Friday, January 14, 2011

Savannah Trip,the "Working" Part...

Our short trip to Savannah was initiated by Randy's obligations as a board member for the North American Raspberry Blackberry Association. NARBA held their annual meetings in conjunction with the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference. Each year NARBA piggybacks their meeting on to some regional conference so as to accomodate growers from different parts of the country. Randy had been to Savannah once before, and this time I wanted to tag along to see the South.

There are no non-stops from the west coast to Savannah, so we flew from Bellingham to Seattle, Seattle to DC, DC to Savannah -- and our flights were all smooth and timely. A great flying day -- except for one little thing...

No luggage.

We waited so hopefully until the belt stopped turning, and no new bags were being flung/dumped/tumbled out -- and then finally went to the desk, only to learn that Randy's bag was still in Seattle, and mine was in Chicago...Okay. Huh??? The attendant was very apologetic and kind, reassuring us that they would be in Savannah the next day -- and by the way, they aim to please -- here is a little toiletries bag with a toothbrush, and some other essentials...

So we didn't need a cart or anything, didn't have to tip the taxi guy for handling our bags, didn't have to call for a bell boy when we got to the handy! (I was trying to foster an attitude of adventurous positivity.)

Our hotel on Bay Street was very nice, and just across the street from "Factor's Row", a series of former cotton warehouses now turned into shops, and the edge of the bluff down to the river. We headed down to River Street, learning to take our time on its cobbled hilly-ness, and found a restaurant where we could watch the huge container ships and tugs go by while we ate our Shrimp Creole and Fish Fingers. The Savannah River here is a minimum of 42 feet deep, and many ships frequent this inland port, 18 miles from the ocean.

The container ships are huge! Couldn't really get a decent picture of them, and you never knew when they might come through. I did get some pictures of a tug that came out for a little bit...It was big, and you could hear the power in that engine! Look at the size of the stacks for the exhaust!

It would have been fun to hear what the job of a tugboat crew is like...We enjoyed seeing them in action.

The conference venue was across the river on Hutchinson Island, so each time we went to meetings we had to catch one of the Savannah Belles, quaint little ferries that crossed back and forth -- and respectfully stayed at the dock anytime a container ship came by!

On Wednesday, we tried to shake out our clothing to make it look fresh, and I sponged out the coke stain from my white shirt. I fluffed my hair -- again and again -- and thought, "My kingdom for a curling iron -- and an eyebrow pencil wouldn't hurt either..." I wasn't looking forward to meeting Randy's fellow board members in this condition...

We didn't see anyone we knew at breakfast (whew!) and wonder of wonders, we found afterwards that my luggage had just arrived!!! But not Randy's...I'm not sure where my black bag had been -- it wasn't talking -- but it's travels apparently included some loop-de-loops because my jewelry looked like this:

That used to be 2 necklaces...I don't think I want to know more about this.

Anyway, I got myself presentable, and we headed out for a short walk before we had to catch the bus for the Farm Tour. On Congress Street we saw this:

So much for the dream of dining at Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons...They closed that day, and were set to re-open 2 days after we headed home.
So much for being as happy as a fat girl in a candy store, y'all...

We caught our tour bus and headed out of town to Ottawa Farms. Actually, Chatham County, in which Savannah is located, has very little agriculture. The county surrounding Chatham, Effingham County, (-- don't you love the names!) has much more. Ottawa Farms is a u-pick operation and agri-tainment enterprise. Pete Waller is 77 years old, and is a quintessential, no-nonsense southerner and it was quite fun to hear him talk about his farm and their adjustments to the agri-tainment aspect...not just because of his accent, but also his outlook on city folk paying to walk around a corn maze...It is funny when you think about it and even funnier when you hear Pete tell it!

Unfortunately, as we got to the farm, the rain began...and soon it was pouring! Any rainy day is a good day in Effingham County, as they have been very dry in the last few years, so we couldn't feel badly about it. However, it did hinder our touring about the fields where Pete grows strawberries, blackberries, and a few raspberries...and cattle, pumpkins, corn and whatever else you might sell to the city folks.  And  -- OOPS -- we didn't take a single picture, just hurried back to the warm bus after our lunch in the open shed.

