Farm Beginnings Instructors
Aardvark Farm – Rhett Murphy and Katherine Skellye- Watts
Rhett Murphy began farming in western NC in 2006, eventually moving to the present property and starting Aardvark Farm in 2010 with Kathryn Skelley-Watts. Our farm is situated on the Cane River in Yancey County. We manage about 4 acres of mixed vegetables and 1.5 acres of blueberries. We sell our produce at 3 weekly farmer’s markets and operate a 60 member CSA program, as well as maintaining restaurant and wholesale accounts. We grow a diverse mix of veggies, using only natural, organic practices (not certified) with an emphasis on cover cropping and a 10+ year crop rotation. Our practices are always evolving to meet the demands of an ever changing market and because we are still trying to figure this thing out.
Against the Grain – Holly Whitesides
Holly Whitesides owns and operates Against the Grain in Zionville, NC with her husband, Andy Bryant and 2-year old daughter, Beatrice. ATG was founded in 2012 and is a 35 acre diversified, direct market farm that located 15 minutes from downtown Boone. In the spring of 2013, ATG began practicing Biodynamic farming, and became certified under Demeter, Int. in the spring of 2016. Approximately 2 1/2 acres of certified Biodynamic and Organic vegetables are grown on the farm, in addition to a hand full of seed crops. The farm also produces Animal Welfare Approved, pastured chicken, turkey, pork, beef and goat on the remaining pastures and woodlands. The focus at ATG is to nurture the soil in order to grow high quality, nutritious food for our local community.
Sara Jane and Jamie started A Way of Life Farm in 2009 and have since added two boys, Alder and William to the scene. We grow vegetables, strawberries and pasture-raised pork for sale. This commercial production fits within a broader permaculture design that also includes the development of fruit and nut orchards and mushroom production. In addition, we have perennials including blueberries, blackberries, and a wide array of home-use fruit trees, as well as bees. A combination of sustainable practices including bio-intensive raised beds, cover cropping, Kinsey-Albrecht method, keyline plowing, Holistic Management, and permaculture design are used throughout our land. About 90% of our time is spent growing vegetables. We start our own vegetable transplants from seed and propagate perennials in a permanent greenhouse. Over 30 types of vegetables and herbs are grown primarily outdoors in raised beds. We also grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and winter greens in a large hoophouse and other veggies in low-tech, movable “caterpillar tunnels”. A tractor is used for initial bed preparation, but most of our work- planting, weeding, harvesting- is done with hand tools. We both work full time on the farm, selling our products through farmers’ markets, CSAs, restaurants, and wholesale.
Balsam Gardens – Steven Beltram & Becca Nestler
Balsam gardens is an urban farm in Asheville, NC. In the 2015 season we produced 12 acres of certified organic produce, several thousand broiler chickens, 250 thanksgiving turkeys, 10 pigs and managed 450 laying hens on two properties within the city limits. We wholesale all of our products at this time. We started our farm in 2007 in Sylva, NC on a 1/16 acre market garden that we sold at the Jackson County Farmers Market. We moved our farm to its current locations in the winter of 2014-2015.
Beacon Village Farm is family-owned and operated by Mike and Danielle Hutchison. Equipped with more than a decade of agricultural experience and education, the pair has been growing produce for the local community in the historic Beacon Village, located in Swannanoa, NC, since 2012. Mike and Danielle are dedicated to growing high-quality annual vegetables, while cultivating a viable farm operation where the couple is able to teach their son Coen to grow, learn and live sustainably. By participating in the New Sprout Network Grower program which sells organic produce to regional wholesale markets, Beacon Village Farm was able to expand from one sustainably grown acre in production in 2014 to fifteen certified organic acres of production in 2015!
Bluebird Farm – William Lyons and Marie Williamson
William Lyons owns and operates Bluebird Farm with his wife, Marie, in Morganton, NC. Bluebird Farm produces vegetables using organic methods. Pork, chicken, beef and lamb are all rotationally grazed and fed certified organic feed. Their passion is feeding folks wholesome foods and managing a healthy farm ecosystem. Marie and William have been using holistic goals and financial planning to make Bluebird Farm provide full-time compensation for both of them for their full-time work. They continue to refine record keeping processes, management styles, and decision making tools to work toward a farm that is truly economically sustainable, properly compensating labor, paying for land, and providing long term stability. They met at Warren Wilson College, where William worked in the organic garden and Marie worked with pastured sows and hogs. After studying biology, ecology, and sustainable agriculture and gaining experience on farms around the United States and in Europe, Marie and William returned home to Western North Carolina in 2009 and started Bluebird Farm.
