Posts Tagged With: Conservation

Big Rock Creek Donation

bigrockcreekmapInspired by our conservation work in the Highlands of Roan, landowner Ken Davis recently donated 47 acres to SAHC. The property adjoins Pisgah National Forest and our Big Rock Creek preserve, which we purchased in 2014, thus filling an important gap in the protected landscape.

Visible from the Appalachian Trail, the tract contains important forest habitat and headwater resources. Forest types include Appalachian hemlock hardwood forest, Appalachian oak forest, and southern Appalachian montane pine forest. The property contains a portion of Dave Branch stream and a headwater stream for Big Rock Creek, which flows into the North Toe River. These waterways are designated Wild Trout Streams by the NC Division of Water Quality.

Fred and Alice Stanback made a generous gift to support transaction costs and long-term stewardship of the donated land. We plan to own and manage the property as a preserve for the long term.

Landowner Perspective: Ken Davis

kendavisKen Davis bought this property in 1991 after several years of service as a park ranger. He and his wife settled in the area to teach at Lees-McCrae College. His motivation in purchasing the property was driven by a love of parks, and the couple have worked to reestablish native species on the property to allow it to return to its natural state.

“I decided to donate the land because SAHC represents a trans-generational effort by courageous people who love the land as much as I do and use the best conservation science they can muster to arrest the destruction of magnificent places of refuge,” says Ken.

“As has been illustrated many times in history, wilderness has been a most effective refuge. Though some of the land in this area of the Southern Appalachians is suitable for farming and other activities, I believe the best use for much of it is what it once was — wilderness. Due to the loss of many species, such as the chestnut, it can never be exactly the same, but some of it can become once more a sublime refuge. When asked what the steep, “unbuildable” land is good for, I often reply that it is good for ‘howling wilderness.’

I hope that our donation will provide a one-inch increment of the thousand-mile journey to return to wilderness in the Southern Appalachians. “        

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Yellow Mountain

This acquisition continues our conservation efforts in the stunning Roaring Creek Valley area, near Big Yellow Mountain and Little Hump Mountain. Photo courtesy Southwings.

This acquisition continues our conservation efforts in the stunning Roaring Creek Valley area, near Big Yellow Mountain and Little Hump Mountain. Photo courtesy Southwings.

We purchased 70 acres on Big Yellow Mountain in the Highlands of Roan, located just 2,500 ft from the Appalachian Trail. Adjoining Pisgah National Forest, conservation lands held by the State of NC, and other SAHC-protected properties, the forested high-elevation tract is visible from the Overmountain Shelter on the AT.

“This acquisition was a high conservation priority because of the property’s location on the biologically sensitive and stunning scenic slopes of Big Yellow Mountain near the Appalachian Trail,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese.  “It was the highest elevation, privately-owned unprotected tract between Grassy Ridge and Bradley Gap.”

The property contains forest habitat and boulder fields with seeps and springs that feed into Roaring Creek.

The property contains forest habitat and boulder fields with seeps and springs that feed into Roaring Creek.

Elevations on the property range from 4,440 feet to 5,380 feet above msl.

It contains rare beech gap forest and high elevation boulder fields with seeps and springs that form headwater tributaries of Roaring Creek. The entire property is within the state-designated Big Yellow Mountain Natural Area and the Audubon Society’s Roan Mountain Important Bird Area. Nesting Golden-winged Warblers have been identified in areas surrounding the tract.

In addition to protecting high elevation habitat and clean water sources, this acquisition helps preserve the sense of solitude for hikers and backpackers in the Roan.

bigyellowmap“The tract is very visible from the Overmountain Shelter on the AT,” continued Pugliese. “This 2-story, red barn shelter is one of the most iconic and beloved of all the shelters along the Trail, and it would have been devastating to hikers’ experiences if homes were built on this land. Now that SAHC has purchased these acres, that will never happen.”

We are deeply grateful to Fred and Alice Stanback for making a generous contribution which made this acquisition possible.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us in celebrating Appalachian Spring!

Highland_outdoorstageJoin us in celebrating 42 years of conservation in our community!

Because of you — our dedicated members, volunteers, and community supporters — we can continue protecting the special places we all love.

Enjoy an evening of celebration and merriment in The Meadow at Highland Brewing Company. Food will be catered by the Green Opportunities Kitchen-Ready Program.

