… this year’s AmeriCorps Service Members!  Amy and Alex will be serving at the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development for the next year and will work to preserve farmland, support beginning and experienced farmers, and strengthen ties between farmers and consumers in the county.


Amy DeCamp – Farm & Consumer Outreach Specialist

Amy grew up in a small beach town on Long Island, NY where she was taught to swim in the frigid waters of the Long Island Sound alongside prehistoric horseshoe crabs and gelatinous jellyfish. She was also lucky to have spent her childhood camping in the Catskill Mountains – floating down the Delaware River and singing songs while bald American eagles soared overhead. She developed a deep respect for the natural world at a young age as a result of these experiences. Amy went on to attend the University at Albany, State University of New York, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. From there, she spent several years working as an executive recruiter in New York. While recruiting provided Amy with valuable skills and experience, she ultimately realized that she wanted to transition her career to focus on environmental conservation and advocacy. Most recently, Amy has worked on small-scale organic farms throughout the South and in Western North Carolina to promote sustainable agricultural practices and to support local food systems. She is excited to be serving as Farm and Consumer Outreach Specialist this year!


Alex Kazer – Conservation Education & Outreach Coordinator

Alex hails from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from the University of Georgia with degrees in International Affairs and Arabic, he spent two years researching and working on refugee issues in Jordan and another year teaching at the American University of Iraq –Sulaimani. Seeking a change of scenery, he left the Middle East to explore the hidden corners of Europe. During his wanderings, he discovered a passion for farming while working on a goat dairy in Sweden. Alex spent the next three years in Washington state learning to farm and gaining a deep appreciation for responsible land stewardship. He is excited to work with the farmers of Polk County to help preserve the agrarian traditions of the area and to bring more young farmers on to the land.


New AmeriCorps Members on the Scene!

AnsleyRoberts    Ansley Roberts

From: Charleston, SC

School: American University in Washington, DC. Major in International Studies with a focus in Global Environmental Politics

Favorite thing about agriculture: I love that you can recreate history through food, and how much food brings people together.

Favorite Vegetable: Beets

EllenBeatty   Ellen Beatty


From: Highland, MD

School: Appalachian State University. Major in Sustainable Development with a focus in Agriculture

Favorite thing about agriculture: I love that food has the ability to build community, that there is always something new to learn in the realm of agriculture, and the feeling after working on the farm all day.

Favorite Vegetable: Okra


Hello Polk County! As you may know, the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development has two AmeriCorps members every year who serve Polk County by providing educational and other resources to the area’s farmers and food enthusiasts. We are so excited to be serving in such a beautiful area, with great people. We started in the beginning of September and have been up to some exciting stuff. It was really great to work on the Friends of Agriculture Breakfast and we were excited to meet so many people in the community. We have also been working on the farmland preservation program, beekeeping, and demonstration garden initiatives. In the next year we hope to expand the office’s programs and serve Polk County by supporting a local, sustainable food system. Stop by the Mill Spring Agriculture Center anytime to say hello!

Feast or Famine 4.2


Wednesday Lunch at work:

I enjoyed the Bon Bon bake so much I had it again with the meatloaf , with a side of raw green and purple beans from the Ag Center garden. Just pick and eat! That folks is called- ultra hyper   local.

Grn beans

Feast or Famine 2.1

Tuesday Breakfast- Spelt toast with honey and out the door I go, with my Openroad Coffee and a big container of ice water with mint from the backyard patch.

Tuesday Lunch- Added some of the BonBon squash to the Meatloaf from Sunday in a jar and heated up. I ate the whole thing!empty jar

Tuesday Dinner- I went to the Foothills Chamber After Hours event and grazed on the spread sourced and prepared by Linda Benson of Mobile Global Bistro- greens with a spicy Asian dressing, cherry tomatoes with mozzarella balls on skewers with balsamic, Bruschetta and a fruit variety plate with cantaloupe and watermelon.  I also got to witness ‘Mill on Wheels’ in action, Chris Caroll operated his portable sawmill on a cedar log to make beautiful planks, and then creates artfully crafted furniture- the cedar bench was gorgeous!

Feast or Famine 1.2/1.3

Monday Lunch- I dropped by Openroad Coffee and got a ‘Quinoa the Great’ salad- a twist on greek with feta, tomatoes, greens and a light dressing.

Monday Supper- Leftover stir-fry consisting of local sausage, carrots, onions and cabbage and diced sweet potato seasoned with an Italian blend made in house at Meanwhile Back in Saluda.

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For snacking this week-Roasted Bon Bon winter squash seeds. The perfect salty snack, or on a salad.

I had picked up a ‘BonBon’ winter squash at the Columbus Farmers Market . I asked the farmers wife how she had prepared it. ‘Just brush with butter or olive oil, salt and pepper and roast, cut side down for about 30 minutes.’ I did. It tastes like candy, thus the name. I am just sayin….sweeter than a sweet potato.

Feast or Famine

When first committing to Polk Eats Local I had feelings of excitement at the challenge and a bit nervous. While I do pay attention to what I source local because I feel VERY strongly about supporting our local producers and food entrepreneurs( yes it is my job too, which I do because I am passionate about our community and agriculture), I admit I still ‘default’ to convenient foods, the bottom line price sticker and giving in to my ‘wants’ rather than my ‘needs.’  My mom ( remember we are a 3 generation household) reminded me the other day, as we were talking about eating local, that it takes 2 weeks of doing something consistently to make it a habit ( I remembered hearing this years ago and applied it to my need to floss daily).   This reminder got me to pondering if my habit of eating local habit has developed. I have found myself thinking about what is on my plate or where I stop to pick something MORE now than before starting our eat local campaign.  I plan meals more around what I can source local. I think about what I can find local to substitute for a non local food item I normally use- such as pasta, bread and orange juice. I used to be an OJ fanatic. I can now go weeks without having to have it.  Because I have a sensitivity to wheat I have cut out pasta and cut back on breads- this is much better for the waistline too :).

