We love our AmeriCorps Project Conserve 2014 – 2015 crew!

(L to R) Andrea, Jesse, Caitlin, and Kana, our 2014-15 AmeriCorps crew

(L to R) Andrea, Jesse, Caitlin, and Kana, our 2014-15 AmeriCorps crew

Participants in AmeriCorps Project Conserve aren’t just looking for an internship. They commit to full-time 11-month service terms, contributing important skills to boost our capacity for conservation. This AmeriCorps program also provides unique opportunities to open doors for conservation careers. AmeriCorps LogoOver the years, SAHC has employed four AmeriCorps Project Conserve alumni in staff or contract positions.

AmeriCorps Land Protection & Education Associate

caitlinCaitlin Edenfield graduated from Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies with a BA in Landscape Architecture.  She was an intern at the Asheville Design Center, worked as a farm manager in Lewisville, NC, and was an AmeriCorps trail crew member in Vermont. She served as SAHC’s Americorps Land Protection Associate last year and is back again for a second term. In addition to serving SAHC through AmeriCorps, Caitlin is now pursuing her Master of Natural Resources degree from Virginia Tech.

AmeriCorps Conservation Education &  Volunteer Outreach Associate

Kana Miller is a recent graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY with a BA in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Intergroup Relations. A native of Atlanta, GA, Kana grew up hiking and camping in Western NC.  She is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Tucson, AZ and enjoys backpacking, canoeing, and climbing.

AmeriCorps Stewardship & Volunteer Associates

(L to R) Andrea, Kana, and Jesse at Grassy Ridge

(L to R) Andrea, Kana, and Jesse at Grassy Ridge

 

Jesse Wood earned her B.S. in Biology from Furman University in Greenville, SC in May 2014.  Her hometown is Pickens, SC, though she lived abroad the first half of her life and grew up outside Washington, D.C. in Arlington, VA. Her most recent research focused on the conservation of Brown-headed Nuthatch in the Upstate of South Carolina.  She hopes to continue conducting field research by pursuing a Masters degree in the discipline of conservation/wildlife biology or ecology in the future.

Originally from the Asheville area, Andrea Thompson graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies from Montreat College.  She is also returning for a second AmeriCorps Service year. Andrea has worked in invasive species management for Western North Carolina Alliance and as a stewardship intern with The Nature Conservancy in Indiana.

Celebrating AmeriCorps

Kana and Jesse help build trail stairs during a volunteer work day.

Kana and Jesse help build trail stairs during a volunteer work day.

“I want to express my gratitude to our AmeriCorps members and appreciation for the creative energy, work ethic and talent these individuals bring to SAHC. Their often behind-the-scenes involvement in volunteer recruitment, education and outreach, relationship building with landowners and community partners, engagement and capacity building is essential to SAHC’s conservation success. The commitment to service of SAHC’s AmeriCorps, and others representing Project Conserve in western North Carolina, is worth more than my praise alone. To our AmeriCorps – you are valuable members of our organization and I personally want to thank you for committing a year of your life to SAHC.”
- Sarah Sheeran, Stewardship Associate

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NPCA/Nature Valley Work Day

Around 33 volunteers offered services for the workday.

‘Thank you’ to the 33 volunteers offered services for the workday!

We hosted another successful volunteer workday in the Highlands of Roan, made possible by a generous grant from the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley. Funding from this partnership has helped us accomplish land stewardship projects over the past several years.

Organized by our AmeriCorps Project Conserve Stewardship Associates and Highlands of Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, 33 gracious volunteers gathered to get their hands dirty on our National Trails Tract.

Three teams worked on trail re-routing.

Three teams worked on trail re-routing.

 

After a brief introduction from Executive Director Carl Silverstein and Don Barger of the National Parks Conservation  Association, who manages the corporate relationship with Nature Valley, teams split up to hear safety talks and get to work on several critical projects on the property.

The main objectives of the workday centered around the vision for the tract to be used for hiking and camping enjoyment, and its capability of providing excellent habitat for the threatened Golden-winged Warbler.  One team of volunteers improved a scenic area near the property entrance, removing dilapidated and rotting structures to enhance the beauty of a picnic spot next to rushing Roaring Creek.

