy used in production of an agricultural product and other inputs which were previously not exempt. The legislation also includes a phased-in, broad-based sales tax exemption on all energy used in manufacturing.
For more information please visit, www.agr.georgia.gov or call 1-855-FARMTAX.
Q: Is the rose of Sharon mentioned in the Bible the same shrub we know by that name? The shrub is also known as althea.
A: The common shrub many know as rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is not the same plant mentioned in the first verse of the second chapter of the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs): “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”
Biblical scholars do not agree which flower, or even if any particular flower, is the mysterious rose of Sharon although most concur that the original Hebrew refers to a bulbous plant. Among the leading contenders for the title are two species of red tulips, various species of crocuses, sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum) and the polyanthus narcissus (Narcissus tazetta), a plant familiar to many Georgians at this time of year. Different varieties of polyanthus narcissus are known as paperwhites, paperwhite narcissus or Chinese sacred lily. This narcissus is commonly forced in soil or pebbles for winter blooms and given as gifts at Christmas. It can also be grown outdoors. It is appreciated for its gleaming white or white and yellow flowers and sweet fragrance.
By the way, the “lily of the valleys” referenced in the verse is not the plant we know as lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis). Scholars are still debating what flower the biblical poet had in mind. Possibilities include the hyacinth and Lilium candidum, a plant that later acquired the name “Madonna lily” due to its association with the Virgin Mary in art.
Q: Is coffee technically a type of bean? Can coffee be grown in Georgia?
A: Because the seeds of the coffee plant resemble beans, they are called “coffee beans” even though they are not related to soybeans, lima beans or any other kind of true bean. Coffee is a member of the Madder Family (Rubiacae) along with a few ornamental plants that are grown in Georgia gardens including pentas, hamelia (Hamelia patens), Georgia fevertree (Pinckneya bracteata) and the familiar and beloved gardenia. Because it is a tropical plant, coffee can only be grown as a houseplant or as a greenhouse plant.