Grow your own truffles!

You don’t have to send cash to unfriendly foreign countries to enjoy black truffles anymore; this pungent and precious fungi is now being grown right here in good ole’ redneck North Carolina.

WARNING! Despite the grandiose claims by Garland Truffles that it’s reasonable to make $25,000 per acre growing truffles, there are many well-documented failures. Our bottom line was that while there is a promise of $25k/acre yield, and daily hand-weeding and care for the years preceding the harvest can easily eat-up the profits . . .

The State of North Carolina department of Agriculture did a $250,000 truffle grant in 2003 and the results for the foirst truffle harvest will be available in 2009.

See my updated truffle notes here, and DO NOT pay for a visit to Garland Truffles (they charged me over $1,000 for my group) until you have checked the NC State data from their truffle grants.

Garland Truffles of Hillsborough NC offers trees, tips and techniques, and Franklin Garland has been talking about the potential for North Carolina to become one of the finest truffle growing regions of the world. By golly, this sounds way better than growing soybeans:

“The optimal site for a truffle orchard is an open area with good southern exposure. It should be free of trees and roots for preferably a year or more prior to planting but with a minimum of six months. Up to a 15 degree slope is acceptable.

A buffer strip between the edge of the orchard and adjacent trees is necessary to avoid contamination from other tree roots.”

But it’s not a fast crop, and you must wait 5 years for the first harvest:

“The first few truffles in an one acre or larger orchard usually appear in the fifth year after planting.

On rare occasions orchards have come into full production after four years, but in general it is not until the eighth year that production levels are reached, about 50 to 75 pounds per year.

Food snobs pay big bucks for these black fungus, and Mr. Garland suggests that the revenue can be easily $25k per acre, far better than tobacco:

“Prices have climbed steadily for the last 10 years due to rising demand and limited production. The low has been $350 per pound, with current season commanding over $2000 per pound in some markets.

Certainly $500 per pound is completely realistic, and at a minimum of 50 lbs per acre, this amounts to $25,000 (gross) per year/per acre. We are selling truffles this season for $800 per pound.”

Garlands offers both Filbert and Oak trees infused with truffle’s fungus for as little as $25 each. We love oak trees, so we are going to try a few acres this spring, and hopefully in 5 years we can harvest.

They also recommend a truffle pig, but I’m sure that I can train a truffle pony to sniff out these pungent edibles.


Always keep your ass out of the refrigerator

The problem will be keeping the ponies away from the crop, so that we can use the land for grazing. These little guys have a voracious appetite:


Scout, the hungry pony

Twinkie, one of our guide horse dwarfs loves wild onions, and we will surely need fencing around the truffle trees:


Twinkie loves wild onions

We plan to plant this spring, so stay tuned. . . .

North Carolina is the only place outside of Europe to successfully cultivate truffles, and it has the potential to become a multi-billion dollar a year crop.

The North Carolina Agriculture department did a truffle grant of a quarter million dollars six years ago, and the truffle farms should be mature next spring.

I have notes here on the state of truffles in North Carolina, and while I’m under a strict NDA, this could be the start of something HUGE!

A visit to the secret truffle farm

No joke, if truffle cultivation is shown to be feasible, it could mean billions in revenue to North Carolina, and the farmers are being very secretive, especially since the truffle trees take at least five years to mature. It’s a long term investment with high risk, and high rewards!

Planting Carolina Truffles can be tricky. The optimal site for a truffle orchard is an open area with good southern exposure, free of trees and roots for preferably a year or more prior to planting but with a minimum of six months. Up to a 15 degree slope is acceptable. European truffle farming history has shown that the middle ground between the trees, beneath the drip lines of the canopy, is where the roots meet, the ground is highly acidic and truffles grow aplenty.


You need a truffle dog/pig to sniff out your treasures

On rare occasions orchards have come into full production after four years, but in general it is not until the eighth year that production levels are reached.

But the good news is that production levels are about 50 to 75 pounds per year/ per acre and a mature, well-maintained; 1-acre orchard can produce up to 100 pounds per year for at least 30 years.


Left to right: Jennifer Burleson, Talmidge Burgess, Jimmie Gray, Richard Garland, Ben Kittleson

When evaluating this potential investment, I chose my team for their talents:

Jennifer – A degree in Marketing and a taste for the finer things in life
Tallmidge – A working NC farmer who manages thousands of acres
Jimmie – A superb culinary master chef
Ben – A college student, chosen because college students know it all

So here we are, at the moment of truth. If the NC Agricultural grants works out, North Carolina may shift from being the tobacco capital of the world to the truffle capital! Best of all, we will be taking market share from American enemies in France!

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