CRAFT Farm Tour Recap with Herb Farm, Our Friendly Allies
by Stephanie Vinat
Tucked away in the winding roads and mountains of Marshall is Our Friendly Allies – a certified organic herb farm run by the wonderful and warm Kelsey Green. Our CRAFT Tour members were greeted by Kelsey, her husband Tommy, and the menagerie of happy animals living on the farm.
Kelsey has been farming for 7 years in Marshall and is a first-generation farmer. She shared a story with us about the first time a plant reached out to her – she recalled being 6 years old and playing near a patch of daffodils. She remembered feeling as though those flowers belonged there and shouldn’t be picked. Kelsey carries this memory forward to today and tunes into that intuition and respect for plants through her work at Our Friendly Allies.
A passion for plants
Our Friendly Allies specializes in herbs but also grows vegetables, which she sells at the Asheville Herb Festival and retail locations around Madison County like Madison Natural Foods. All of their herb and vegetable plants start in one of the greenhouses on the farm, which is where we spent a lot of time during our tour. There are three climate-controlled greenhouses standing side-by-side, the largest measuring 20 x 48 feet housed all the herbs for the fields, and the other two measuring 20 x 20 feet, housing the herb and vegetable plants that will be offered for sale. Kelsey graciously shared several details about each greenhouse including her experience with grant funding. Two of the three greenhouses at Our Friendly Allies were funded through WNC AgOptions and well water funded by AgWell.
Record keeping is key
In addition to planning and funding for each greenhouse, we also learned about her greenhouse fertilizing, watering, and pest management practices. Watering overhead twice per day (three times per day during the summer), using a compost tea with microorganisms once per week, and applying Doctor Zymes for aphid control. All of the inputs used at Our Friendly Allies are OMRI Listed and in compliance with organic standards. Kelsey spent time showing us these inputs and answered questions from the group. She emphasized the importance of timing and recordkeeping in all her operations. Her 7 years of record-keeping have helped her to crop plan, determine pricing, write grant proposals, and schedule seeding. We briefly discussed her field practices including cover crops (winter rye and Austrian peas) in the Fall, plowing around the equinox, rotavating before planting, and planting the first week of May.
The tour concluded with a visit to her drying shed and the future processing house – where she will be able to dry up to 30,000 pounds of herbs! The processing facility, still in progress, has also received funding through WNC AgOptions.
- During the tour Kelsey shared several recommendations:
- Greenhouse Megastore for propane heaters and fans
- Nolt’s Greenhouse Supplies for greenhouse kits and plastic
- Johnny’s and Strictly Medicinal Seeds for seeds – order seeds in Oct/Nov for the following year.
- E-Z Root Rooting Compound for plant propagation
- EM1 Microorganisms for compost tea without brewing – probiotics for plants and soil!
- The Amazing Doctor Zymes Eliminator for aphid control
- Harmony Ag Organic fertilizer
Join us next time!
We had a great time touring Our Friendly Allies and learning about how Kelsey grows, harvests, processes, and packs all of her herbs on the farm. We deeply appreciate Kelsey and Our Friendly Allies for kicking off the CRAFT Farm Tour Season!
Thank you for joining us! If you’re curious about the WNC CRAFT Tours and CRAFT Membership, visit our website to become a member and attend future tours!
Author: Julie Douglas
Julie is the Marketing & Communications Associate. She is the owner and Clinical herbalist at Wildkrafted Kitchen, a holistic healthcare company in Asheville, NC. Julie is a medicinal herb grower, ethical wildcrafter, educator, and formulator of internal and external medicines. After graduating with an AA focusing on Photography and Ceramic art, Julie went on to pursue their passion for sustainable small-scale agriculture in Washington state where she apprenticed on various organic farms. After discovering their affinity for medicinal herbs, they moved to Asheville to study Holistic Herbalism at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. Julie’s main goals are to make alternative healthcare accessible to marginalized communities, decolonizing herbal medicine, and be part of mutual aid networks which strengthen and empower the community.