Trail improvements will help protect stream and habitat health as well.

Trail improvements will help protect stream and habitat health as well.

Also working to improve visitor accessibility to this gateway property, three teams of volunteers tackled a much-needed trail-rerouting.  The pre-existing trail loop, which leads to a breathtaking waterfall, contained gravel sections that were degraded and steep. The trail was unsustainable and eroding quickly.  With loppers and digging tools, the Nature Valley work crew re-routed a section of trail down a more gentle slope with a more sustainable tread.

Another team helped control some non-native, invasive plant species to enhance the quality of breeding habitat for Golden-winged Warblers. The beautiful sweeping meadows and mosaic of scrub and early successional habitat on the property naturally provide suitable habitat for these threatened neotropical migratory songbirds.

The crew enjoyed lunch in a meadow overlooking a scenic view of the surrounding landscape, including several other tracts that SAHC has helped to protect.  Trustee Jay Leutze highlighted major land protection efforts and successes in the area as everyone enjoyed the beautiful autumn weather.  Later, volunteers enjoyed hiking to the incredible waterfalls on the property to end a successful day.  It is our hope that visitors and Golden-winged Warblers alike benefit from the workday for years to come!

National Trails Tract

The aptly-named National Trails Tract is a gateway to the Roan area and central to an expanding network of conservation lands.  It is highly visible from the Appalachian Trail on Roan Mountain and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (which traces the route of patriot militia through VA, TN, NC & SC).  Because of the property’s connection to such important historic and scenic trails, its notable conservation values — pristine wild trout waters, bird habitat, and adjacency to Pisgah National Forest — it was identified as a high priority for conservation.  SAHC purchased the 113-acre property in 2008 to protect it from development and later transferred 73 acres to the state  of NC, retaining

40 acres for long-term management.

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New “View from the Highlands”/2014 Annual Report

Peruse our latest Annual Report/newsletter online with Issuu.

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Wild Hogs invade the Highlands of Roan

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Invasive wild boar, caught on candid wildlife camera.

Over the past year, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director, Marquette Crockett, has been talking to conservationists, wildlife agencies, landowners, and farmers about something deeply disturbing in the Highlands of Roan — the growing frequency of invasive wild hog damage.

“The hogs are causing noticeable damage to globally rare ecosystems, including grassy balds, and are spreading into private lands,”  said Marquette. “At our spring Roan Stewardship meeting, I was tasked with coordinating our efforts to learn more about these invasive animals and how we can control them.”

She’s been actively been coordinating with partners on a plan to address the problem, and has a lot of information to share (including  some tips about what to do if you come face to face with a bristly beast on the trail).

What is a feral hog?

The invasive wild boar are hybrids of escaped Russian wild boar.

The invasive wild hogs are hybrids of feral hogs and escaped Russian wild boar.

Let’s start with the basics – the word “feral” refers to a domesticated animal that has escaped and is surviving in the wild. Feral cats, dogs, pigs, and even donkeys are common, depending on what part of the globe you are in. So, when we refer to feral hogs, we are technically discussing domesticated animals that have escaped and are surviving in the wild.  There are records of this type of “feral hog” from Roan Mountain and other areas in North Carolina in the late 1800s.  However, it is important to understand that these are NOT the same hogs that we have today. The invasive hogs we are dealing with today are hybrids of feral hogs and Russian Boar.

According to the Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts at Mississippi State, Russian boar were introduced to Hooper Bald in western North Carolina as a game species in 1912 and moved from there to locations around the country for hunting.  Eventually, these hogs escaped from game farms and began to breed with escaped domestic hogs to create the hybrids we have today.  Recently, these invasive hogs have been introduced into new areas of the state by humans in an effort to establish populations of hogs for hunting. They have been documented around the Roan Highlands since 2009, but may have been there longer. These invasive hybrid hogs are very aggressive and vigorous – they have no natural predators in Western North Carolina. Typically, hogs live 5-8 years and grow to about 200 lbs, but males may be much larger. Hogs begin breeding around 8-10 months old and have 1-2 litters (10-12 pigs) per year.

What are the impacts of invasive feral hogs?

