Wheeler Munroe - Waterfall Farm Waterfall Farm has been family-owned since 1979, and it is currently one the few commercial maple syrup operations in North Carolina. Their syrup is sold at the Ashe County Farmer"s Market and production has expanded each year since beginning in 2014. Wheeler and her family used their 2016 grant to purchase a filter press, which would recover the syrup that is usually lost with the gravity filtration process. Waterfall Farm is excited to continue providing Western North Carolina with local maple syrup and offers farm tours to those interested in learning more about the process.
Wendy Painter and Amanda Gentry - Gentry Farm and Mountain Popcorn Girls The Gentry Farm has been in the Gentry family for five generations, and the farm uses organic practices and diverse products to ensure this legacy continues. Mountain Popcorn Girls was created in 2013. At first it marketed the raw popcorn grown on the farm, and in 2016 value-added popcorn products were added to the business. Mountain Popcorn Girls have harvested more popcorn each year, and used their 2016 grant to purchase a large grain bin to replace their food grade buckets. The Bulk Grain Bin ensures appropriate storage to ensure product safety and preservation.
Anne Pression - Healing Springs Belted Galloways Anne Pression runs the property The Cabins at Healing Springs, which has cabins located around a historic 'healing' spring. She is working to expand her production of grass fed meats so she can provide guests with local beef and pork. The 2016 grant was used to convert 7 acres of unused land into production. She hopes that in the future she can share her knowledge about grass-fed cows and hogs with the community through workshops and farm tours.
Sonya Vannoy - High Mountain Farms Sonya began farming at High Mountain Farms in 2010. At first she was simply involved in field activities, but now she is in charge of all the ordering, planting, and harvesting of vegetable and flower crops, all while being a full time school teacher. The farm has found success with using the raised bed method and was awarded the 2016 grant to build six more raised vegetable beds. High Mountain Farms is passionate about connecting with the community and want the project to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables. The farm plans to continue developing by giving child care centers and students the opportunity to consume local food and learn more about how it is produced.
Johnson County, TN
Richard Calkins - Harbin Hill Farms, LLC Harbin Hill Farm grows organic fruits and vegetables and has an apiary that has recently been approved as Certified Naturally Grown. Richard was awarded the 2016 grant to expand his apiary operations from two hives to seven. The additional hives will enable the farm to produce more honey, beeswax, and other related products, which are sold through farmers' markets, CSA cutomers, on-farm, and on-line. The expansion will also provide his organic plants with the pollination they need.
Karen Manuel - The Manuel Farm Karen Manuel began farming alongside her father on the Manuel Farm, which has been in the family for six generations. Karen now runs the farm with help from her daughter. One of her passions is beekeeping. Karen is a part of the Johnson County beekeepers club and enjoys the feeling she gets when tending to her bees and other farm products. She was awarded the 2016 grant so she could expand her apiary operation from 10 hives to 30. In addition to producing honey, Karen also sees the potential to create candles, honey butter, lotions, soaps, and other value-added products.
Kate Dodson and Jacob Crigler - Full Moon Farm Kate Dodson and Jacob Crigler purchased Full Moon Farm in July, 2016 and the both look forward to building their lives around the farm. They were given the direct-to-farmer grant to help fund the installation of a well son the north end of their property so they will not have to bucket water multiple times a day for horses and compost piles. The well will ensure the farm is using a clean water source, which is not a guarantee when they use the creek water. The clean water will help the farm become productive and successful.
Julia McIntyre - Trebuchet Hill Trebuchet Hill, located in Boone, is a family owned farm that has incorporated sustainability practices to successfully grow 70+ varieties of fruits and vegetables. McIntyre is using her 2016 grant to apply appropriate technology to their farming operations, which should increase efficiency and revenue. One of tools she wishes to include is a Quick Cut Greens Harvester, which enables a user to quickly cut a raised beds of greens. She also wants to purchase a seed bed roller and a Jane Seeder to better map out planting beds and seeds, which will lead to a higher rate of germination. She also plans to include two transplanters, a wheel hoe, and a rainwater capture system while still using minimal fossil fuels and tilling only when necessary.
Holland Whitesides and Andrew Bryant - Against the Grain Against the Grain farm has been a part of the High Country's local food system since 2009. Holland and Andrew have participated in the High Country Farm Tour, Watauga County Farmer's Market, and the High Country Winter Farmer's Market. They have also hosted guests that are part of the Lettuce Learn Program, and hosted a CRAFT workshop that was meant to foster farmer-to-farmer exchange. Holland and Andrew want to keep building strong connections with members of their community, and plan to use their grant to build a space that will be big enough to host large pizza parties. Parties will serve homemade pizza from the farm's cob pizza oven and will be an opportunity for Against the Grain to build stronger relationships with CSA box recipients, farmer's market customers, and those interested in learning more about the farm and local food systems.
