Camellia Forest Nursery

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One of the goals of the USLTG is to spread awareness about US Tea. We begin a series of Featured Grower posts, showcasing the work of tea growers across the country.

Today we welcome our first Featured Grower:
Camellia Forest Nursery.

Grower Feature - Camellia Forest Nursery - Christine

Name: Camellia Forest Nursery
Grower: David & Christine Parks
Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Camellia Forest (www.camforest.com) is a small family-operated retail nursery in Chapel Hill, NC. The Parks Family has been collecting and breeding Camellias for over 50 years, including a wide variety of different species from around the world and the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. They are located in the central North Carolina Piedmont (Zone 7).

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Agri-Tourism: The Community Cup

Community Cup Tour logoby Naomi Rosen

Agri-tourism, as mentioned in our post from a few weeks back, simply gives farmers and growers the opportunity to boost their lands income.  While we encourage tea growers across the country to wrap their arms around the concept, there are growers in Hawaii that are putting the concept into action.  I spoke with Eva Lee, Founder of Tea Hawaii & Company and Director of The Community Cup about their upcoming tea tour.  Eva has an extensive history in growing and processing tea, and is a modern pioneer in the growth of tea on the Hawaiian Islands.  “When we first got into growing tea, because it was so unknown, we didn’t plan on having “tea tours”, says Eva.  “We have participated in agri-tourism for about 5 years on a less formal basis than this tour in November.”

The Community Cup Tea Tour, to be held November 4-6, 2013, will take place on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The tour, led by Eva Lee and a handful of other growers, specialists and educators, boasts lodging at a National Park (to give people a feel for the terroir), a history of tea in the Pacific Rim, multiple tea farm tours and meet and greets with the growers, education on the propagation and cultivation of tea, a glimpse into the local tea inspired artistry, and an opportunity to see how tea is being produced in Hawaii.  There will be a special demonstration with Chef Raul showing the versatility and the culinary aspects of tea.  There will be an opportunity for the attendees to be hands on with the harvesting and processing of tea leaves as well.

There are so many directions that one could go with the Agri-Tourism idea.  We’ve got Hawaii doing specialized Tea Tours and a Mississippi tea farm participating in a multi-business, 100+ mile trail tour.  What else are our incredible US Tea Growers doing when it comes to Agri-Tourism?

Agri-Tourism: If You Don’t Know What It Is, You Should

AgriTourismby Naomi Rosen

You’ve accomplished goal #1 – the tea is in the ground.  Now what?

For some US tea growers, the next step will be tapping into a growing trend here in the US, and around the world for that matter: Agri-tourism.  Over the years, people have experienced a massive disconnect from relationships and interaction with the actual growers of our foods.  That trend seems to be fading quickly as a shift towards Buying/Eating Local and Slow Food movements emerge and gain traction.  Within that concept of buying from local farmers is the idea of connecting with, and learning, about the food we are consuming.

The Buy Local movement can be seen on your local Main Street weekly: Farmer’s Markets! Since 1994, the number of farmers markets in the USDA National Farmers Market Directory has more than quadrupled to a reported 7,864 in August 2012. (Source: USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service)  People want to be able to ask questions directly of the grower, there’s a sense of transparency and safety in that.

A similar movement sweeping across our amber waves of grain is the idea of Agri-Tourism.  And it’s more than just picking apples at an orchard, although that is one of my family’s favorite fall activities!  This kind of tourism opportunity is a vital growth opportunity for the US economy. Speaking in generic tourism terms the 2012 Bureau of Economic Analysis report tells us that “Total Tourism-Related Employment  was 7.7 million jobs in the fourth quarter of 2012 and consisted of 5.5 million (71 percent) direct tourism jobs — jobs where workers produce goods and services sold directly to visitors — and 2.2 million (29 percent) indirect tourism-related jobs — jobs where workers produce goods and services used to produce what visitors purchase.” (Source: US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis)  

If we breakdown Agri-Tourism, and how it relates to tea, you can see that there are multiple income factors:

  • Lodging (B&B’s are very popular!)
  • Gift shops and memorabilia (minus the tea…we’re talking Tshirts and mugs here)
  • Tea tours
  • Specialty events (concerts, meetings, etc.)

And all of that is without having sold a single leaf and two buds.

To give you a great example of how Agri-Tourism is being embraced and used to revitalize entire communities, you only have to look South.  And then East.  September 9, 2013, Mississippi State sent John Poros, with The Carl Small Town Center, to FiLoLi Tea Farm in Brookhaven, MS.  In the prep stages, John will be assisting in farm flow and schematics with some help from the Architecture, Interior Design and Landscape Design schools at MSU.  This preparation will allow the farm to “funnel” people from Interstate 55, Highway 84, and the City of Brookhaven.  Not to beat a dead horse…but note the assistance from a local university!

Why all this effort for one tea farm?  That’s the best part.  It’s not just to benefit FiLoLi Tea Farms.  They are but one stop in the creation of the “Bread Basket of Mississippi Agritourism Trail.”  John Poros’ work is funded via USDA Rural Development grants and private donations.  Stops on this route will include farms, a winery, a distillery, a dairy and an assortment of Southern history and cultural hotspots.  In all, this trail will include 10 stops over a 180 mile route, averaging one stop every 18 miles.  That doesn’t include any additional venues that can be added later.  Ideas like this trail will impact multiple communities and small businesses which translates into tourism dollars in the pockets.

This will not be the last you will hear of Agri-Tourism…just a little something to get you all warm and fuzzy to the idea!  If your tea farm is already participating in Agri-Tourism, we want to hear about it.  If you have participated in Agri-Tourism and come across unique and successful examples, we want to hear about it.  If you love the idea and want to implement something like this for your tea farm, we want to hear about how we can help you establish that program.  Long story short, we want to hear from you!