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In addition to destroying fragile ecosystems and native species, these invasive hogs carry diseases that can infect domestic livestock and humans.

One of the major problems caused by invasive hogs stems from their diet – they are opportunistic feeders, eating plant material including grasses, tubers, acorns, nuts, fruits, bulbs and mushrooms. They also feed on invertebrates (insects, snails, earthworms, etc.), reptiles, amphibians, carrion (dead animals), and eggs, as well as live mammals and birds if given the opportunity. Feral hogs frequently feed on domestic agricultural crops such as corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, and melons.

Many of the rare plants and animals found in the Roan Highlands including Gray’s Lily, spruce-fir moss spider, endemic snails and rare salamanders could be eaten by feral hogs. Eggs and young of the golden-winged warbler, Henslow’s sparrow, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, and other ground nesting birds would also serve as a food source. Other rare species, including Carolina flying squirrels may indirectly suffer from competition by hogs for their preferred foods including truffles and insects. In addition to direct predation and competition with rare species, invasive hogs can cause significant physical damage to seeps and springs, grassy balds, and other sensitive habitats.

Invasive hogs are a source of disease for both domestic livestock and humans. They carry and can transmit to livestock: pseudorabies Virus (PRV), swine brucellosis (Brucella suis), bovine tuberculosis (TB), FADs, African swine fever, Classical swine fever (Hog Cholera), and Foot and Mouth Disease. They may also carry and can transmit to humans: leptospirosis, brucellosis, E. coli, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, rabies, swine influenza viruses, trichinosis giardiasis, and cryptosporidiosis.

What can we do?

Invasive hogs can be especially aggressive when defending their young.

Invasive hogs can be especially aggressive when defending their young.

Unlike other large-scale environmental problems, we can eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) feral hog populations from our landscape with successful trapping and removal programs. For example, hog eradication has been very successful in Kansas – the latest reports indicate that numbers are below 400 individuals statewide.  The success of the Kansas program was due to a two pronged approach – the state removed hogs as a “game” animal which made it illegal to hunt them (and thus removed the impetus that hunters had to introduce them into new areas) and then began an aggressive eradication program.

Currently, SAHC and our state, federal, and NGO partners have created a working group to address the problem of invasive hogs in the Roan Highlands.  We are currently working to monitor and pinpoint areas of high hog activity, to plan trapping programs, and to educate landowners about the impacts of feral hogs.  Hopefully, through a partner and community  based effort, we can keep these aggressive animals from destroying our fragile highland ecosystems.

Hiking Safety Tips – What do you do when you see a wild hog?

Invasive hogs can be aggressive, especially when defending their young. They may weigh up to 300 lbs, have sharp tusks, and can charge very quickly.

  • Be alert! Know the signs and tracks of hogs and avoid heavily used areas, especially at dusk or dawn when hogs are most active.
  • Avoid water sources that have been used by invasive hogs – humans can contract multiple diseases from water sources contaminated by hogs and their feces.
  • Hogs will generally try to avoid contact with humans, but may become aggressive if surprised, especially if piglets are present.
  • If you encounter a hog on the trail, re-route your hike to avoid them. If a re-route is not possible, keep a safe distance and wait for the hogs to leave before continuing.
  • If faced with an aggressive hog, the best option for protecting yourself is to climb the nearest tree.
  • If directly charged by a hog, you should quickly sidestep out of the direction of the charge and climb the nearest tree or boulder.
  • If using a firearm to protect yourself from a feral hog, ensure that it has enough knock-down power to be effective (otherwise it may be best to avoid the encounter and move to safety instead).
Categories: Conservation Field Journal, Hikes | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet the Farmers at Our Community Farm!

Matt and Casara of Second Spring Market Garden, working land leased through SAHC's Farmer Incubator Program.

Matt and Casara of Second Spring Market Garden, working land leased through SAHC’s Farmer Incubator Program.

Matt Coffay and Casara Logan of Second Spring Market Garden are in the house! The greenhouse, that is.

We want to send a big welcome to these first vegetable producers in our new Farmer Incubator Program, and a thank you to all the volunteers who helped put up infrastructure so they can start growing.

