(gentle music) - Good morning. My name is Laura Bancroft, and I’d like to welcome you to Ten Mile Creek Nursery.
00:11 - We are one of the few lotus farms in the United States, and we grow for both ornamental lotus, and lotus that can be harvested for use in different chemical solutions.
00:28 - We’re located in Geneva County, down below Hartford.
00:34 - And we’re so glad that you’re visiting with us this morning.
00:37 - You can see some of the lotus around you, and I’m looking forward to telling you some interesting facts about lotus today.
00:45 - Here at Ten Mile Creek Nursery, we grow lotus for several purposes.
00:50 - One of the main things that we do is a retail sale of dormant lotus tubers.
00:56 - Those lotus tubers will grow during the summer, which you can see around me.
01:02 - There are basically three different varieties of lotus based on their size.
01:08 - The very small ones, bowl lotus and small lotus, medium lotus, which are between two and four feet tall, and then the large variety of lotus, which are larger than four feet.
01:20 - We harvest these tubers in the winter when all of these plants are dormant.
01:25 - And we sell them through our website, which is tenmilecreeknursery. com.
01:32 - Those retail lotus are sold all across the United States, throughout Europe and in several other countries besides Europe.
01:45 - We are one of the biggest wholesalers of dormant tubers also, where we sell to other nurseries and growers.
01:56 - The second part of our nursery is where we grow biomass for a chemical company.
02:03 - That biomass is harvested in the summer, totally opposite of the ornamental lotus.
02:11 - The ornamental lotus, we want what grows below the water.
02:15 - For the chemical company, we harvest what grows above the water.
02:20 - We harvest lotus for retail sale in January when there are no green leaves on the pot.
02:29 - We sell those from March through May. We also replant the entire nursery.
02:36 - We have almost 5,500 pots, which are harvested and replanted every year.
02:45 - They begin to grow when the weather warms up and the days get a little longer.
02:51 - Their prime growing season is late May through the 1st of August.
02:59 - And at that time, we go through, make pictures, and check and make sure we’ve got the right lotus labeled in the right pot, which can be a real feat when you’re planting that many pots.
03:12 - So, we harvest starting in January, it takes us through about the middle of March.
03:19 - We store those tubers in walk-in coolers over in a different facility.
03:26 - And then we fill the orders as they come in for the dormant tubers.
03:30 - For the lotus biomass, which is harvested for use in things like Coppertone suntan lotion, fresh makeup, Aveeno suntan lotion, that biomass is growing in earth-bottom ponds.
03:47 - Those earth-bottom ponds, we have about 17 acres of earth-bottom ponds.
03:54 - And that biomass is harvested in the middle of the summer.
04:00 - In late July, we will cut all of the biomass from the water level up, and then we will fertilize it heavily, and then it will grow back.
04:13 - And we’re able to actually have a second harvest around the third week of August.
04:22 - So once it starts growing and the weather’s really hot, it will reproduce very quickly.
04:29 - And it grows from runners under the ground.
04:33 - If you pull the plants up, if we were to flip one of these pots over, we would see active runners coiled around the bottom of the pot.
04:42 - When the plant begins to go dormant, and the days get shorter, it kicks into mode, a mode where those tubers begin to actually store starch and fatten up so that they’re ready to plant the next year.
04:57 - In the ponds, we don’t have to do anything.
05:01 - We do not have to replant those. They come back from the tubers that are underground ‘cause we don’t touch the tubers that are underground in the ponds.
05:10 - And those, all of those lotus in the 17 acres of pond, they are certified organic, which is quite a task, because we’re constantly fighting insects that will destroy the leaves and also the weeds around the banks of the ponds.
05:32 - We were very blessed in the fact that our facility in the past was a tilapia farm.
05:39 - And so we basically converted all of the tilapia and catfish ponds into lotus holding tanks.
05:46 - So that’s where we grow all of that lotus for the biomass production.
05:51 - Last year, we harvested about 45,000 pounds of biomass, which was then processed on site by the chemical company.
06:04 - They bring their mobile facility down to harvest it and process it.
06:09 - All of our ornamental lotus, which we harvest as dormant tubers, they are not certified organic, so we can treat those easily.
06:20 - And they are simply just stored in the coolers.
06:25 - We are to the point now where we grow all of our own lotus to replant all of our pots.
06:33 - However, every year I search the world for new varieties of lotus, new cultivars of lotus to introduce here on my website.