IF you are a current SAHC member and cannot attend the Appalachian Spring celebration, please take a moment to submit this online Proxy Form. As part of the event, the membership will elect nominees to the SAHC Board of Trustees.

Event Ticket Price includes: Small plates, one drink ticket, music and fellowship.
Purchase your tickets early to save!
At the door: $40 for everyone.

You can purchase raffle tickets online now or during the event. We have a wide selection of exciting prizes to choose from, and proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets will go to support our conservation work.

 

BuyTicketsNow

Thank you to our Event Sponsors!

Eastman

Special Thanks:

  • Buddy Tignor

To become an event sponsor or donate raffle items, contact Cheryl Fowler at cheryl@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 209.

 

 

Categories: Special Events | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

SAHC helps Rocky Fork State Park acquire tract for public access

 

RockyFork_triplefalls

Rocky Fork Creek

Mist rising in the Rocky Fork watershed.

Mist rising in the Rocky Fork watershed.

Today we celebrate Earth Day with the closing of an exciting new project which will enable more people to learn about and enjoy the incredible Rocky Fork region!

We worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to purchase a 1-acre tract to facilitate public access for Rocky Fork State Park.

“This 1-acre tract is a critical acquisition because it contains the only public access into Rocky Fork State Park,” said SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “We are proud to have been able to work with the State of Tennessee and other partners over the past decade to conserve the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork watershed. This recent acquisition is an integral part of these efforts, as it will afford public access for visitors to enjoy trails and trout streams in this stunning area.”

hikingalongRockyFork

Hiking along Rocky Fork Creek.

Rocky Fork State Park lies within a half mile of the Appalachian Trail and contains a system of existing and planned public trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, including a future connection to the Appalachian Trail. The park also contains pristine mountain streams, including Rocky Fork Creek, Flint Creek, South Indian Creek and the headwaters of Long Branch. The main branch of Rocky Fork, designated as a TN Exceptional Stream, flows through the recently acquired 1-acre tract. These streams are home to native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and are available to the public for fishing.

The 2,036-acre State Park, together with approximately 8,000 adjoining acres now owned by the US Forest Service, comprise the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork watershed. SAHC worked from 2006-2012 to protect this iconic area, in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), The Conservation Fund (TCF), the State of Tennessee, the U.S. Forest Service, and other public and private partners. The Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund provided $6 million for the State of Tennessee to acquire the land for the Park, which was officially designated Tennessee’s 55th State Park in October 2012.

David Ramsey (right) leads an SAHC guided group hike into Rocky Fork.

David Ramsey (right) leads an SAHC guided group hike into Rocky Fork.

“The partnership between the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Tennessee State Parks has been pivotal to preserve and protect the unique and critical tracts of land in the southern Appalachian Mountains,” said Park Manager Jesse Germeraad. “This 1-acre tract is very important, because it provides Rocky Fork State Park, visitors, and Appalachian National Scenic Trail hikers access to the beautiful and pristine natural and historical resources Rocky Fork State Park and the Cherokee National Forest has to offer in the Rocky Fork Watershed. We are looking forward to the continued support and partnership we have with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.”

Yonahlossee salamander, photo courtesy David A. Ramsey.

Yonahlossee salamander, photo courtesy David A. Ramsey.

Several federally listed endangered species can be found within Rocky Fork State Park. The diverse cove forest is home to the Peregrine Falcon, the Yonahlossee Salamander, and the Woodland Jumping Mouse, as well as many native wildflowers. The property is also part of the Unicoi Bear Sanctuary and lies within an Audubon Important Bird Area.

Currently there is very limited parking. Long-term goals for the newly acquired 1-acre parcel at the Park entrance include improvements for an expanded parking area and visitor center.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Farm Workshop: The Two-wheel, Walk-behind Tractor

tractor4

SAHC Community Farm and Food Program Associate, Chris Link, demonstrates the ease of steering the two-wheel tractor.

Why choose a two-wheel tractor for your home garden or small farmstead, instead of a standard four-wheel tractor or tiller?

This small but mighty tractor is a versatile investment. With over forty implements available, it is designed to be an all-in-one performer for hobby farms, market gardeners, and backyard homesteaders alike. It is a favorite around the world, known for comparative ease of maintenance and operation, with a lower initial price that puts it within reach of beginning and small-scale growers.

Community Farm and Food Associate Chris Link explains how to connect and operate various attachments which make the two-wheel tractor a versatile and efficient tool for small farms.