Second Spring Market Garden offers Asheville’s first 52-week CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) supplying fresh produce year-round. They will be growing a variety of vegetables using organic methods and efficient four-season production with two heated greenhouses now in place on our Community Farm.

SAHC currently has two farm ventures — Second Spring Market Garden and a heritage breed Pineywoods cattle operation — participating in our Farmer Incubator Program. The program provides low-cost access to land and resources for new or expanding agricultural operations and is aimed at helping the next generation of farmers fill the gap left as aging farmers retire.

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“Without the Incubator, we’d probably still be looking for farmland,” says Matt Coffay.

“We’d spent several months looking for land,” explains Coffay. “We were selling out of produce each week with our existing markets and needed to expand up to about an acre-and-a-half of production in order to really be able to earn full-time incomes as growers.  Land access is one of the biggest challenges facing young farmers, though — especially in an area like Asheville, where relatively flat, inexpensive acreage is hard to come by. Plus, in terms of leasing a property, renting cheap land with no infrastructure (water, electricity, vehicle access, etc) makes starting a farm –which is already no easy task — even more challenging.”

Second Spring Market Garden offers local, pre-washed bagged salad mix year-round.

Second Spring Market Garden offers local, pre-washed bagged salad mix year-round.

“When we found the Farmer Incubator Program, we knew we’d finally landed at the right spot.  The folks at SAHC are assisting us with building the infrastructure we need in order to farm effectively on a small scale.  We’ve also been given access to land at a rate that’s affordable for us.  Without the Incubator, we’d probably still be looking for farmland.”

Casara Logan of Second Spring, which offers Asheville's first 52-week fresh veggie CSA.

Casara Logan of Second Spring, which offers Asheville’s first 52-week fresh veggie CSA.

Second Spring is now taking sign-ups for 2015 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. Paying for crop shares early in the year gives farmers some stability and provides up-front capital for supply purchases. Members of a CSA are then provided a weekly box share of the crop throughout the year.

“We’re really excited to be offering the first 52-week fresh vegetable CSA in Asheville,” added Coffay. “We believe that local food only really works if it’s available every week of the year.  Community Supported Agriculture really does create community, too: our customers get to know one another, and we always invite folks to come out and see where their food comes from (and even lend a hand on the farm if they’d like).  It also makes an enormous difference for us when people pay for their share at the beginning of the year, when expenses are high and income is low; so, we always ask that our members send in their payments as early in the year as they can manage. We’re also open to working out a payment plan for folks who can’t afford the full amount up front.  Check out our website today to sign up, or send us an e-mail for more info!”

Pineywoods cattle at SAHC's Community Farm.

Pineywoods cattle at SAHC’s Community Farm.

Also participating in the Farmer Incubator Program is Gina Raicovich with her herd of Pineywoods cattle, a resilient but now rare heritage breed. Her agricultural operation will involve breeding of Pineywoods cattle and grass-finishing for market (selling yearling heifers and grass-fed beef), utilizing 26 acres of pasture on the Community Farm with rotational grazing.

Last fall, Raicovich chose to lease land through the Farmer Incubator Program because it provides an affordable pasture lease with proximity to town, allowing her to keep a regular job while growing the herd.

Infrastructure improvements at the farm include off-stream watering tanks for livestock.

Infrastructure improvements at the farm include off-stream watering tanks for livestock.

“My lease at the SAHC Community Farm is allowing me to access land close to downtown Asheville so that I can easily grow a small herd while I continue to work full time and look for a more permanent land base for my operation.  Ideally I’ll grow my operation to a profitable size before it’s time to leave the farm and shoulder a mortgage on my own land.”

The  Farmer Incubator Program was introduced last year, and continues to accept applicants on a rolling basis. Funding for the successful launch of the program has been provided by the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Southern SARE, US Department of Agriculture, and New Belgium Brewing Company.

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Dr. William Davenport Tract – Recently Protected Jewel on the Crown of the Roan

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The recently protected 76-acre tract rises to 5320 ft. elevation and is highly visible in the foreground view from Jane and Round balds.

We finally sealed the deal on a treasured 76-acre piece of the Roan landscape just below Carver’s Gap, a popular access point for the Appalachian Trail! In so doing, we have protected scenic views and hiking experiences for future generations to enjoy along the trail — and honored a civic leader of Spruce Pine who committed a lifetime to serving his rural mountain community.

