Growing the Hortfire family forward!

As 2018 has come to a close, we have gone through a lot of changes in the past year. Mr Hortfire got married to Mrs Hortfire, I announced in July a transformation within the company moving forward, we had two visiting scholars come visit and tour the tea at Caw Caw County Park and made a interesting discovery, I visited the Tea program at University of Georgia in November, watch the Dawgs beat Auburn, yet the biggest change is the addition to the Hortfire family, Princess V.

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Princess V has been a blessing bestowed upon us.  We are more than thrilled to show her this beautiful world. I know it will be some time before I can have her pulling weeds, but she will get a chance to learn, like I did.

Her arrival was a bit unexpected since it was forecast to be a different time. After some time in the hospital, she got to come home and has been doing great and is a very happy baby. Again, we cannot express how thankful that we have her.

I want to thank again Dr Zhilong Hao of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, for giving me tea. I drank several cups of various types over the course of me staying at the hospital during labor and delivery.

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The tea was wonderful and very therapeutic during times of uncertainty while  birthing and post delivery of Princess V.

With the addition of Princess V to the Hortfire family, I had to reevaluate the goals of Hortfire LLC moving forward, the biggest change is the closing of the estate gardening services. While I had a goal of building a great estate gardening division, there came a point I realize that part of the business was not what I envisioned after quite some time and energy invested. Sure, if at some point in the future a project or two comes my way of profitable merit and within scope, then I will have to make a judgement call to do it or not.

So what will 2019 hold for Hortfire LLC? Well, we will be devoting more time to tea. 2019 and the next few years will be devoted to propagation and production of both Camellia sinensis and Ilex vomitoria tea. We will also continue to work on plant breeding and introduction of ornamental plants as well. Specifically for 2019, we have set some goals to accomplish, while below is not a complete list of goals, these are one’s we feel comfortable sharing with the world.

Camellia tea:

We are going to macro vegatatively propagate American Heirloom cultivars we have selected for the establishment of breeding programs and tea production. This is the first step also to set-up an evaluation program so that we are constructing elite genetic lines, which will become the backbone of our expansion and tea production within the United States.

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While this may be a huge surprise to some, preliminary results from our Santa Fe, New Mexico partners, cultivar #7 is established. Establishing #7 across the country and various different sites provides us with a benchmark of information as we further develop our program. Several other partner sites to be established over the next few years include Washington State, Idaho, Florida, and Pennsylvania outside of the Georgia and the Carolina’s. Within the Carolina’s various sites in Charleston County, Pickens County, Jackson County, and a site in Mooresville, NC. As far as Georgia, we are formulating a short list of potential sites, yet we did make a donation of #1 and #6 to the University of Georgia this past fall. Hopefully this Spring we will get some information about the establishment of cultivars #1 and #7 down in Lake Wales, Florida.

As far as new cultivars, we are going to focus on acquiring a handful of American Heirloom cultivars from Caw Caw, Pinehurst Collection from Clemson Coastal, but most importantly we will work with the Flemming family to propagate the cultivars that Mack Flemming planted in Manning, SC and see that Clemson University receives a donation of that germplasma. It is how I plan to honor him and his works. Most people don’t know that Clemson University has had a on again and off again relationship with tea research since the early 1900’s, and like my former instructor, he, myself, and a small group of alumni are “Tea Tigers.” Fortunately, there are other Clemson alumni who are interested in making tea, a sustainable alternative crop in the United States, be it a micro scale or macro scale, the independent sense of being American and the “determined spirit” of being a Clemson Tiger is what will make this “Tea Renaissance” a success in the Carolina’s.

When the opportunity arises, we will continue also to promote homegrown tea, be it green, white, or red/black. We finally developed a method using household items to make a good quality red/black tea. We are going to continue to refine our educational talk about it, in addition establish a few demonstration sites.

We will continue to foster the exchange of ideas with Dr Hao of Fuijuan Agriculture  and Forestry College, Fuijuan, China. This is never going to change, between now and the day I die. I admire his work and his compassion, while I cannot refer to him as a colleague because of the lack my advanced degrees, I am humble and grateful to call him friend. I know that he and myself have plenty of work to do together, and I have so much to learn from him, as he is a multi-generational tea farmer.