Chris explains how to connect various attachments which make the two-wheel tractor a versatile and efficient tool for small farms.

“The two-wheel tractor is just right for many operations — not too big and not too small,” said Community Farm & Food Program Associate Chris Link. “They are also particularly nimble and user-friendly on our hillsides and small pathways, and therefore, more efficient when you are working with a compact site.”

Last fall, Chris led a workshop demonstrating two-wheel tractors at our Community Farm.

“I first saw the two-wheel tractor used at a farm in Maine, which was scaled as a market garden around a homestead, under three acres,” he continued. “This is the size farm that is feasible for a couple of people farming. Although many farmers will scale up to larger acreages in time, others who practice intensive growing methods will stay right around this size and will not need larger equipment.”

Background

lookingatimplements_front_vertical_blog

Attachments for the BCS tractor include a sickle bar mower.

In the United States, Gravely Brand developed a walk-behind tractor as early as 1911, but by the 1970s production had all but halted because commodity/cash crops had replaced much of what were once small family farms.

The BCS brand two-wheel tractor was first developed in Italy in 1942 as a walk-behind sickle bar mower for small-scale hay mowing on mountainsides. The design gained popularity in the 1950s and replaced draft power on small farms in Europe. With more than one million customers in 80+ countries, BCS is now the largest manufacturer of two-wheeled tractors and attachments in Europe.

Today, both Italian brands Grillo and BCS are available through dealers in the US, and are rising in popularity among small commercial growers as well as land managers, landscapers and hobbyists due to the lower cost point, reputation for quality, and versatility.

“Overall, you could expect to pay $1,550 to $4,500 for a new machine (and add $800 for a diesel engine model),” commented Chris. “There are also used models available.”

Benefits and Main Features

Two-wheel tractors are designed with one engine that can attach to a variety of implements.

Two-wheel tractors are designed with one engine that can attach to a variety of implements.

A two-wheel tractor is designed to attach many different implements in order to perform a variety of tasks, in contrast to the more traditional method of using multiple dedicated tractors/machines for each task. Less time, and money, are necessary to acquire, learn to safely operate, maintain and store walk-behind, two-wheel machine. Ease of switching multi-tasking implements and ease of switching implements is a major benefit of these smaller machines.

“The two-wheel tractor works best for a growing area between 5,000 SF and 3-5 acres. It is great for smaller, tighter cultivated areas because of its small turning radius,” explained Link.

Special features that come standard include: reversing handlebars, lockable differential with steering brakes, PTO drive (separate from wheel drive for different speeds), gas or diesel capability and electric start, quick-attach coupling, and being completely gear driven.

“As with traditional tractors, safety is paramount: all the same rules apply when it comes to safety when operating this smaller tractor as a larger one — it is still a tractor.”

Some of the most common implements for two wheel tractors include:

  • Rotary Plow, Tiller, Power Harrow
  • Wood Chipper, Wood Splitter
  • Snow Blower, Snow Blade, Power Sweeper
  • Rotary mower, Flail mower, Sickle bar
  • Root Digger
  • Power Washer
  • Utility Trailer, Sulky

SAHC plans to host more educational workshops (free and open to the public) on our Community Farm throughout 2016. Visit Appalachian.org or follow us on Facebook for updates!

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2015-70017-22854.  for Farm Pathways: Access to Land, Livelihood, and Learning.

“Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

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

Broad Branch, in the Highlands of Roan

broadbranchmap

This 48-acre forested parcel, which was previosly slated for development, is now permanently protected.

Located less than 2 miles from the Appalachian Trail and the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens, the 48-acre Broad Branch tract adjoins Pisgah National Forest and contains a broad mix of habitat. We acquired it in December, and plan to own and manage it for long-term forest health and water quality.

“This tract shares a nearly one-half mile boundary with Pisgah National Forest,” said Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “It certainly earns the description of ‘highlands,’ with elevations exceeding 4,500 feet where it joins the National Forest.”

Located within the state-designated Roan Mountain Massif Natural Area, the tract is forested with mature trees and potential habitat for rare plant and animal species. Approximately 75% of the property falls within the Roan Mountain Important Bird Area, as designated by the National Audubon Society.

A headwater tributary of Broad Branch runs through the property, emptying into the trout waters of Big Rock Creek.