“This tract has been a priority for SAHC for over 40 years, and we are thrilled to be able to conserve it,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director. “It was the last privately owned tract before you get to Carvers Gap, and because of its location and frontage on NC Highway 261, it was at high risk for development. We are so pleased that the landowners chose to sell to SAHC so that the land — and hiking experiences along the AT — will be preserved for the future.”

The Dr. William Davenport tract, viewed from the Appalachian Trail.

The Dr. William Davenport tract, viewed from the Appalachian Trail.

During the summer of 2013, over 3,500 people visited the grassy balds in the Roan by accessing the Trail via Carvers Gap. The recently protected, bowl-shaped property is highly visible from the AT at Jane Bald and Round Bald, lies approximately 900 feet south of the Trail at Engine Gap, and is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest.

Former SAHC Trustee and President (and avid Appalachian Trail enthusiast) Joe DeLoach added, “This tract was one of the closest private lands to the Appalachian Trail in the Roan Highlands, in clear view between Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge.  Development would have not only been a visual intrusion, with its proximity it could have resulted in the sounds of civilization reaching the ridgecrest. Protection of this longtime conservation priority ensures that the user will continue to experience mountain scenery and countryside views along one of the most heavily used sections of the AT.”

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Carvers Gap Creek runs through the property.

The natural features on the property include globally significant resources whose protection is valued by federal, state and private partners throughout the region. The tract is part of the Roan Mountain Massif Natural Area, which contains one of the most outstanding clusters of rare species and natural communities in the Southern Appalachians, and lies within the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area. Clean headwater sources and trout streams originate on the tract, and the rushing waters of Carvers Gap Creek, classified as Trout waters and High Quality Waters by the NC Division of Water Quality, run through it.

Portions of the tract have also been historically farmed, used for raising Black Angus cattle and, more recently, Christmas trees. Once owned by Dr. William Davenport, a prominent dentist in the mountain town of Spruce Pine, the land resonates with memories for former landowners Paul and Diane Pritchard, who sold the property to SAHC.

The lower portion of the tract has been historically farmed, producing cattle and, more recently, Christmas trees.

The lower portion of the tract has been historically farmed, producing cattle and, more recently, Christmas trees.

Diane’s father, Dr. Davenport, purchased the tract in 1946 and began breeding Black Angus cattle. Although he did not live on the property, he visited frequently and cherished the respite it afforded — a special place to get away from the busy demands of his career, to relax and enjoy nature. He selected a tenant family to live in a cabin on the property and care for the cattle, and he continued to take a regular, active role in managing the herd.

Dr. William Davenport, with his herd of Black Angus cattle.

Dr. William Davenport, with his herd of Black Angus cattle.

“He would go up to check on them often,” recalls Diane, who enjoyed accompanying her father on such visits and even gave pet names to the gentle cattle. “It was a place away from the hustle and bustle, the calling of needs and wants in town.”

Cattle on the recently purchased tract.

As a girl, Diane accompanied her father to visit the herd and recalls giving pet names to calves raised on the tract.

Dr. Davenport continued to breed and raise cattle on the property until 1958. For a long time the land lay fallow, then the Pritchards inherited it and began farming Christmas trees on a lower portion of the tract. After evaluating many possible options for the land, they recently decided to sell to SAHC so that it could be permanently conserved.

“At this stage in our life it makes sense,” said Paul. “Twenty five years ago, we wouldn’t have wanted to sell it because of the sentimental value – the connection to Diane’s father. He was a great man and a great father – one of the finest men I’ve known.”

SAHC purchased the Dr. William Davenport tract using a combination of generous gifts and loans from private philanthropists. A portion of the transaction costs were supported by grants from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. We are actively working to raise funds to pay off the loan we took out in order to purchase the tract.

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241 newly protected acres at Little Sandy Mush Bald

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SAHC recently purchased 241 acres containing the northern slopes of Little Sandy Mush Bald.