Shay Smith - Smith Farms
Shay Smith has grown up with farming all his life, and at 18 years old and a senior year high school student, the drive he has to become a full time farmer is pretty impressive. Shay has been growing his own produce in small amounts on his families land on Smith Farms and figuring out his own markets by selling to the Alleghany Farmers’ Market and local residents. He applied for the grant through BRWIA so that he could expand his production and meet the growing demand that he is noticing. The land that Shay wanted to grow on was covered by brush and small trees, making it hard to produce anything. Using the $5,000 that he was granted, he cleared the small patch of land, prepared the soil, and planted a variety of potatoes and corn. Shay gets most of his income from farming and would like to make farming a sustainable career for himself. Shay stated that he would not have been able to expand his production this year if it was not for the grant from BRWIA and he plans to make $5,500 from the corn and potatoes he was able to plant. He also plans to move into organic agriculture as he expands. Enabling young farmers to reach their goals of becoming more involved with sustainable agriculture and helping them get their foot in the door is something that BRWIA is very proud to be a part of.
Jay Coman - Stony Knob Farm
Jay Coman is another young farmer looking to get more immersed in making farming a viable full time career. Jay inherited Stony Knob Farm, which is part of a conservation easement, and he wanted to keep it going as an operational farm and make it profitable again. He is a new farmer, with 2014 being his first year farming. He started bottle raising dairy calves and lambs and has expanded his operations to include 14 cows, 35 sheep, and 5 pigs. Jay attended Blue Ridge Farm School to expand his knowledge of farming practices and to make connections with his local farming community. He applied for the BRWIA direct-to-farmer grant so that he could implement a rotational grazing plan for his sheep, which included a lot of fence building, repair, and acre expansion in order to adhere to best pasture management practices. He earned a meat handlers license last fall so he can sell his meat directly to consumers. He sells his meat mainly in Durham, NC and the greater triangle area but has been getting more and more interest and needs to expand to meet the growing demand for local, ethically raised meat. With the $5,000 he was granted, Jay was able to put up approximately 2,500 feet of new fencing and repair fencing on approximately eight acres of pasture land. He also purchased a solar charger so that his electrical fencing could continue to be charged using renewable energy. In addition to that, he was able to restore some old barns that were already on the property to allow for new stalls and animal access to more shelter. Because of this growth in on-farm infrastructure, Jay was able to expand his flock and now has ten new acres of pasture for his lambs. This means that Jay can now further expand his livestock operation while simultaneously protecting the natural creek banks through rotational grazing and upholding the terms of the conservation easement on his family land. Jay has now been able to reach more local markets such as the Alleghany Meat Market and the farmers’ market. Jay is also successfully passing on his livestock handling knowledge to younger generations through mentoring. This summer, he worked with two young girls named Lila and Marley Williams from Piney Creek Elementary School. Both aspiring female farmers received young lambs from Jay and were responsible for caring for them over a ten week period. The girls bottle fed their lambs, spent time bonding with them, and presented them at the AG Field Day at Alleghany Fair Grounds to 40 other students from local elementary schools. The presentation included a bottle feeding demonstration, Q&A, and Lila discussed her experience with raising a lamb. BRWIA makes supporting our established and aspiring farmers a priority. There are many other young farmers like Shay and Jay who are interested in becoming full time farmers but don’t have access to financial capital, land, farming mentors, or other needed resources. The more we continue to support these young farmers, the stronger our local food systems will be.
Doug & Wheeler Munroe - Waterfall Farm
Doug Munroe and his daughter, Wheeler, both run Waterfall Farm - a successful maple syrup and trout production business. Doug has been farming the land he owns since 1976 and started the maple syrup production in 2006. Since then, the business has been growing every year and they always sell out of their supply. Doug and Wheeler applied for a grant through BRWIA so they could purchase a Steam Away machine which speeds up the evaporating process, reduces workload and firewood use, and increases syrup production. With the $5,000 they were granted, they purchased the Steam Away machine and set it up in their sugar shack. Because the processing of the syrup doesn’t happen until winter time and the funds were granted to them this past spring, they will have to wait until 2016 to use it. Doug has calculated that the machine will increase production and efficiency up to 75%, which means cutting less firewood and making more syrup in less time. The Steam Away will also allow them to add more tree taps to their system and increase production because of the faster processing time. They had 370 taps this year and plan to add 80 more in 2016 and an additional 80 in each following year, to have a total goal of 600 taps by spring 2018. Doug and Wheeler get about 15% of their income from their maple syrup and could not have expanded as quickly without the purchase of the Steam Away machine. They currently sell their product at the Ashe County Farmers’ Market and have plans to expand to the Watauga Farmers’ Market next year. Doug and Wheeler participated in the BRWIA High Country Farm Tour this summer and were able to show their new machine to others in the community and sell some of their syrup from the previous harvest. BRWIA is happy to give Doug and Wheeler the means to expand and we can’t wait to see what next year looks like for them!
