This month, twelve 7th grade boys from the French Broad River Academy (FBRA) volunteered at our Community Farm. We are grateful for assistance from these positive, hard-working students! Service learning is a vital piece of the FBRA curriculum, and they partner with us several times a year to help out with various projects at the Community Farm.
Last week, we had a challenge for the student volunteers: we needed to re-grade an erosion-prone section of the Discovery Trail and build a retaining wall on the up-slope side. The boys got to work right away, with half of them using tools to carve out a small wall and re-grade the dirt along the trail. The other half teamed up to carry logs for the wall as our farm manager, Chris, felled and bucked a few already-dead trees on the property.
Once the digging and grading were mostly done, the boys began to take turns setting logs in place along the wall, and using a post-driver and hammer to drive in rebar to hold the logs. Others helped back-fill the top of the wall with the dirt they had removed earlier.
In the end, they completed the entire sensitive area–roughly 60 feet of trail — and had a beautiful retaining wall to be proud of. This was a labor-intensive project, but the boys worked hard and got the job done. The wall will help mitigate erosion of the trail within the stream restoration area, minimizing sedimentation of a stream whose water eventually flows into the French Broad River.
The boys do clean-ups and learn paddling skills throughout the year on the French Broad, so they were able to see how a project like this can directly affect water quality and their experiences down-stream.
Thanks so much for your hard work, FBRA boys—we look forward to working with you guys again!
Have you visited our Community Farm in Alexander, NC? We have THREE great opportunities coming up in the next couple of weeks!
Join us for a moderately easy, family-friendly guided tour along the Discovery Trail at the SAHC Community Farm in Alexander. Along the way, you will learn about the various projects under way at the farm, including our Farmer Incubator Program. We will walk through active farming areas, see the successfully restored streams flowing through the property, discuss our shortleaf pine restoration project, and give you a preview of our newly renovated education facility. We will accomplish all of this in plenty of time for you to return to town to shop and enjoy lunch at one of the businesses participating in Land Trust Day.
Optional: You may bring a lunch and blanket or camp chairs and enjoy a picnic on the farm following the hike.
For more info or to register, contact Haley Smith at 828.253.0095 ext. 205 or email@example.com. Directions and additional details will be provided after registration.
Presented by SAHC in partnership with Jamie Davis of A Way of Life Farm. During this workshop you will learn the most beneficial & efficient ways to move while performing various tasks on and off the farm to prevent injury and keep your body pain-free. We will cover manual task and machine task movement while thinking about how we use different body parts like the neck, shoulders, knees, back and wrists. All are welcome; this information is relevant to anyone who gets out of bed in the morning!
To register to attend, email Chris Link at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the co-presenter: Jamie and Sara Jane Davis started A Way of Life Farm in January 2009 in Bostic, NC where they grow 2 acres of organic vegetables and raise organically fed non-gmo pork. Due to an injury earlier in his life Jamie found that attention to body movement and a daily practice of yoga on the farm was the way to sustain his work.
Presented by SAHC in partnership with NC Cooperative Extension . During this workshop we will take a walk through the SAHC Community Farm pastures. We will identify invasive species and discuss control methods, desirable and undesirable forages, soil testing and overall pasture health. This will be a Q & A walk-about so everyone is welcome to bring their questions! If you own and or manage land this will be a worthwhile and informative workshop.
To register to attend, email Chris Link at email@example.com.
“Black Soldier Fly” — the name resonates with fear and dread, and perhaps even conjures an image of winged, facet-eyed soldiers wielding guns. In reality, black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) are useful native critters that chew through organic remnants, helping turn organic material into compost while producing tasty treats for chickens.
The black soldier fly is a non-pest tropical and warm-temperate region insect useful for managing small and large amounts of biosolids and animal manure. They are native to this region but do not like to come indoors — so you won’t find them buzzing around the dinner table. They do not feed as adults or spread disease like other flies. Although large and potentially scary-looking, since the females can be about the size of a large wasp, they do not bite humans or livestock. After black soldier fly residue is vermicomposted, it can be used as a soil amendment.