The view of Little Sandy Mush Bald, an iconic high elevation bald situated above rolling farms and coves, is prominent throughout the Sandy Mush community. Now, more of it has been permanently preserved for future generations. SAHC recently purchased 241 acres containing the northern slopes of Little Sandy Mush Bald. The tract also boasts some of the best northern hardwood forest in Madison County and adjoins two properties which had been previously protected with a conservation easement through SAHC.

Grateful_Union_Contextual_ForAngela“Our purchase and long-term commitment to conservation of this property rounds out the protection of this highly visible mountain bald,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese.

LittleSandyMush1The property rises to 4,800 feet in elevation at the summit of Little Sandy Mush Bald and is visible from the Appalachian Medley Scenic Byway (Highway 209). Little Bald Branch, classified as an Outstanding Resource Water by the NC Division of Water Quality, and three of its tributaries originate on and flow through the property. Additional forested communities on the property include Rich Cove, Acidic Cove, Montane Oak-Hickory, and High Elevation Red Oak.

“The eight members of the Grateful Union Family, Inc. who sold property to SAHC are an example of a group of people coming together with a common interest to share a piece of the earth, and making it work,” added Pugliese.

View from Little Sandy Mush Bald.

View from Little Sandy Mush Bald.

“Since 1979, they have shared this very special place, showing a commitment to their personal goals of living lightly on the earth and being good stewards of the land. It is rare to see this degree of cooperation among a group of people that stands the test of time. Now they have exhibited this same spirit of cooperation and passion to agree to sell the upper slopes of their land to SAHC so that it can be preserved forever.”

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Helping Hands on the Farm – French Broad River Academy

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French Broad River Academy students volunteered to work on the Discovery Trail at our Community Farm again this Fall.

Middle school kids these days have a bit of a bad rap — they watch too much TV, they have no work ethic, and they never go outside. Well, whoever says that has never met the students from the French Broad River Academy. Over the past year-and-a-half the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from FBRA have volunteered over 700 hours at the SAHC Community Farm!

FBRA_blog4The French Broad River Academy was founded in 2009 as a place “to build character and integrity in young men for a lifetime of learning and service.” Since then, it has grown to the point that next year FBRA will be opening a middle school for girls. FBRA_blog3Service within the Asheville community is an integral part of the FBRA education and, as such, many of their “Field Lesson” Wednesdays are devoted to helping area non-profits. In 2013, the school contacted SAHC in hopes of working with us on some of our protected lands. We have since worked with the students numerous times on the Community Farm, and the school has been a valuable partner in so many of our projects.

IMG_0721Last fall, students removed dead Virginia Pine saplings from the Shortleaf Pine restoration area so that it could be prepared for the planting of 2500 additional Shortleaf trees. They helped to remove invasive plants along the trail corridor. This spring they mulched nearly a half-mile of trail that runs through one of our pastures. Upon returning this fall, they have worked diligently restoring sections of the trail that have been eroded.

FBRA_blog2SAHC Community Farm Assistant, Yael Girard, leads the middle schoolers on these service days and had this to say about them: “These students put their all into everything that they do. They work tirelessly with hand tools for hours, despite the fact that some of them only weigh 80 lbs. The teachers that lead the crews are incredible role models and I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to work with this group for the last year and half.”

Thank you all for your service!

Thank you all for your service!

By working on the SAHC Community Farm on a regular basis Andrew Holcombe, the teacher in charge of these outings, hopes that the students will find the value in striving towards a long-term goal and watching the changes on the property. He feels that they will become more invested in the projects and be more likely to understand conservation as something that affects them personally.

We thank them for their service!

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“For Love of Beer and Mountains” partners care for Grassy Ridge

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SAHC and Highland Brewing Company “For Love of Beer and Mountains” volunteers

On a brisk fall morning in October, a boisterous group of SAHC and Highland Brewing Company staff (and guests) met at the corner of Roaring Creek Road and 19 East, eager and excited for the busy “For Love of Beer & Mountains” partnership work day ahead. The plan included removing invasive species and restoring habitat for Golden-winged Warblers (neo-tropical migratory songbirds that nest in the Highlands of Roan). Good company with cheery spirits, a gorgeous day on Grassy Ridge, and delicious food combined to create the recipe for a great workday!

The high elevation of the Southern Appalachians is extremely important habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler.

