Thatchmore Farm is nestled in the mountains in Leicester, NC, with enough flat land for only one acre of intensive annual vegetable cultivation. Because the rest of the farm is on sloped acreage, the rest of the enterprise is focused on perennial fruits and ornamentals. Heated greenhouses and landscape fabric protect the land dedicated to vegetables. Thatchmore is famous for their early-season tomatoes and season extension practices. We visited Thatchmore for a May CRAFT tour dedicated to Intensive Vegetables & Alternative Energy. Thatchmore has welcomed home daughter Liz as the new Farm Manager. She graciously hosted the tour this year.
What makes Thatchmore’s operation stand out is their clear dedication to alternative energy models. Wherever you turn, they have an alternative to the traditional fossil-fuel consuming equipment. And, diminishing your dependence on electric is the first step towards energy independence! Passive solar energy is the easiest way to get energy from the sun, and should be something you’re thinking about as you’re designing infrastructure on your farm. It’s often not expensive, and can be increased dramatically by altering basic placement of building elements.
Most of Thatchmore’s alternative energy tools are pretty basic and something you could easily use at home or a farm scale. But, finding an alternative energy solution that works for your land specifically is very important! And the only way to do that is with adequate research into all of your options. Tom suggested Homepower Magazine and Lehman’s as two resources to help you in your research. Solar energy is Thatchmore’s alternative energy of choice, and they use it in every way they can! From Hardy Lejeune solar water collectors to their solar, exhaust-free electric chain saw from Lowes (powered by a marine deep-cycle battery) and woodsplitters (Ramsplitter Log Splitters). With their minimal solar panel setup, they offset about 98% of the energy consumed on the farm.
Intensive Vegetables in the Greenhouse
Thatchmore has two heated greenhouses, one heated by a cord wood furnace (that cost about $1,500) and one by a “Wood Master” Boiler (which heats water that is then pumped through the structure.) The boiler is powered by ‘pellets’ that are purchased off the farm. The boiler was a demonstration project through the WNC energyCAP program.They periodically have weatherization grants available for farmers. This machine cost about $5,500.
Thatchmore has had difficulty with their heated greenhouses and propagation house (built by Conley Greenhouses) caving in due to snowpack weight. Large round posts through the middle of the structures support the infrastructure, to help take the load off in the dead of winter. Investing in cathedral vs. quonset hut style greenhouses has helped with that issue, as well as reinforcing their greenhouses with additional bracing.
As we walked across the farm we saw the variety of crops growing on the hillsides. Although they are too steep to till, they are good for fruit and perennials as long as you can still mow in between your rows. We saw the Hazelnuts, Hardy Kiwi, Goumi Berries, and their stand of Yaupon Hollies. Yaupon, or Ilex vomitoria, is native to the southeast and the only known indigenous caffeinated plant in North America. Because of this, Native American tribes used it as a caffeinated tea. Thatchmore Farm sells it as a dried, value-added product at the market. We also saw their small apple tree orchard, organic Christmas Trees, and mushroom logs. They are expanding their ginger propagation, which they began last year.
Thanks to Thatchmore for their continued support for OGS and for hosting CRAFT!
Now is the time to join CRAFT for 2017! WNC CRAFT is a year-round farmer training collaborative that offers farmers, farm workers and aspiring farmers networking and learning opportunities. For more information or to join, click here. Or contact Sera Deva, Farmer Programs Associate (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 Coordinator 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.