06:44 - Some of them are being introduced for the first time in North America.
06:49 - And so we bring some in every year. However, I do grow them all out for a year or two to make sure they’re actually suited to our climate, because they come in from Vietnam, Thailand, China, and other places.
07:06 - And we need to make sure that they will actually live and be healthy in our climate.
07:11 - You know, a really interesting thing about lotus is that at some point during their lifespan, every single part of the lotus is edible.
07:21 - And we’re in the United States, we grow it mostly for ornamental purposes, for people to grow in a pot on their patio or in an ornamental pond.
07:32 - In most places around the world, they’re grown for as a food product.
07:37 - They are a staple in the diet in China, Vietnam, Thailand, where they harvest the tubers for their, you can substitute a lotus tuber for anywhere that we would use potatoes.
07:56 - You can boil them, fry them, saute them, you name it, stir-fried, they’re absolutely wonderful.
08:03 - Plus, they’re really pretty because they have a distinct pattern of air channels in them, which make them very easy to spot, and they make your dishes very pretty.
08:16 - They are extremely high in antioxidants. So they’re an excellent food source.
08:25 - We don’t do that in the United States. You can find them easily in Asian markets, supermarkets, where they’ve been harvested and shipped over.
08:36 - But right now in the United States, we are growing them as a food product has been difficult because the labor cost are so high here, and they’re not high in those other countries.
08:50 - So that is what’s held them back as a food product.
08:53 - However, another thing, the seeds. This is a seed pod where the flower is already, the petals have dropped, and the seed pod is beginning to fill out the seeds.
09:06 - If they’re fertilized will become full and fill all of the little pockets in the receptacle.
09:16 - All of those seeds are a wonderful source of food.
09:21 - You harvest them when they’re green. You can eat them raw, boiled, fried, candied.
09:28 - And so, one of the things that you can always find in an Asian supermarket is bags of processed lotus seed.
09:36 - You can also dry them, and then when you, they will string them, put them on a string, the dried lotus seeds.
09:46 - And then while they’re cooking, if they need something to thicken a soup, they’ll take that necklace of lotus seeds off, put it down, pound two or three of them with a mallet, and scrape that off, drop it into the soup.
10:02 - It’ll rehydrate, and the starch in it acts as a thickener.
10:06 - So, they’re wonderful plants, very useful and beautiful as well.
10:14 - One of the interesting things about lotus is that the leaves are hydrophobic.
10:19 - You can see when you put the water on there, they just roll up in a ball and go straight off.
10:25 - It has to do with the way that the top layer of cells is laid down on the leaf.
10:31 - And they’re doing a lot of research with this right now to possibly use that technique in window glazing on high-rise buildings so that you can just spray it.
10:43 - When every time it rains, the water will catch the dust and roll it off.
10:48 - Also in paint for automobiles, so that they basically will wash themselves.
10:55 - This one you can tell is a first day flower.
10:58 - It opened up. It’s ready to be fertilized today for the first time.
11:04 - Because if you look at the little tips on the carpels, they are still yellow.
11:09 - Once they’ve been fertilized by an insect, they turn black almost immediately.
11:13 - The petals will fall off of the seed pods. And then those sea pods will begin to grow and enlarge.
11:21 - Takes them a couple of weeks to do that and get full and mature.
11:24 - When they’re immature, the seeds are green and they fit tightly into the seed pods.
11:30 - Once the seeds are ripe, the seed pod begins to dry out.
11:34 - And when it dries out, the extra space around the seed will allow it to tilt and fall out.
11:39 - The size of the seed of the seed pod is cultivar-dependent.
11:45 - This is obviously a large lotus. This by the way, is an American lotus, Perry’s Giant Sunburst.
11:52 - And these seeds will get to be about the size of a small, a very small plum.
12:03 - Other seeds will stay the size of about the size of a pea.
12:10 - Okay, we’re gonna walk down a row. This is our pad of large lotus, which means when these lotus mature, they will be over four feet tall.
12:20 - Sometimes you can miniaturize them by putting them in a smaller pot.
12:25 - Hopefully the pots that we have them in will allow them to get a little bit closer to their regular size.
12:33 - You can see that this flower is already up around five feet tall.
12:37 - But we should see the leaves get taller and everything.
12:41 - This is an American lotus. This is Perry’s Giant Sunburst.