Fiddler’s Green Farm – Ryan Clark
Ryan owns and operates Fiddler’s Green Farm. After attending culinary school in Rhode Island, Ryan realized that his love for food was based more in where the food comes from and how it’s grown than who’s cooking and eating it. After this realization he jumped head first into sustainable agriculture, working on as many farms as he could and learning all he could for many years.
A desire to see the southern Appalachians, and a management position opportunity at Ivy Creek Family Farm in Barnardsville brought him to the Asheville area in 2012. In 2014 he found and purchased the land that is now Fiddler’s Green Farm and, with the support of friends and family, has turned it into a thriving meat and vegetable farm, doing direct market sales, CSA and wholesale. At Fiddler’s Green Farm we grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, poultry and pork using sustainable methods and without chemical pesticides or fertilizer. All our seed and all our feed is certified non GMO.
The farm’s name is inspired by the name of the stage coach that traveled Drover’s road (route 74A) in the mid-1800′s. The Flying Cloud made a stop at historic Sherill’s Inn, which was purchased in 1916 by Annie Louise’s great-grandparents, Jim and Elizabeth McClure, and named Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Many members of the 5 generations of the McClure/Clarke family live nearby and work in the area on all sorts of projects.We started our farming operation in 1999 planting blueberry bushes and growing a 1/2 acre of produce. By 2002 we started our CSA and were accepted into three markets in the Asheville area. We gradually rented more land from family and neighbors, added the necessary infrastructure to grow and prepare produce and flowers, extended the growing seasons, and made the farm our full time profession. We continue to learn and try new things every year as we evolve in the pursuit of our passions. All produce grown on the farm is sold directly to at farmers markets, through our 100 member CSA, to restaurants and at our self-service roadside stand.
Cedar and Ben have been involved in organic agriculture for 10 years or so. While Cedar did some gardening in her youth here in Celo, Ben grew up in Chicago and was first introduced to plants when he met Cedar. Cedar pursued a degree in botany, soil science and agro-ecology, and pointed Ben in the direction of a farm internship in Wisconsin. Eventually they started farm on their own in Montgomery County, Maryland and learned that they could really do this, just not there. They moved to Celo, built a house, started a family, and in 2009 they started Goldfinch Gardens at the base of Mt. Mitchell. They grow a variety of vegetables and flowers, and also raise a flock of Kathadin sheep for meat. In addition to online sales, their produce can be found at regional restaurants. Their mission is to produce gourmet, premium quality food in a sustaining work environment, and they strive to create an agricultural ecosystem that is beneficial to the soils and life around them, using low-impact methods to bring healthy food to market year round. The goal is a farm organism that balances the needs of our community, our family, our business and the land we steward.
Andrea began her farming career in western N.C. working for several long-time organic farmers in the region. After 3 years of working on other farms, she began her own 2 acre vegetable operation on leased land. This was her full time work, along with contract work in farmer support programs at Organic Growers School. In 2015, after a 5 year search for farmland, Andrea and her husband found and purchased a 25 acre farm with the help of a USDA – FSA loan. With this move they shifted their focus from vegetables to dairy sheep. Sheep dairying is a common practice in Europe and on the west coast of the U.S. but their farm will be the first commercial sheep dairy in North Carolina when the dairy is up and running in 2017. Andrea also holds a Masters in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from UW-Madison and teaches online environmental science courses for Ashford University.
Laura Lengnick has explored agriculture and food system sustainability and resilience through more than 30 years of work as a researcher, policy-maker, educator and farmer. Her work in soil quality and sustainable farming systems was nationally-recognized with a USDA Secretary’s Honor award in 2002 and she contributed to the 3rd National Climate Assessment as a lead author of the 2012 USDA report Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Effects and Adaptation. After more than a decade leading the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College, Laura left the college in 2015 to create Cultivating Resilience, LLC a private firm offering climate resilience planning services. She is an affiliated researcher with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Local Food Research Center and a climate resilience planning consultant with Fernleaf Solutions, both located in Asheville, NC. Her new book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate was released in May 2015 by New Society Publishers.
Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy – Chris Link
Chris Link manages the operations on the trusts Community Farm. He works on building and sustaining the infrastructure, farmer education workshops, and the Beginning Farmer Incubator Program. Chris holds a degree in Planning & Landscape Architecture from Clemson University and a PDC from The Permaculture Institute. Previously, Chris farmed on a year-round CSA community land trust farm in New England, and then most recently on a small, bio-intensive farm in Bostic, N.C. Both farms practiced organic methods and incorporated a variety of rotational livestock. Chris chose to learn at these specific farms because they demonstrate a symbiotic, productive relationship he sees as the future of sustainable land management, serving both the environment and the community.
We are a ten acre family farm in Leicester, North Carolina. founded in 1987. Since then we have grown certified organic produce as well as ornamentals, mushrooms, and Christmas trees. Karen, Liz and Tom operate the farm with the help of a small crew of farm apprentices. We grow about thirty varieties of seasonal produce. A main focus is early season tomatoes and greens. We sell at regional tailgate markets in addition to doing some wholesale. Tom Elmore is on the board of the Organic Growers School and a member of the CRAFT network of farmers.
Shiloh Avery and Jason Roehrig farm at Tumbling Shoals Farm in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Tumbling Shoals Farm is a certified organic vegetable and fruit operation with about four acres in production. Tumbling Shoals sells produce through an 80 family CSA, at the Watauga County Farmers Market, at the Downtown Hickory Farmers Market, through a multi-farm CSA, and to a few restaurant and grocery clients. Shiloh has been employed full-time on the farm since 2008 and Jason since 2010. The farm also now employs a crew of six seasonal workers. Shiloh and Jason moved to Wilkes County from Pittsboro, North Carolina where Shiloh attended Central Carolina Community College Sustainable Agriculture program and Jason was a program director at RAFI-USA—an agricultural non-profit. The two of them strive to practice sustainable farming, including being good environmental stewards, economically successful, and ensuring a good work environment for themselves and their employees.
WNC Farm Link – Suzanna Denison
Suzanna Denison is the land access coordinator for WNC FarmLink. She has been family farming all of her life, from growing up on a conventional turned organic vegetable farm on 150 acres in mid-Coast Maine, to currently working on a fourth generation cow-calf operation in the Big Sandy Mush community of western North Carolina. Suzanna’s background in variety of different farming practices has given her a realistic approach to farming, and encouraged her to believe that there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ farmers or farming, if it is in the service of either one’s family, community or region in the world.
Mountain Bizworks – Kimberly Hunter, Entrepreneurship Program Manager
Kimberly is a writer, speaker, and small business owner dedicated to developing the next four generations of entrepreneurs. She brings 25 years of business acumen and multiple sector experience and is a well-respected educator, strategist, and consultant to hundreds of leaders in WNC and the US. Kimberly enjoys various aspects of agriculture, including: field crops, livestock, weaving, sewing and writing.
Cameron Farlow is the OGS Farmer Programs Director. She grew up in Greensboro, NC with dairy farming in her blood, and has made her home in Western North Carolina. After earning her undergraduate degrees from UNC – Chapel Hill in Anthropology and Geography in 2006, Cameron dove headfirst into the realm of sustainable agriculture and local food systems, and later completed her Master’s Degree in Appalachian Studies and Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University in May 2011. Gaining as much experience as she could she worked with several other regional nonprofits in the realms of farmland preservation, food security, farm to university, and land access for farmers. She came on board with OGS in April 2012. When she isn’t visiting farms all around this end of the state as Farmer Programs coordinator you can usually find her digging in her garden or adventuring alongside her husband Walker, the farm manager at Hickory Nut Gap Farm.
Nicole DelCogliano is the OGS Farmer Programs Coordinator. She and her husband Gaelan began their farm Green Toe Groun, a diversified organic farm in Celo, NC over 14 years ago. They’ve grown the farm over the years, and now manage 16 acres of diversified organic and biodynamic produce and livestock, train farm apprentices each year, and raise their two girls. Originally from NY, she has farmed and worked in education in NC for the last 20 years. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from State University at New Paltz in New York, and has a Masters in Sustainability from the Center for Appalachian Studies in Boone, NC.