Brooke Walker and Susan Turman - Elk Ridge Farm
Brooke Walker & Susan Turman of Elk Ridge Farm have been farming produce and livestock for eight years and for the past two of those, they have been full-time. They have been slowly expanding every year and currently sell organic produce, meat, and eggs at the Ashe Co. Farmers’ Market and directly on their farm. In order to further expand while keeping sustainable practices, Brooke and Susan needed to fence more pasture and build an animal working shed. They were granted $5,000 from BRWIA to create this much needed on-farm infrastructure. They previously had seven acres of fenced pasture land for their cattle, pigs, and goats. With the grant money, they were able to fence an additional five acres of pasture land and implement rotational grazing plans that adhere to best pasture management practices. They will now be able to expand their livestock numbers while continuing to preserve the quality of the land. Brooke and Susan were also able to build a covered animal working shed with a sorting and loading area. This allows them to improve their animal handling and health practices when doing things like administering vaccinations and looking at animal health issues. Infrastructure like this decreases animal and farmer stress and increases efficiency as well as animal health and safety. Brooke and Susan now have the ability to increase their goat herd this fall and begin raising their own small herd of cattle. This means that their farm income will increase and they will have a more consistent cash flow, allowing them to continue to stay full-time farmers. The two have been working with others in the community to complete their project, including Eddy Labus, a Watauga Co. Cooperative Extension Agent, a local building contractor, Ascent Business Network, and other local farmers who have helpful advice. Micah Orfield, an Ashe Co. Cooperative Extension Agent, will be holding a cattlemen’s certification class on Elk Ridge Farm this fall. They also work with aspiring farmers in the area through their contacts with students and faculty in the Sustainable Development Program at ASU. Both Brooke and Susan are very open to sharing their farming experiences with others and spreading their knowledge. Each year they work very hard to create more sustainable farm practices and it is encouraging to see that they, and other small local farmers alike, stress the importance of these practices within the community.
Kathy and Kent Bishop - Three B Farm
Kathy Bishop and her husband Kent own Three B Farm (formerly known as Bishop Farms). The Bishops have over 30 years of various farming experience. From 1987 to 2008 they were contracted through Tyson to farm poultry and prior to that they raised cattle and grew hay. In 2008, they transitioned from the Tyson poultry houses to growing organic and naturally grown produce, including their blueberry bushes and honey bee hives. They also grew produce for New River Organic Growers, now known as New Appalachia. Last year they opened their farm as a u-pick blueberry operation for the first time and found that there was growing demand in the area for businesses like that. In order to expand from their current 375 bushes, the Bishops needed to propagate more bushes and install a drip irrigation system with overhead misting in order to protect their new plants. Using the $5,000 grant from BRWIA, the Bishops were able to complete the installation of the irrigation and misting system. The drip irrigation provides an adequate water supply for the blueberries in times of prolonged dry weather. Young blueberry bushes have very shallow roots so the drip irrigation can mean the difference between success and failure of the new blueberry crop when faced with stress caused by drought. As an additional form of protection, the overhead misting system helps prevent frost damage to the plants that could kill them if there is an unseasonable frost. The Bishops were not able to utilize the system for the 2015 season due to lengthy installation processes, but they foresee it having a huge impact on their production in years to come, helping them produce a bigger and better crop every year. This was the Bishops first year selling at the Wilkes Co. farmers’ markets and they realized that to make their time worth the effort, they may have to expand to larger markets such as the Watauga Co. farmers’ market. With the addition of this much needed on-farm infrastructure, the Bishops can more quickly meet their goals of expanding their operation to have 2,000 blueberry bushes, have Kent farming full-time, and have a more successful u-pick berry operation. Kathy will provide an educational outreach program on Wednesday, November 11 at 1 P.M. on Three B Farm. This program will demonstrate proper pruning techniques as well as the successes, challenges, and lessons learned by doing this project. The field day is in conjunction with Wilkes Co. and Watauga Co. Agricultural Extension as well as Bill Cline from NC State University. These outreach programs are open to other farmers and the public so that more farmers are encouraged to develop enterprises that increase farm income and sustainability.