Cassine/Yaupon Tea:

As far as the Cassine/Yaupon tea, 2019 will definitely mark the first of conduct public sales. As of now, most of the sales have been to private individuals. As of right, that is all that I am saying as it concerns the business side. The only other thing I am going to mention about Cassine tea is the continuation to investigate various propagation techniques. Unlike other Cassine/Yaupon companies in the United States, we are the only company that actually propagates “in-house,” all the other companies rely on third party companies. It is a clear and distinct advantage to control quality from earth to cup. Also unlike the other companies, we will have control to rapidly expand, like moving a throttle or pushing a gas pedal.

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Yaupon Holly is notorious for low rooting percentages from vegetative cuttings. The seed takes approximately 2 years to germinate, yet we have reviewed and conducted some experimentation that we believe can speed up the process. Still, regardless from a research and product development point of view, we will still master the germination of seeds, as this is an important part of development of a breeding program. Last year’s seed experiments were destroyed by squirrels. This year will modify our propagation structure to ensure against this.

We will continue to look for and evaluate wild specimens to create cultivars out of. Again, unlike some of the other companies, who cannot understand once you cultivate a wild specimen, it is cultivar, because it conflicts with their “wild sourcing” marketing, our long goal has been and will be sustainable cultivation. The major of our harvests come from private land and cultivated source, we have and always respect the “public trust” of natural resources and the last thing we will be associated with it, is the exploitation for personal profit.  Don’t get me wrong, I completely admire Lost Pines Tea and what they are doing, hence the great respect and support for their ecological restoration projects.

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Last year we found a large leaf variety that grows in full sun, complete full sun. I have seen pictures of large leaf variety before, yet in every instance, those leaf come under story plantings or under story location on the plant. What those who brag about finding them don’t understand, is plant physiology and stress, nor that the large leaf is not consistent through out the whole plant. With our found wild variety, we will harvest some drupes next fall and will attempt some vegetative cuttings at some point. The surface area on this large leaf is about 1/3 more, so hypothetically speaking there is a potential 1/3 increased yield.

At this point, you might be thinking that all sounds like a lot to do in the coming year, which for some it is and for others it is not. Still there is a plan in place for this coming year to accomplish all of it. Not only is all this hard work and effort to bear fruit for Mr and Mrs. Hortfire to share, but now it is something to pass onto Princess V. This is how we as a family are “Growing Forward,” and continue to share that with everyone, especially my fellow tea growers here in the United States and friends around the world.

And for those of you who don’t know, Mr and Mrs. Hortfire was married at the house of Phillip Gadsden in Charleston, South Carolina, which was gifted to him from his father, none other than American Patriot Christopher Gadsden, who created the symbol (rattlesnake) and motto, “Don’t Tread on Me!”, which Imperialist fear the most.  It is only befitting to be the banner with a little modification, not only for us but everyone else who is living this modern American Dream of growing and producing tea.

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We are hoping that 2019 is going to be special year just as much as for you as it is going to be for us! Until next time, be safe, work hard, and let tea always represent the cup of peace regardless of who is serving it or where it is from.

Take care!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Yaupon tea still sounds funny; I mean Ilex vomitoria? We started growing ornamental Camellia japonica, sasanqua and reticulata back in the mid 1990 and the Camellia japonica and sasanqua are now major crops. However, we never grew tea camellias. Two clients in San Mateo County gave us two stock plants of tea camellias, but we never produced any more than the Camellia Society up there would take. I do not remember the names of those camellias. I think that they do as well as the ornamental types in our mild climates.

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    1. Hortfire says:

      I know it sounds funny to people, but Yaupon tea is 5000 years older than Camellia tea, as proven from archelogical digs in Missouri. I also covered why the name Ilex vomitoria vs Ilex cassine is problem, lets’ just say it has a lot to do with King George the 3rd losing the war and his gardener.

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      1. tonytomeo says:

        The only tea I get from the garden here for now is herbal.

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