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Biltmore growing crops for food and fuel

Rather than importing cooking oil from Canada or fuel oil from the Mideast, what if you could grow what you eat and ultimately drive?

The Biltmore Estate, Blue Ridge Biofuels and other partners are taking up that challenge under the Field to Fryer to Fuel program. Backed by a $130,000 grant from the Biotech Center for North Carolina and a $64,000 in federal economic development funds, the partners hope to grow a sustainable food and energy supply with a new cash crop for mountain farmers and more jobs in alternative energy.

“We’re trying to build out a business model that will be economically viable for farmers, for local restaurants and for Blue Ridge Biofuels,” explained Ron Townley, working with the AdvantageWest economic development group to shepherd the project.

Planted back in September, the fields alongside the French Broad River are green and ankle-high with the canola crop, which looks a lot like kale or mustard greens. Biltmore workers planted about 60 acres of the winter crop, which looks a lot like kale or mustard. After the plants grow about waist-high, they will be harvested next spring. The pressed plants themselves can be reused as a valuable feed stock to be fed to the estate’s livestock herds.
Blue Ridge Biofuels will take the crop’s real payoff — the canola seed — and press that into a food-grade cooking oil which can be used by chefs frying up dishes in the kitchens of Biltmore restaurants.

The used cooking oil will be then be recycled by Blue Ridge Biofuels into homegrown biodiesel, a fuel that can then be used in the estate’s tractors that farm the fields as well as other vehicles.

The crops should produce about 7,000 gallons of cooking oil. Blue Ridge Biofuels should be able to collect and process about 5,300 gallons of biodiesel.

Ted Katsigianis, Biltmore’s vice president of agricultural sciences, said the estate is experimenting with four varieties, using different soil types on the estate. They made sure to use seeds that were not genetically modified.

Story courtesy of the Citizen Times. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.