An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

I recently completed a course offered by Johns Hopkins through an online service called Coursera. It was totally free and provided a lot of great readings on food system issues.

I’ll pass along some readings at some point.

Alex's Certificate

Organic Growers School

I wanted to recap some of the amazing things that I saw and learned at the Organic Growers School in Asheville March 8th and 9th.  I have been to the Carolina Farm Stewardship conference twice but never have been to OGS. It was fantastic. I wanted to pass along some of the things I learned and hope that you can use them.

The first class was MicroHydro Electricity with Bob and Pat Momich. What is basically boils down to is for a system they were looking at prices ranging from $7,300 to $9,500. There are cheaper ways to go but these systems provide a quality power input with reliability. Below is a copy of the handout given in class that has some great resources and a breakdown of the costs.

Instructor’s Handout from Class

Growing & Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal, and other Woodland Medicinals with Jeanine Davis was the second class I took. It was also great and got me interested in the production power of our forest lands. (Bonus: Jeanine is our Friends of Ag Breakfast speaker this Wednesday the 19th) Below are some great resources:

NC Alternative Crops and Organics Blog

NC Herbs

Lastly, Jeanine is also just about to launch a revised copy of her book with the same name of the presentation, available May 2014, you can pre-order the book here.

The third class I took was a half day workshop on Drystone Masonry with Dry Stone Joe. I have rock walls throughout the property that I own but are all held together with mortar – the art of dry stacking and shaping and placing rocks was fun to watch and learn.  He teaches workshops through WNC and has a website with alot of great resources and I have listed below three of the websites specifically that he mentioned.

Dry Stone Joe

Drystone Walling Association

Trow & Holden Tools

The Stone Foundation

Sunday was Permaculture day, I spent all day in one place listening to some amazing ideas. The first class was Innovative Horticultural Strategies for a New Permaculture Century with Chuck Marsh of Useful Plants Nursery. I was lucky and unfortunate enough to eat dinner with Chuck at the CFSA conference – lucky because I had 3,000 questions to ask him and unfortunate because I felt terrible and asked all of two.  Chuck went over an amazing amount of stuff but three things I walked away with were – coppicing is a great way to harvest wood and to keep your fruit trees forever young, living fences are amazing, and deep bed gardening is an impressive way to grow.

The next class was with Zev Friedman and was entitled Real Life Forest Gardening and Farming. This was also really interesting and one of the things I walked away wanting to know even more about was The Milpa Cycle – the three sisters garden’s grandmother.

The Organic Growers’ School was really amazing and I hope you will consider going next year. There’s nothing quite like a fresh perspective and to be energized for the coming growing season. The School also features classes throughout the year so it is well worth your time to look at their website and see what classes they have coming up.

Tilling the Ag Center Garden

AmeriCorps alum Laura Brookshire came by the Ag Center today and spent some volunteer time tilling up the garden today. Our garden this year will be twice the size of our previous gardens. Thanks Laura!

Tilling March 2014 Tilling March 2014 2Tilling March 2014 3

SAHC’s Community Farm and Food Project

So when I heard of this program from Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy I was so amazed at the initiative of these folks. Alot of folks look at conservancy from a narrow point of view and sometimes they do have a specific scope of work but this is right along the lines of what is needed in our region and aside from that it is a great opportunity for a new farmer. Check out the details below and follow up with them soon – deadline is April 1st, 2014.




Bees Without Borders

Patrick pointed me to a recent Christian Science Monitor article about one man on a beekeeping mission. “Andrew Coté travels the world teaching beekeeping as a way to help alleviate poverty in underserved communities…” 

Read more:

Additional NY Times article:

The Pinnacle of Self Reliance – On Farm Seed Production

Carolina Farm Stewardship is offering an awesome opportunity to learn from the best, Dr. john Navazio of the Organic Seed Alliance and with none of that drive 4 hours to Raleigh junk either – he’s comin’ to the mountains! On Thursday, March 20th from 9 am to 1 pm he will be at the Mountain Horticultural Research Station.  This is an awesome opportunity and not to be missed. More details below:

On-Farm Variety Trials, Seed Production and Plant Breeding: A Primer for Organic Vegetable Growers
Who: Dr. John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance Senior Scientist and Washington SU Extension Organic Seed Specialist
+Principles of designing, conducting and evaluating on-farm variety trials using basic scientific methods
+Choosing appropriate varieties, integrating trials into your current production, and crop traits to consider for trial assessment
+The basics of reproductive biology, harvest timing and seed cleaning using vegetable crop examples that are best suited for seed production in the varied climates of NC
+Classical breeding methods that can be used to enhance varietal adaptation to your cultural practices and environmental/market challenges
While open to anyone, content will be aimed at growers who have strong baseline knowledge in sustainable vegetable production. We also welcome extension personnel and those providing technical assistance in the agricultural field.
When/Where: 9 AM – 1 PM (Sign in at 8:30 AM)
Monday, March 17, 2014
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems
Main Farm Complex (Service Building) Goldsboro, NC 27530
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
North Carolina A&T State University
Coltrane Hall (Godfrey Room) Greensboro NC, 27420
Parking for workshop available at: House of Prayer for All People Church
101 South Dudley Street, Greensboro, NC 27401
Directions: Attached to this email
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center
455 Research Drive, Mills River, NC 28759
***The WNC Organic Broccoli stakeholders meeting and presentation of 2012-2013 Participatory Broccoli Variety Trial results will follow the March 20th workshop from 1:30-3:00PM. If you plan to attend RSVP to:
Cost: $10 includes all workshop materials, snacks and beverages throughout the morning.
First-time registrants in this system simply create a guest user name and password by clicking the “New Visitor Registration” link when prompted to login. If you are a current CFSA member you should already be in the system with your login name being your primary email. Click the “Forgot your password?” link to have it reset it and send you an email with a new one.
Contact the following people with questions:
Registration: Anna Dobbs, anna@carolinafarmstewards.org919-542-2402
Workshop content & day-of support: Eric Soderholm, eric@carolinafarmstewards.org252-482-0696 (o), 301-221-7119 (m)

WNC Ag Options

Congratulations are due for two Polk County farmers for grants received from the WNC Ag Options program.

First is Chauncey Barber, our esteemed ag teacher at the high school:

Secondly, is Steve Modlin of Old Mule Farm

Way to go!