919 Marketing

Tobacco to Truffles: Revolutionizing the Southeast's Farm Economy One Woman’s Passion to Turn a Fungus into a Fortune

Can NC Tobacco Country Become Truffle Country?


Pinehurst, NC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/07/2008 -- A North Carolina businesswoman’s new company is investing millions to transform 200 acres of farmland into the largest black diamond truffle orchard in America. The decadently delicious fungi are prized by top international chefs and are one of the most expensive foods in the world. The crop is expected to yield nearly $40,000 per acre, more than ten times the market value of tobacco.

Susan Rice, founder of Black Diamond French Truffles Inc. (BDFT), is the newest of only a few truffle cultivators in the United States. The company is staking nearly $25 million on her vision to reinvent North Carolina as the Napa Valley equivalent of truffle cultivation. "Napa is to wine, as North Carolina can be to truffles," said Rice. "We are growing a rare gem in these fields. This crop could replace tobacco and single-handedly revitalize our farming industry."

Gourmet chefs around the world are devoted to and fascinated with these warty, roughish black delicacies. These fabulous fungi have an intense fragrance that will overwhelm you and can add a delicious touch to any food. Pound for pound, they cost more than gold. Restaurants pay more than $800 a pound. TV Star Martha Stewart recently visited the Tar Heel state to feature North Carolina truffles on her nationally syndicated TV show, The Martha Stewart Show. She spoke of how the Ancient Greeks and Romans were very fond of black truffles and used them as a delicacy in special meals and for various therapeutic and aphrodisiac purposes.

Black Perigord truffles are indigenous to southern France and are in high demand as their harvests shrink due to suburban sprawl. North Carolina has a similar climate and soil and is one of the few places in the world that can cultivate this rare crop. Truffles are often incorrectly labeled as mushrooms. Both mushrooms and truffles are types of fungus but truffles belong to the genus Tuber and grow entirely below the ground. The black truffle grows in a symbiotic relationship with oak and hazel nut trees, with the host tree giving sugar to the truffle, while the truffle provides mineral salts to the tree. The truffles form in the topsoil and are harvested using specially trained dogs that dig them up from underground in the winter months of December through mid March.

Rice has put together a team of experts to lead the development process at her Black Perigord plantation located near the legendary Pinehurst golf course, home to the U.S. Open. Rice is currently working with some of the first pioneers of US truffle farming, including farmers, ecologists and chefs. The company’s team includes: Business Developer Charles Warren, an investment and financial analyst who’s worked in the financial and the commodities markets; Corey Rice who has a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University; Advisor George Little, the 2004 NC Gubernatorial candidate and Attorney Mark Mirkin who specializes in the law of entrepreneurship.

Black Diamond French Truffles will grow, harvest, package and sell truffles to wholesale and retail customers around the world. The company will also brand its truffles through sales and marketing to retail customers. BDFT will support local farmers as they establish truffle farms of their own.

About Black Diamond French Truffles:
Serial entrepreneur Susan Rice founded Black Diamond French Truffles Inc. in 2007 on farmland in Vass, North Carolina, in Moore County near Southern Pines and Pinehurst. This area is located on 280 acres of prime farmland. The truffie`re will be 200 acres developed over a period of two years. This truffle orchard is set to be the largest in the United States. The company will grow, harvest, package and sell truffles to wholesale markets and to retail customers. For more information, please visit http://www.bdft.com