Johnson County, TN
Mary Shull - Neva Valley Apiary
Mary Shull grew up on her family’s diverse farm which was a Grade A dairy until 1996 and has been in the family for eight generations now. She played a big part in helping the farm run, including milking cows, caring for the calves, pigs, and chickens, and helping her dad maintain the few hives of bees they had. In 2014 she decided to take a beekeeping class and began focusing more on expanding her honeybee population. Mary currently has about 20 hives on her property, Neva Valley Apiary, which she uses to bottle honey and make wax candles. She makes about 10% of her income from selling her bee products and plans to go full time on the farm within the next five years. Mary was granted $2,500 for her project, which is to plant a perennial wildflower field to increase her bees honey production while keeping the hives healthy and supplying a source of food for natural pollinators. Mary did a lot of research and made sure to purchase pure flower seeds along with a variety that would bloom in the summer and fall months. She chose a six-acre field on her property that was lying dormant after having been previously used for tobacco and wheat production. She had some trouble with weeds, deer, and weather but despite those set-backs she was able to provide some additional food for her bees and keep them healthy. She is caring for her bees in the most natural way possible, avoiding harmful chemicals and practices that may hurt her bees or the natural environment they live in. This shows an appreciation for sustainable agriculture and an understanding of the importance of strong honeybee populations. She has learned some valuable lessons about how to keep rag weeds at bay with cover crops and which flowers are the most efficient at surviving the elements and providing her bees with the most nutrition. Mary has high hopes for next year now that she knows how to manage some of the issues that may arise. She is an active member of the Beekeepers Association in Johnson County and plans to share her successes and challenges with that group as well as encourage them to grow their own bee crops and apply for future BRWIA grants. Mary’s work and willingness to share expertise, grow her fields as natural as possible, and pass her knowledge and family land on to her niece and nephew, bodes well for the plight of our honey bees.
Charles "Dan" Osborne - Dug Hill Apiary
Charles “Dan” Osborne and his family own Dug Hill Apiary. Their main source of farming income used to be tobacco and beef cattle but since the decline in tobacco sales, they have not grown tobacco in over ten years. Dan also grew up on a family farm and has been involved with bees since he was six years old. Currently, farming only contributes to 3% of the Osborne’s household income and Dan supplements that by working at a local factory but he plans to expand his hives and produce more honey as he moves toward retirement. Dan currently has about 25 hives and would like to add another 10-15 over the next couple years. His hives are surrounded by a variety of fruit trees including apples, plum, pear, peach, and blueberry bushes. His current market is family friends and co-workers which is more demand than he can presently keep up with. He would like to grow his honey business to keep up with and eventually grow sales, especially since he also has local stores asking for his honey. Last year he sold 120 quarts of honey at $12/qt. and plans to sell more than double that by 2016. Dan was granted $2,450 to expand his hives from 7 to his current 25 and purchase some basic honey processing equipment. He purchased a sideliner uncapper, which helps streamline the uncapping process. This current year has been unusually slow as far as honey production, with the bees not producing much excess honey. Because Dan leaves the bees some honey stores to get them through the winter, he wasn’t able to sell much this year, but says if his hives stay strong over the winter they will make much more honey next year. Dan stated that “with the overuse of pesticides over the years, the bee population has been on the decline. Bees are such an important source of pollination for crops and we should encourage more individuals to become involved in beekeeping. I believe that I can have a positive influence in my community to encourage others to do that”.
Velva "VJ" Bost - Grandfather Mountain Orchard
Velva “VJ” Bost has been farming full-time for 15 years at her family’s farm, Grandfather Mountain Orchard. VJ and her family have been selling apples, vegetables, and blueberries at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market since its opening year in 1974. Her father got her into farming at a young age, teaching her how to prune and properly care for the apple orchard. Her father planted some trees in the orchard prior to WWII and it became a successful u-pick orchard, but after his passing the orchard fell out of care and thick underbrush started to take over. In the few years since the orchard has been non-producing, VJ has noticed that some of the trees have died off and her farm income has suffered. VJ received $3,000 from BRWIA to remove all the underbrush and prune the apple trees in order to get them producing again so she can sell them at the Watauga Farmers’ Market and hopefully re-open the orchard as a u-pick operation once again. VJ had some set-backs with the help she needed to clear brush and could not finish clearing and pruning everything by the fall, but she hopes to finish this winter and have the orchard producing at a profitable level by next year. VJ has over 30 varieties of apples on her farm and it is one of the oldest orchards in the area. With the revitalization of the orchard, she will be able to sell more at the market, fulfill the demand for her apples, and hopefully go back to getting 100% of her income from the farm. VJ would also like to use the orchard as a learning tool by hosting workshops and utilizing student help for pruning and other upkeep. In April 2015, VJ hosted a pruning workshop at Grandfather Mountain Orchard, which was part of the educational outreach program required by this grant. The workshop demonstrated proper pruning techniques for older trees as well as showing how to prune and train young trees. The workshop had a total of 20 participants and VJ hopes to host more like this in the future. These outreach programs are open to other farmers and the public so that more farmers are encouraged to develop enterprises that increase farm income and sustainability.