Red Scout Farm is a beautiful secret garden nestled among the trees in Black Mountain, NC.
Mary Carroll and Griffin Dodd, the farm owners, started by planting cover crop in March after their completion of the Farm Beginnings course on their then-fallow plot of family land. Motivated by wanting to feed their growing family great food, Mary Carroll and Griffin participated in the Farm Beginnings program with no prior farming experience. “We relied heavily on the farmer mentors we established relationships with during Farm Beginnings, asking them for equipment recommendations when we were first starting out, as well as using their experience as a framework for understanding the realistic side of what starting our own farm would look like. Thanks to Farm Beginnings, we felt prepared to dive into the world of farming, and are not surprised with what we’ve experienced in our first year.”
Red Scout is truly a neighborhood operation, distributing their goods to a small CSA consisting mostly of their neighbors and selling to a few restaurants. “The realistic side of farming was clearly communicated through Farm Beginnings. From the program, we knew not to expect to make money the first few years, so we made sure we were able to make a significant time commitment to cultivation without relying on the farm financially.” Mary Carroll, one half of the Red Scout team is a yoga instructor at Black Mountain Yoga, and she and her partner, Griffin, a teacher at AB Tech, are balancing their work and farm lives while also raising a child in the area. Being an active part of the Black Mountain community has helped with their market sales at the Black Mountain Farmers Market; they’re the only farm located in Black Mountain selling there, and their community shows up to support.
Because of taking time to ease into the farming world, Red Scout is comfortably in experimentation phase; their acre lot is teeming with countless varieties of each vegetable they’re growing. The purpose of these variety trials is to get to know their pallets, as well as their land. “Learning our land requires planting out of different things to see what works,” Mary Carroll acknowledges as she gestures to her sloped field. With the exception of the four varieties of okra suggested by a local chef, “we’re focusing on vegetables that we like to eat.”
The Farm Beginnings Collaborative is a national alliance of independent regional groups of farmers and farmer-training support organizations working together to promote a community-based farmer training model, rooted in sustainable principles, and farmer led. The Organic Growers School joined the Farm Beginnings Collaborative in 2015, offering the first session this past winter, boasting 20 Farm Beginnings graduates. The program is designed around 60 hours of business training classes and 45 hours of production training. Our region boasts many benefits for those interested in starting a small farming operation, which Mary Carroll, as a new member of this community, is quick to point out; “We’re lucky to live in an area with resources such as Organic Growers School, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, and the CRAFT Network. We feel very supported by the resources all of these organizations provide to new farmers,”
Farm Beginnings taps into these local resources as well. Tuition covers admission to both the OGS Spring and Harvest Conferences’, the ASAP Business of Farming Conference, and a year-long membership in the CRAFT Network. Partial scholarships are available, as well, to offset tuition costs.
Author: Sera Deva
Sera Deva has a B.S. in Microbiology & Agroecology from The Evergreen State College. She works with OGS as the Farmer Programs Associate and Conference Curriculum Coordinator, serves on the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Board of Directors, and is the Administrative Director for The Firefly Gathering. When she’s not geeking out over genetics, systems theory or soil hydrology, she spends her time growing and eating food in the South Toe Valley in Burnsville, NC.