The total life cycle of a black soldier fly lasts just over a month. Black soldier flies lay 600 to 1200 eggs at a time, in dry crevices above or around moist waste material. After five days, the eggs hatch and white larva drop into the waste material and begin to consume it, growing to about ¾ inch over two weeks. Between day 19 – 33 of the life cycle, the larva turn into gray pupae and quit consuming material; this begins the migratory stage, when they crawl up and out of the bin to burrow. These pupae contain essential amino and fatty acids, which make them great food sources for pigs, chicken and fish.
Black soldier flies can reduce organic waste material by as much as 95%, depending on temperature and content. A medium-sized digester can process about 80 lbs. of bio material in a day. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently hosted a Digester Build Workshop on its Community Farm, to demonstrate how to construct a digester for organic material using black soldier flies.
Building a digester
For a regular household – for example, if you’re going to be feeding kitchen scraps, garden waste or small livestock manure – a 20-gallon tub is a good size to start. For a small vegetable farm, a 100+ gallon size would be best. During SAHC’s Digester Build workshop, we cut an olive oil tank in half and used it to construct a medium-sized digester. Both small and medium-sized digesters are modular, so you can add as many as you need over time. The basic construction is the same for each: a tub or container to hold the organic material; ramp for the pupa to crawl up and out; collection bucket to hold the pupa that crawl out; cardboard or similar medium for oviposition by the female black soldier fly; and lid or cover if the digester is not placed under a roof, to keep rain out.
Although you can build a digester with ramps that feed into a collection bucket located outside the digester, our design incorporates the collection bucket and ramps within the digester, which works well at a medium scale. The ramps should have a trough and or small sides so the pupa do not crawl off, and they must also be flexible so they can adjust to new organic material being added without becoming buried. Ramps could be made of PVC pipe, wood, old gutter, siding, etc. Place cardboard on the inside walls of the digester, so that the eggs laid by the female will be above the organic material. Locate your digester under an open-sided shelter, or place something over top to keep water out. When covering the digester be sure to leave enough room for the female black soldier fly to get to the cardboard to lay her eggs.
Starting your own colony
Because the Black Soldier Fly is a naturally occurring insect in our region, you can attract the female to lay eggs near a food source with a strong odor. Start a compost bin with a mix of kitchen scraps that are a couple of days old. The females will detect the chemical signal of a larval food source. It is important to give the female black soldier fly a location to deposit her eggs, so place a stack of corrugated cardboard on the inside wall of the container. Within two weeks, you should have black soldier fly eggs in the cardboard, which you can then transfer to the wall of your digester. The larva will hatch and fall into the organic material and start growing.
For more info, or to visit SAHC’s Community Farm and see a black soldier fly digester in action, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.253.0095 ext 203.
We’d also like to give a special THANK YOU to Mast General Store, for allowing us space in the Asheville and Waynesville stores to provide informative materials and talk to customers throughout the day. And thank you to our staff and volunteers who hosted tables at the Mast General Store locations: Michelle Pugliese, Sarah Sheeran, Caitlin Edenfield, Joan Worth, Leigh DeForth, and Cheryl Fowler.
This year, we also hosted two area hikes during Land Trust Day.
Community Farm Hike: We hosted our third annual Land Trust Day hike out on SAHC’s Community Farm. Each year the hike becomes more interesting and in-depth as new projects develop and old ones continue to grow. This year we were excited to have some neighbors of the farm on the hike, who were interested in learning more about the Community Farm and our Farmer Incubator Program.
The morning started off cool, as we gave a brief introduction to SAHC and our Community Farm at the trailhead. Our first stop along the hike was at Second Spring Market Garden, the first farmers in our Farmer Incubator Program. Second Spring provides one of the most dynamic stops along, as it is constantly growing (pun intended) and expanding. Growing on just an acre-and-a-half, they’re providing Asheville with its first 52-week CSA. Walking through in June was a great time to visit, as the farmers were in full production mode! After passing by Second Spring, we ventured in the woods and into the Stream Restoration and Short Leaf Pine Restoration areas. While these areas are slowly growing, the before and after pictures provided by the info boards along trail are proof of progress!