A headwater tributary of Broad Branch runs through the property, emptying into the trout waters of Big Rock Creek.

A headwater tributary of Broad Branch orginates in the adjoining Pisgah National Forest and flows through the property, emptying into Big Rock Creek (classified as Trout waters by the NC Division of Water Resources). SAHC will complete a biological inventory and protect the water and forest resources.

“The tract was slated for development,” continued Pugliese, “but SAHC was able to work with the developers to purchase the land for conservation.  It’s a great example of conservation serving as a viable alternative to an unrealized development.”Located less than 2 miles from the Appalachian Trail and the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens, the 48-acre Broad Branch tract adjoins Pisgah National Forest and contains a broad mix of habitat. We acquired it in December, and plan to own and manage it for long-term forest health and water quality.

What is the Roan Mountain Important Bird Area?

 

Gray Catbird, photo by Witt Langstaff, Jr.

Gray Catbird, photo by Witt Langstaff, Jr.

Important Bird Areas (IBA) are designated areas of state, national, or global importance, which are prioritized for conservation because they provide critical habitat for threatened, endangered, or declining bird species. The Roan Mountain IBA has among the great diversity of birds in the NC and TN mountains. To date, 188 species have been recorded, 31 of which are high priority species.

On a short, late-morning visit to the Broad Branch tract, Roan Stewardship staff recently heard Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird, Gray Catbird, and Red-breasted Nuthatch — as well as three birds on the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture conservation priority list: Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, and Eastern Wood PeeWee.

Categories: Land Protection Updates | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why We Give

As 2015 draws to a close, we would like to thank all of our members, supporters, volunteers, and partners for everything you do to continue protecting the land and water resources of the Southern Appalachians in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee.

This year you have enabled the protection of incredible places, like a 318-acre mountain farm that has been in the same family over 160 years and a unique high-elevation 150-acre tract in the Highlands of Roan. Thank YOU!

We also want to thank you for sharing your stories and love for these very special mountains with us. From our membership events to written notes in the mail, from e-mail messages to conversations on guided hikes, we love hearing about the connections between people and land — and the myriad reasons why you all have chosen to support SAHC. We are humbly grateful for ALL the people who have made conservation in the Southern Appalachians possible, and look forward to many more exciting projects in the coming year.


family testimonial pieceWe’d also like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to the Barnhardt family, who have been passionate supporters of SAHC for years and who graciously shared this message about why they support local land and water conservation.

“To whom much is given, much is expected.  Luke 12:48

We have tried to raise our children with this bible verse in mind. God has gifted all of us with a beautiful world, including our treasured Appalachian Highlands.  We raised our 3 children hoping to inspire a love of nature and the outdoors.  Every summer we hiked trails in the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains, traveled to waterfalls for swimming and sliding, and camped along mountain rivers where we went tubing, biking, fishing, and rock hopping.

Kids_max_mtnsWe also raised them to understand the importance of philanthropy, which is reflected in one of their favorite Christmas traditions. They are given an amount of money to donate to the organizations of their choosing. As they have gotten older (now 27, 25, and 20 years old), their gifts are more focused and thoughtful.  We are proud of their passion for donating to organizations they know make an important impact in our community and in our world.

When our children choose which organizations to give to every year, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) is always on the list. SAHC is a leader in protecting the beautiful world we’ve been gifted with and educating us on how important it is for us to care for it now for future generations. Without organizations like SAHC, all of the places where we had so much fun hiking, swimming, and camping while our children were growing up would gradually disappear. We are so happy our entire family believes in and supports an organization that is so committed to conservation.  After all, the beauty around us is a gift to appreciate and protect. That is the expectation!”

Tom and Kim Barnhardt
Jennifer, Emily and Lucas

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Ken and Lotta Murray: From DC to the AT, to the hills of TN

Ken and Lotta Murray

Ken and Lotta Murray

Ken and Lotta Murray have transitioned from the hustle-and-bustle of Washington, DC, to the quiet coves of mountainous East Tennessee, carving out an idyllic home and garden on a tract where Ken’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 160 years ago. Introduced to SAHC while managing one of our conservation easement properties, they have become committed philanthropic leaders and engaged members, frequently exploring the Southern Appalachians through our guided group hikes.