12:44 - It’s one of our absolute best sellers. So we have, we grow a lot of it.
12:49 - As we move down the pad, we’re gonna move into a more of a mixed section of lotus.
12:56 - You can see this is a lotus that is supposed to be a large lotus.
13:01 - If you grow it in a earth-bottom pond, it will be more than four feet tall.
13:06 - But this row of lotus right here is not gonna get that tall because we basically miniaturized it by putting into the pot and it can’t run.
13:16 - But that’s really good for us. We like to have our tubers in controlled sizes so that they’re easier to go into a box to ship.
13:23 - As we move down the line here, these are Chinese lotus, these beautiful pink lotus.
13:30 - This is Ju Zi, as a great blooming lotus. They were planted a little late.
13:37 - And this lotus is Ms. Perry D. Slocum, another American lotus.
13:42 - This is called a changeable because it will grow one color, and then it will be, as each day when the flowers open, it changes from pink to yellow with pink tips to pure yellow or very light yellow.
14:00 - This is a pad of mixed lotus. There’s four pots in a row.
14:06 - Every single pot has an identifying name so that when we harvest later, we know what was in the pot.
14:13 - And on this particular pad, which used to be a hoop house obviously, on this particular pad, there’s probably 200 different varieties of lotus depending.
14:26 - And you’ll see a lot of them are blooming. So we’ll walk down.
14:33 - These are a variety of sizes. And what you’ll see is if it’s a smaller variety, put it on the outside.
14:45 - There’s a walk path here that allows it to get more sun.
14:49 - I put the taller ones in the middle so that the sun is, they have, can equally get sun.
15:00 - Here’s what the pots look like before they are planted.
15:04 - These are when you come out here, when we’re just beginning to plant, every single pot looks like this.
15:12 - We just use sandy loam or top soil in the pot.
15:16 - We put a slow release fertilizer in the pot and then plant.
15:22 - And we kind of grow a little bit different than a lot of people would grow.
15:28 - Our purpose is to end up with a large production of tubers.
15:33 - So once we get our plants big and healthy, when we get toward the end of the season, we begin to withdraw the fertilizer.
15:43 - We don’t keep adding fertilizer. That way the plant gets hungry, kicks itself into tuber producing mode.
15:49 - So that, because our purpose is to harvest a lot of tubers out of the bottom.
15:55 - And so, as you can see, as you go down, there’s all different kinds.
15:59 - This lotus is known as a single-petal lotus, or few-petaled lotus.
16:05 - A lotus with less than 25 petals is classed as a single-petal lotus.
16:14 - A lotus with more than 25 petals is classed as a multi-petal or double lotus flower.
16:25 - And so, you sell them based on their size, their color, and their flower type.
16:35 - You can see over on those pretty light pink ones, those are called Pretty Flower.
16:41 - They’ve got probably three to 400 petals, definitely a double-petal.
16:48 - We do have some on the property though, that we’ll end up with more than 1,000 petals on the same flower.
16:56 - And those are highly sought, usually on very large lotus, because it takes a lot of nutrition to feed a flower bud and a flower that big and heavy.
17:08 - It’s one of my favorites. And you can see this, this flower is about half the size of my hand.
17:15 - This is Dreamland of Taoling. Dreamland of Taoling on a mature plant, the flower will be about 10 inches across.
17:24 - It will be probably almost triple this size.
17:30 - They have wonderful names because most of them you’re having to translate from a different language into English.
17:38 - This one, his name is called Golden Horse in Jade Palace because the petals are like golden and the center is green like jade.
17:49 - This trough is organic. We use only approved chemicals in this whole trough so that when I need seed lotus for my pond, I have organic tubers to put in them.
18:04 - This pad, this is kind of the newest craze in lotus, is very small lotus that you can easily grow in a pot about eight inches wide, six to seven inches tall, and sit it on a table on your patio or your back porch.
18:25 - And they stay very small. So, when the large tubers come out of the ground, the large varieties, the tubers may, the internodes may be eight to 10 inches long, sometimes longer, but they can get very heavy, very round.
18:45 - They look like sausages in a line with the leaf tips growing out at each node.
18:52 - However, on these little bitty miniature lotus, the tubers may be just a few inches long.
19:00 - Makes them very easy to ship because they are so very small.
19:06 - However, they’re extremely good growers. They usually put them in the pot, give them a little bit of fertilizer and just get out of the way, and they’ll grow very well.
