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Chatham County Extension Farm and Industry Tour

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September 26, 2005

Photos by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.

2005 Extension Farm and Industry Tour
Chatham County, NC

Every year the Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension conducts a Farm and Industry Tour for local residents. The stops change every year and usually include a vegetable farm, a livestock operation, a nursery or greenhouse, and an industry stop. Each year we pick a different part of the county to tour. This year’s tour had about 75 participants and included department heads from Chatham County government.

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Graham Woodworking and Family Farm
3460 Silk Hope-Gumsprings Rd.
Pittsboro, NC 27312

The Grahams moved to North Carolina in the mid-1980s from the South Pacific. The farm started as 50 acres of woodland and pasture. They built a woodworking shop and slowly developed the gardens. The Grahams discovered that the Asian vegetables that they grew for their own table were a big hit among Southeast Asian customers at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Dan and his son Louis also have a sawmill and cut their own cedar to produce a variety of cedar products including chests, armoires, tables, stools, and much more. Visit their website to learn more about the woodworking side of the farm and to see photos of the beautiful cedar products.

Check out the News & Observer article about the Extension Farm Tour on the Graham Family Farm…

Dan Graham shows one of his edible luffas, also called Chinese okra or vegetable sponge. The young gourds are edible and popular in the Asian community.

Farm tour participants listen as Dan talks about production of bitter melon. Bitter melon is one of the most popular vegetables in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India and the Philippines. Most Americans consider it an acquired taste!

The ripe fruit and seeds of a bitter melon. Bitter melon is also used medicinally in the U.S. and worldwide.

Dan talks about his woodworking projects while holding a shoe rack. Dan and Louis have invented many “appropriate technology” devices to produce their products more efficiently.

Louis talks about their sawmill which is used to cut all the wood needed for their woodworking projects..

Louis demonstrates the sawmill making short work of a cedar log. Every part of the logs is used, so nothing is wasted. All the cedar planer shavings and scrap blocks are bagged in hosiery materials and retailed in the farmer’s market as sachets to act as insect repellents. Even the sawdust is sold as incense and for ant repellent in mulches.

Piedmont Biofuels Industrial 
P.O. Box 661
Pittsboro, NC 27312

Biodiesel is an alternative diesel fuel made from vegetable oil or animal fats and is completely renewable. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, and has significantly lower emissions than petroleum diesel. Piedmont Biofuels Industrial was formed when members of the Piedmont Biofuels cooperative discovered an abandoned chemical plant on the edge of Pittsboro and decided it would be a great place for commercial biodiesel production. The plan is to recycle/convert one of the buildings into a one million gallon capacity biodiesel facility.

Visit the Piedmont Biofuels website to learn more about this great organization.

See Piedmont Biofuels co-op members harvesting oilseed crops…

Lyle Estill (in top hat), one of the founding members of Piedmont Biofuels, leads tour participants through the industrial park. Piedmont Biofuels has attracted other like-minded businesses to set up shop in the industrial park, and each building has its own unique garden (note the bananas above).

A solar-powered pump for dispensing biodiesel fuel to members of the cooperative. The cooperative sells B100 fuel, which is 100% biodiesel. They have several pumps throughout the Triangle.

Lyle describes the small-scale biodiesel production unit which travels far and wide for demonstrations. The unit is capable of producing about 30 gallons of biodiesel from used vegetable oil. The portable unit was purchased with a grant from the state energy office.

Lyle talks about the huge diesel generator inside the industrial complex. The generator will run on waste vegetable oil and/or biodiesel. It will provide heat and electricity for the biodiesel plant.
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