Ken Murray became acquainted with SAHC when his mother, Katharine Tilson Murray, had the foresight to permanently protect the family homeplace with a conservation easement in 1999. Since retiring to the land in Unicoi County, where he often vacationed as child, Ken and his wife Lotta have become passionate supporters of SAHC, joining our Gray’s Lily Leadership Circle and frequently participating in guided outings on our other protected tracts.

The Tilson homeplace occupies an expansive, bowl-shaped cove just south of Erwin, TN.

The Tilson homeplace occupies an expansive,
bowl-shaped cove just south of Erwin, TN.

After Ken retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC in 2011, he and Lotta hiked the Appalachian Trail together for six months.

“It was amazing, the most incredible thing I’ve ever done,” recalls Lotta. The timing was excellent. “It was a good transition, coming from the remote experience of hiking the Trail to live at the Tilson homeplace, which is also quiet and out-of-the-way. A simple lifestyle is what we wanted.”

Ken’s decision to return to the family homestead and enthusiasm for SAHC stem from summers exploring and adventuring in this wooded corner of TN.  Throughout childhood, he spent time on the property during school vacations.

Ken collects historic farm implements found on the tract, which provide a snapshot of the family’s life in years gone by.

Ken collects historic farm implements found on the tract, which provide a snapshot of the family’s life in years gone by.

“When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine why everyone in the world wouldn’t want to be here,” Ken said. He and a neighbor would trek through the creeks and cove. But it wasn’t all play — a framed photo in the farmhouse shows Ken as a youth, discing ground for the garden with a team of mules.  “For a kid growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut this was a really cool place,” he added. The experiences sparked a passion for the land that has only gotten stronger over the years.

In 1977, Ken began making improvements and repairs to the family homestead,  starting the process of land management. In recent years, he has worked to remove invasive species and address erosion issues on the property.

“We support the mission of SAHC because they’re helping us protect this land, and because of the very active hiking program,” notes Ken. We are grateful to Ken and Lotta for their ongoing support, and love seeing them on the trail!

The Tilson Homestead Farm, Unicoi TN

The road from NC to TN ran directly by the Tilson home. Travelers frequently stopped to rest, sharing perspectives on the wider world.

The road from NC to TN ran directly by the Tilson home. Travelers frequently stopped to rest, sharing perspectives on the wider world.

Recently painted and well cared-for, the Tilson farmhouse remains much as it appeared in the late 1880s.

Recently painted and well cared-for, the Tilson farmhouse remains much as it appeared in the late 1880s.

Growing up in a backwoods corner of Unicoi County wasn’t for the faint of heart – but having a main travel route run right by the doorstep could bring a new world of opportunity and excitement to the hearth.

With the main route between Jonesborough, TN and Asheville, NC, running right by the Tilson homestead, travelers – including influential politicians – would often stop to rest a for a night, sharing stories and perspectives of the outside world that nurtured the growing young minds of John Q. Tilson and his siblings. They grew up to have successful careers as doctors, teachers, a federal court judge, and leading US Congressman.

The subsistence farm had a springhouse, grain storage, and smokehouse familiar to many mountain homesteads from the late 1800s, all still standing. To assist with hardships suffered during the Great Depression, John Q., who had prospered as a lawyer, purchased the original homestead tract from his siblings. He often hosted gatherings for friends and family, and the land is now owned collectively by his descendents.

The original 2-story log cabin was relocated on the tract & reassembled as a 1-story structure.

The original 2-story log cabin was relocated on the tract & reassembled as a 1-story structure when the family built the 2-story white farmhouse in the late 1800s.

In the 1990s, his daughter, Katharine Tilson Murray, worked with SAHC to permanently protect  the 377-acre tract with a conservation easement.

“Placement of the conservation easement on this property, and providing for SAHC in her estate planning, enabled it to be preserved,” said Ken Murray. “My mother had a vision, and we are very grateful for that.”

Ken notes that as families grow, they typically divide their homestead into smaller and smaller pieces over time. “The conservation easement alleviates a lot of pressure on future generations because it has to be owned as one parcel,” adds Ken. The family plans to own and enjoy this property for many years to come.

John Q. Tilson

John Q. Tilson

John Q. Tilson

John Q. Tilson and siblings, with parents sitting in the front, center.

John Q. Tilson and siblings, with parents sitting in the front, center.

John Quillin Tilson, or John Q. as he was frequently known, served as a US Representative from Connecticut for almost 22 years and House Majority leader for six. He spent early life on the Tilson homestead. With roots tracing back to the Mayflower, Tilson’s family had migrated to the Nolichucky River and then to a secluded cove south of Erwin, TN.