19:18 - This pad is a mixture of medium lotus and small lotus.
19:24 - Again, these are basically, if they’re less than two feet tall, they’re considered small.
19:31 - If they’re less than 18 inches tall, they’re considered a bowl lotus.
19:35 - They’ve already been through their first round of blooms, and we need to remove the spent leaves and the old sea pods.
19:45 - And then you’ll get a fresh blush of leaves and flowers.
19:51 - They’ll do that periodically throughout the summer.
19:54 - All of our nursery lotus are on an irrigation system, a timed irrigation system.
20:03 - That irrigation system generally delivers either two gallons an hour, or it will deliver a half gallon an hour.
20:14 - Some of these smaller pots are on a half gallon emitter, but if you pull, if you look at them, when you pull them up, there is a general, a line, water hose running down the middle.
20:29 - Each of them has its own spaghetti tube and the emitter, the type of emitter that is on here that’s connected will determine how much water is released.
20:44 - During the early parts of the summer, when it’s cool and rainy like it has been most of this spring.
20:52 - You set it, it runs maybe two to three times a week.
20:57 - In the hot part of the summer and August, it may run every day for a half, each system runs for half an hour.
21:06 - There’re probably 15 different systems are, well, some of them are run off the same master panel, but they run independently depending on the size of the pot and how much water needs to go in them.
21:24 - One of the things that we do here at Ten Mile Creek Nursery is we produce biomass for a chemical company.
21:31 - And they’re used in different types of skin products and other chemical solutions.
21:36 - All of these lotus are grown in earth-bottom ponds.
21:40 - And we were blessed by the fact that all of our property used to be tilapia and catfish ponds.
21:47 - Therefore, all of our smaller ponds are individually plumbed.
21:53 - You can add water or drain water at will, which is pretty much necessary to be efficient at what we’re doing.
22:02 - We have 17 different ponds scattered over in three different positions in the nursery.
22:09 - We call these the payout ponds because these ponds were originally intended to be places where people could come and pay and fish for catfish.
22:20 - And now we’ve got them filled with lotus. Each year, these are harvested during the very hot part of the summer.
22:28 - We harvest once in mid to about the third week of July.
22:36 - And literally we drain the pond. We send about 20 people in to pick, they’re picked by hand, and then they are processed within an hour of when they’ve been picked.
22:50 - We take them directly to the processing truck where they are processed, and within a couple of hours, they’re already in cold storage going in to be frozen.
23:02 - That product is, they harvested a lot last year.
23:09 - And we’re one of the businesses been heavily impacted by COVID because they have such a stockpile of the product from last year that they’re not even gonna harvest this year.
23:23 - So what we’re looking at now is a pond of lotus that has not had any further fertilizer applied to it this year.
23:32 - So the leaves are much smaller than normal and the volume in the pond is much smaller than normal.
23:41 - You can harvest in mid-July when the weather is nice and hot and with an application of fertilizer after it’s cut the first time, fill the pond back up.
23:53 - And by the third week in August, you’re ready to harvest again.
23:57 - That’s how fast they grow in the hot part of the summer.
24:01 - We generally do two harvest each summer. All of these, once again, are certified organic.
24:09 - So we’re inspected every year. We test the water, test the soil, and we only have specified chemicals that we can use in our organic ponds.
24:24 - We were really blessed here at Ten Mile Creek Nursery because our whole lotus farm was an offshoot of the Auburn University Lotus Project, where they did research on dual cropping, lotus edible, lotus tubers in catfish ponds along the Black Belt.
24:49 - They thought that that would be a good second money crop for fish farmers.
24:54 - However, once again, we were, it was a prohibitive project in the United States because of the cost of labor to get the tubers out.
25:05 - However, that morphed into growing ornamental lotus.
25:11 - And when the Auburn University Lotus Project closed, we were the recipient of 25 or different, or 30 different cultivars of lotus because they were gonna be thrown away.
25:23 - And that’s how we went into the lotus business.
25:26 - There are very few lotus farmers in the United States.
25:30 - It’s a very small market compared to other types of farming.
25:36 - But we have been blessed by using the extension services and the expertise that they provide in soil testing, and water testing, and identifying strange pest for us.
25:53 - And then they have, whenever we have something, a strange project comes up, I call my extension service agent, and he helps me dream up ways to either farm it or harvest it because it is something that’s totally new.
26:13 - (gentle music).