Our next stop was The Bamboo Farm, a research type facility where they grow various plants, the main one being bamboo. (No pictures of that, and it was everywhere, go figure!) They also have some blackberries, and were experimenting with dragon fruit, and lotus plants. Our tour guide, who formerly worked on The Bamboo Farm, didn't hold back his feelings of bewilderment about the benefits of growing the last two.
 We did get a couple of pictures here.
 First, of the POURING rain: 
...which doesn't show up, but trust me, it was pouring!

Soon after, the rain let up and some ventured out of the bus.
This is what a Georgian blackberry field looks posts, small plants.

I forgot to mention that they also grew bananas.

The bewildering dragon flavor...

..but I guess they are kind of pretty.

Frankly, the Farm Tour was a bit disappointing due to its small scope. The redeeming feature of the afternoon was that we got to ride the bus with Randy's fellow board member, Henry Mutz, and his wife, Penny. We had a great time visiting with them! Henry was the NARBA board rep for Canada.  Ironically, Henry and Penny live about 1 mile from us, as the crow flies...We're practically neighbors, except for that international border between us!Their operation is much different than ours in that they fresh market their crop to various grocery chains and markets in BC.

In fact, we found that we were an anomaly amongst all the berry growers attending this conference. Most grow crops for fresh market, and have very small acreage. When we were asked how many acres we had, our reply of "50" shocked almost everyone...They thought that was huge. In our county, it's small. Some were surprised that we could pick by machine, and more than once, I had to explain how it works. No one seemed to be familiar with the block frozen/industrial market that Whatcom County farms supply.  They couldn't fathom dealing with the millions of pounds that come out of one county.

This made for interesting conversations as we explained our operation and learned about others. Regardless, of how things are run, there is the commonality of facing challenges by bugs and diseases, the strategies for best use of land, and care of the soil -- our lifeblood, if you will. And I must say that there is also a common brand of stubborness and individualism that was easily recognized as you visited around the room.

Thursday, we learned more as we attended the conference meetings. (And yes, -- finally Randy's luggage arrived. He was MOST happy to shave!) We learned interesting information about our current plague out here, the Spotted Wing Drosophila (a fruit fly). The researchers are working diligently to learn its life cycle, and preferred habitat, appropriate scouting, as well as how to control it.

They are working on the same research for the next plague coming down the pike -- the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a nasty little species that proliferates like the biblical locusts! We have green and brown stink bugs around here, but the BMSB is a special little fellow, ruining fruit by eating it through the skin, turning the skin dimpled, and the flesh inside spotted brown, and cork-like. (You've probably seen apples like's much uglier on a berry!) The unique feature of this species is that, after eating your fruit all summer, they invite themselves inside for the fall and winter. The slide show pictured a woman sweeping hordes of migrating BMSB's into piles on her porch, and dumping them into a 5 gallon bucket with her dustpan. They have been identified in many of the southeastern states; none have been sighted here. However, these little opportunists will try to get inside anything, and that determination will likely be our undoing as mechanics have found them in huge numbers inside motorhomes...that are coming to a rest area near you, and leaving a little wanderer or 200 behind. The worst news is that so far they have not identified any good chemical controls for this plague...but the researchers are working on it diligently. I'm cheering them on! I have a new appreciation for researchers and grant money, and the schools that encourage them to use their skills to help agriculture. It is very necessary!

And now you know more than you probably ever wanted to about Fruit & Vegetable Conferences for Farmers'...(This blog isn't named Verbosity for nothin', folks!) I will spare you the recap of the workshop on dirt...and manure, important though they may be!
 Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the touristy part of our Savannah favorite part!


Janice said...

How sad that the Lady & Sons was closed!!! I would LOVE to go there too! I am an unashamed Paula fan - life without butter is no life at all!! Looking forward to more pics!

Tami said...

I love learning about farming! You were very positive regarding the lost luggage, kudos! Though I would bet you never travel without an eyeliner in your purse again...
Beautiful boat pictures, you are getting the hang of the new camera.

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Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life ( and one where I can vent. (