Instructors

Farmer Panelists

Duron Chavis

Duron Chavis

Duron Chavis is the founder of Happily Natural Day; a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to holistic health, culture and social change. For over a decade, Chavis has utilized urban agriculture as a strategy for building community agency and ownership in marginalized communities. Whether the transformation of vacant lots or the revitalization of unused municipal buildings; Chavis uses local food as a tool to build racial equity, climate & food justice and community resiliency.

Gretchen Ferrell

Gretchen Ferrell

Open Ridge Farm

Open Ridge Farmis husband and wife team, Jonathan ("Jona") Felts and Gretchen Ferrell, with day labor and entertainment provided by our 10-year-old, Opal. Our farm is 3.5 acres along Rock Creek, watershed of Mt. Mitchell, in the South Toe Area of Yancey County. 

We have both been involved in permaculture and local food activism and education since before we joined forces in Costa Rica in 2003. Together, we started and ran a non-profit in Gretchen's hometown in Florida, including the community's first farmer's market and community garden.

We moved to NC in 2012, and began selling annual veggies at market in 2013. Since that time, our farming techniques have evolved into our current no-till practices, through a process of continual learning and adapting. 

Gretchen served as Secretary for the Dig In! Community Garden Board of Directors, and Jona serves as Vice President for the Yancey County Farmers Market Board. Together, we also coordinate the school garden at South Toe Elementary.

Facilitators

Merlon Harper

Merlon Harper

Merlon Harper is a farmer who operates Deer Creek Farm, a small family-owned blueberry farm located in Covington, GA. She left the corporate world to become a full-time farmer in honor of her father and grandfather who were both cotton farmers from the Mississippi Delta. She is inspired to produce the highest quality blueberries and vegetables possible for her community.

She is a member of Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), where farmers produce clean crops without the use of synthetic chemicals or GMOs. Deer Creek Farm is also a member of the Community Farm’s Market, which supports organic farmers who provide fresh produce to local communities. 

Merlon is proud of the unique appeal of Deer Creek farm, it offers visitors a self-picking experience of over 12 different cultivars from the Rabbiteye blueberry variety. Over the years Deer Creek Farm has developed several value-added products made from the blueberries picked on the farm. Merlon fostered a relationship with Kroger, offering organic blueberries on their Kroger digital farmer’s market platform. The overall vision is to continue to grow and offer new and unique produce and experiences.

Meghan Baker

Meghan Baker

Meghan Baker is a horticultural professional based in Asheville.  She currently serves as the Small Farms Extension Agent in Buncombe County for the NC Cooperative Extension Service. As an outreach educator and technical consultant, she helps farmers navigate  production and business challenges with crops ranging from vegetables to herbs to forest products.  An avid naturalist and outdoor enthusiast, Meghan also holds certifications as a North Carolina Environmental Educator, a Southern Appalachian Naturalist and an Interpretive Guide. A native of Western North Carolina, Meghan is deeply committed to sustaining the agricultural heritage and productive lands in the region.

For questions, please contact our Director of Programs & Human Resources, Nicole DelCogliano, at nicole@organicgrowersschool.org

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