“In this house, humble though quite the best in the community, entirely without the aid of doctors and nurses, were born eight children,” he remarked in a published account of The Tilson Family.

They lived in the existing log cabin on the property, until his father built the 2-story white farmhouse in 1879. Moving to New Haven, Connecticut, in later years, John Q. frequently returned to his birthplace, and festive gatherings on the homestead attracted influential leaders from across the area.

 

Categories: Land Protection Updates, The People Behind SAHC | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ivy Creek: 102-acre conservation easement in Madison County

ponders_cowbarn

The farm at Ivy Creek is permanently protected for future agricultural use.

Chancellor Emerita of UNC Asheville Anne Ponder and her husband Chris Brookhouse have protected their 102-acre property in Madison County with a conservation easement, preserving pastoral and forest land for future generations.

“A convergence of truly great Asheville folks led us to establish a conservation easement on our property in Madison County.  Last year we were inspired by the creation of the McCullough Institute at UNC Asheville, created by the late Charles McCullough and his wife Shirley Anne to research conservation and sustainability. At an event announcing the Institute, financial advisor Michael Andry of Wells Fargo Private Bank introduced me to Carl Silverstein — and our conversations turned to action.

IvyCreek_mapI worked with Carl, Michael, and Farmland Director William Hamilton to place 102 acres of our property, acquired in 1995, into a conservation easement. My husband Chris Brookhouse and I knew that if we didn’t protect our farm and forest land now, its beauty and proximity to Asheville could provide an irresistible opportunity for future development.

Born in Asheville, I have had the great good fortune to return to this remarkable place, becoming chancellor of UNC Asheville in 2005. The natural beauty of our mountains is an asset for the environment, for prolonging the biodiversity of flora and fauna in our region, for preserving farm land, and for the sanity and grace that a walk in the woods or a view of the blue hills gives us. Because we placed our property in a conservation easement, generations to come will have the advantages which this natural beauty  affords.

We are grateful for each of the people we worked with along the way, as we pursue a  stewardship plan for our conservation easement in the years ahead.”

— Landowner Perspective by Anne Ponder

The conservation easement also protects water quality in the French Broad River watershed.

The conservation easement also protects water quality in the French Broad River watershed.

Visible from the French Broad River, Ivy Creek farm is characteristic of Madison County’s rural landscape, with open pasture ridge tops and steep wooded slopes. The tract is approximately 30% pasture, grazed by cattle, and 70% forest, with a variety of forest types and mixed hardwoods.
The property contains seeps, springs, streams and water courses of high water quality, including Ivy Creek and unnamed tributaries of the creek, which flows into the French Broad River. Permanently protecting the tract preserves water quality, future agricultural use, open space, and wildlife habitat on a parcel that could otherwise have become a fairly dense development.

Concerned about this potential for future development, the landowners donated the conservation easement and made a gift toward future stewardship of the tract.

“We are grateful to Anne and Chris for their foresight in realizing the potential vulnerability of this property, and for proactively working with SAHC to protect the scenic value as well as water and agricultural resources of the farm,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein.

Conservation of the Ivy Creek farm was made possible by a Mountain Revolving Land Fund Mini-Grant from the Conservation Trust for NC and a gift from private donors, to cover the transaction costs of the project. Anne and Chris will continue to live and farm on the property, with the peace of mind that it has been permanently protected from development.

Categories: Farmland Preservation Program | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Soldier Fly Digester Build Workshop

lovelylarvae

Black soldier flies are native, non-pest species that can help digest garden waste and provide a food source for small livestock.

“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.

spreading fill material_2

A medium-sized digester can process about 80 lbs. of bio waste material in a day.

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

Explaining Brackets to mount cardboard

SAHC hosted a digester build workshop to demonstrate how to DIY.

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.

The flexible ramp rests on top of bio material. Migrating pupae crawl up the ramp and drop into the collector bucket, to be gathered for small livestock.

The flexible ramp rests on top of bio material. Migrating pupae crawl up the ramp and drop into the collector bucket, to be gathered for small livestock.

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

cardboard for egg laying

Attach cardboard above the bio material, to give adult females a place to lay eggs.

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 chris@appalachian.org or 828.253.0095 ext 203.

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

Blog at WordPress.com.