We made our way up the steep hill, onto the ridge, from which a view of the entire farm can be seen. It was a little hazy out, but still a breathtaking view and easy way to visualize what 100 acres looks like. The group continued on their way, down off the ridge and back into the Stream Restoration zone. The 1.5-mile Discovery Trail does a wonderful job of covering every interesting aspect and project on the farm. As we made our way back to the trail head, we caught a glimpse of the Piney Woods Cattle roaming the farm. In just a couple of hours, we were able to give the all-access tour of our Community Farm!
OM Sanctuary’s “Human Health and Connection with Nature”:
As part of a day-long open house and celebration of the conservation easement at OM Sanctuary, SAHC helped lead a hike on the tract, to explore the recently protected urban forest. Participants learned the benefits of urban forest, both to humans and to ecosystem health. We walked through chestnut oak forest and acidic cove forest, learning native trees and wildflowers in addition to how the history of the railroad affected OM’s current-day forest. Hikers also learned how to identify multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, and Morrow’s honeysuckle as non-native invasive species, and why Asian plant species are commonly invasive in our forests and, reciprocally, that our plants are invasive in their forests. The group was inspired at the end of the hike to pursue more naturalist-led hikes with SAHC and to volunteer with the invasive species removal project at OM Sanctuary.
Thank you to all who were involved throughout the day!
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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!”
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.
“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.
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!
The 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. Service 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.
Last 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.
SAHC 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.”
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!
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.
The 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.
As 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.
Thanks 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.
Last weekend, we welcomed Gina Raicovich and her herd of Pineywoods cattle to our Community Farm in Alexander, NC. Gina started and managed the 60-acre educational University Farm at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, and is now branching out in her own agricultural venture.
Pineywoods cattle are a threatened heritage breed that thrives in hot, humid climates and can graze on lower quality forage. Originating in Spain, Pineywoods cattle were once used across the Southeast, but now only around 1,000 remain.
Gina’s agricultural operation within our Farmer Incubator Program will involve breeding of Pineywoods cattle and grass-finishing for market, utilizing 26 acres of pasture on the Community Farm with rotational grazing and the possible addition of goats as inter-grazers. She is passionate about conservation and rejuvenation of this unique heritage breed, and feels that her interests (and needs for the herd) align well with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s mission as well as the resources offered at our Community Farm.
We look forward to seeing these charismatic cattle flourish. Stay tuned for future updates!
When you think of a fall break from college, you might think of a ski trip, or going camping, or spending time with your family — but you probably wouldn’t think about doing volunteer work. The students of Emory University have different ideas. Over a September holiday weekend, they drove up from Atlanta to do just that. On Monday, Sept. 13th, SAHC welcomed 21 students to the Community Farm for an entire day of trail work and invasive plant removal. The students came from all grades and fields of study; including neuroscience, Arabic, and dance.
In addition to the Emory students, SAHC was lucky enough to have five representatives from the American Conservation Experience (ACE) along for the work day. ACE is a non-profit that provides environmental service opportunities through conservation corps, conservation vacations, and volunteer outings. Started in Arizona in 2004, the organization has worked with the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service. This year, they started a branch in North Carolina lead by Adam Scherm. The organization specializes in trail building, invasive plant removal, fencing construction, and wildlife monitoring.
The students split into two groups and worked on building erosion control devices along the trail and removing overgrown vegetation from the livestock fencing. As a team, they moved logs, dug drainage swales, and pulled multi-flora rose. Students exclaimed about how much they felt like they accomplished. At the end of the day, the group excitedly talked about how much they would like to come back again for next year’s fall break trip. Adam explained how the day was also valuable for his organization in that it “was a great leadership opportunity for Max and Lindsey,” two ACE AmeriCorps volunteers. SAHC hopes to continue building partnerships with these two groups at the Community Farm and throughout our properties.