Volunteers spread out from the Grassy Ridge cabin to work on habitat restoration. The high elevation Southern Appalachians highlands provide extremely important habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler.

Marquette, our Roan Stewardship Director, gave a brief introduction of the Grassy Ridge area and the importance for Golden-winged Warbler (GWW) management before we began. The high elevation of the Southern Appalachians is extremely important to the GWW, a bird that faces such significant declines in population that it has become a proposed candidate for the endangered species. Western North Carolina has a special and important role to play in protecting the warbler because WNC is part of their migratory path and the southernmost area for breeding.

Creating prime Golden-winged habitat, in the brush.

Part of SAHC’s plan for the Grassy Ridge property includes Best Management Practices for Golden-winged Warbler habitat. Half of our partnership work day group focused efforts on creating and improving habitat by weed-eating blackberry and other thick shrubs. Encouraging the growth of native grasses and wildflowers creates the perfect habitat for the GWW. The other half of the group created ‘early successional’ habitat by stacking brush-piles. This creates the sort of open edge habitat that GWWs need to thrive; other rare animals, like the Appalachian cottontail, also love nesting and foraging in these brush piles.

View from the ridge.

View from the ridge.

It was a chilly day on the mountain, but that didn’t stop us from working hard and having a good time. Later in the day, a group took a hike up to the top of the ridge, where a 360 view of the Highlands of Roan could be seen. Standing just below Grassy Ridge and Round Bald we all took in the view of Yellow Mountain, Little Hump and Hump Mountain and Grandfather Mountain way off in the distance. The ridgeline eyesore, a multi-story block resort building located on Sugar Mountain, could also be seen in the distance. This was my first time witnessing the incredible impact the building has on the scenic viewsheds in the Roan. While its stark silhouette stands out against the curves of the mountains, I was reminded that its presence along the ridge now serves as a reminder of the Mountain Ridge Protection Act of 1983 and the importance of organizations like SAHC and their conservation efforts.

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The work day ended with a jovial atmosphere of camaraderie, and wonderful food!

As the afternoon slowly turned into dusk, Kristy and Marquette called for the group to put down their tools and come inside. A wonderful spread of homemade pickles, corn salsa and pepper jelly, cheese, and fruit, awaited us. Kristy’s famous vegan chili was on the stove and we all began warming up and filling our bellies with good food and drink. The workday ended and the night drifted into laughing and storytelling around the campfire before transitioning inside for the night.

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Year-round gardens growing in greenhouses

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Pulling the sheeting onto the new Community Farm greenhouses required teamwork.

If you have ever visited a nursery or a commercial farm, you have probably seen large “hoop houses” stretching out sometimes as far as the eye can see. Without these structures, farmers would be limited to growing only during the warm season, thus drastically cutting their production. These season extension devices can range from an unheated plastic covered tunnel too small to walk through, up to engineered glass buildings with automatic venting and precise temperature control. The main objective, however, is the same: to allow the propagation and growing of plants during the colder months of the year.

IMG_0794The SAHC Farmer Incubator Program was lucky enough to receive two of these hoop houses (also known as greenhouses or high tunnels) this fall. Cathy and George Phillips, of Early View Nursery, learned of our need for heated growing space and offered to donate two greenhouses. Although one of the donated houses was too small for our program, we were able to sell it in order to raise funds for other much needed improvements. The second new greenhouse for our Community Farm came through the TVA Ag and Forestry Fund grant that we were awarded this summer.

IMG_0772As you can see from the photos, the greenhouses that we have put up are steel hoops wrapped in a double layer of plastic. The double wall allows for an air pocket between the plastic, and greater insulation. The houses will be heated with propane furnaces and vented with fans that will be on timers. Putting these greenhouses together required work of numerous volunteers and real team effort. In fact, a group of volunteers will be coming out to the farm this Friday to put the plastic sheeting and final touches on the second greenhouse.

IMG_0771Thanks to everyone involved, Matt and Casara from Second Spring Market Garden will soon be able to produce vegetables to sell throughout the winter. This will greatly increase their sales and ability to compete in the local markets. When their time at the SAHC Community Farm is over, the greenhouses will be a resource for the next set of vegetable producers.

Categories: Our Community Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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