I was on vacation with my family last week(actually, 2 of our 4 adult children agreed to go with the old parents to Florida).    We had a blast!  I had determined to at least be aware of local sourcing while gone. Some of the things I discovered:

A retail food store called Earth Origins had locally sourced oranges and grapes.

We went to a locally owned seafood restaurant one night which had a fresh seafood market connected to it. I almost made myself sick on shrimp.

I picked up a jar of guava jelly. Guavas grow in almost every backyard in Florida. My mother is from Florida. I was almost a teenager before I realized there were other kinds of jelly besides guava. I am serious, we did not have anything in our house except guava. We have not had a good guava jelly in a long time. The jar is almost empty just since Saturday. Same Florida company, same jar design, same taste as when I was young . Ahh the memories.

A bag of Vidalia onions on the way home.  I panic if there are no onions in the house( ask my family, they have seen the panic).

I TOOK to Florida several bottles of local wine and 2 pints of honey as thank you hostess gifts. They were immensely appreciated, along with our pastured pork sausage and ground beef.

Food prep knowledge I learned on vacation – How to correctly and effectively cook bacon to absolute crisp perfection- You will have to find me and ask me. So simple, I can’t believe I was doing it wrong all these years…..

I missed the farmers markets in Polk County this week so I am having to be a bit more creative in my sourcing but this will be a good thing as it will expand my options.

Sunday breakfast- Spelt toast with…..guava jelly.

Sunday Lunch- Work with what you’ve got: Grass fed beef meatloaf that incorporated onions, eggs, a shredded patty pan squash, 2 slices of stale spelt bread, some tomato sauce and Old Mule BBQ for a flavor boost. Placed  meatloaf in a cast iron casserole dish and sliced potatoes on top. Baked for 45 minutes. Side of seared kale from the garden with garlic and sliced tomatoes. Wow it was good. The best part was sharing it with one of our new Americorp members- Ansley Roberts who was in town to secure housing for the new year starting September 1.

Supper- Pork Chops on the grill and some stir-fried cabbage with a diced sweet potato.

Monday breakfast- A poached egg on toast- I hadn’t had one in over a week! Hit the spot.


A Whole Week in One Post

I ended up at Overmountain Vineyard today with Alex Rike and Russell Mierop. At this time, I received a massive amount of grief for Eating Local an entire week and only posting once so far. So to them and to you dear reader, I apologize. It does not take away from an awesome week though and I’m excited to tell you all about it.

Breakfast in General: Consisted of skipping it, yogurt and granola, and tomorrow it will most certainly be an egg and cheese biscuit. If you have forgotten my Ode to egg and cheese biscuits, you can see it here but it if not Shakespearean it must be only slightly less poetic. (I’m not the only one either, check out this post from Field and Stream magazine indicating how well loved their breakfast sandwich posts are received)

Lunches: Two from the Mill Spring Farm Store consisting of sandwiches and Hunger Buster bars. Today was the grand exception, I was in Landrum picking up donations for the Ag Center and decided on Dawn’s Eat Local post to go to Southside Smokehouse and Grill. Upon walking to the door and seeing it adorned with Eat Local stickers I knew this was a good idea. I had the watermelon, blueberry, feta salad. I ordered the small and was overwhelmed with the size. Most of the salad was secured locally and I had unsweet tea (not local but I just didn’t think of it honestly – I was thirsty and I thought the humidity was supposed to break today…)

Dinners: Have been great.

Monday: At home, local tomatoes and couscous from the Mill Spring Farm Store with Ashe County Cheese and garlic from home to adorn the dish. Ice cream from the Farm Store to make a Monday a bit better.

Tuesday: Grilling at Russell’s house. We had his pork links (grown no less than 20 to 22 feet away from where we ate) and zucchini, onion, and green pepper skewers all thanks to the Farm Store. I also want you all to know that because of my unhealthy obsession with Pinterest, Russell is now addicted whether he chooses to admit it or not.  Russell sells his pork and beef at the Columbus Farmers’ Market.


Wednesday: Grilled Sunburst trout (in the rain) at home from the Farm Store with an ear of corn. Drank Hi-Wire Brown Ale to wash it down.

Thursday: Headed to Asheville to see my buddy Peter and stopped in West Asheville at Lucky Otter and had a burrito. Chicken from a Hickory based farm and veggies from Mountain Food Products at the WNC Farmers’ Market. It was good.

Friday: Headed to Overmountain (and don’t think I am a lush) but had some apple cider, sangria, and blackberry wine. Then brought a bottle of cider home for good measure. Overmountain’s cider is amazing. I am no aficionado but without a doubt, it fit the bill so amazingly for a warm August Friday. Many ciders rest for a short period and then immediately to the bottle. Overmountain takes their time. These Gala apples start in Henderson County but make their way to Polk, are pressed and fermented wine style for a year. It was dry, it was not to sweet, it was cold, and it was great. I can promise you that I received no compensation, I received no special treatment, the giant Great Danes didn’t even come to give me a sniff…it is just good stuff and you should go try it.

I hate that I did not make it to the other vineyards of Polk County while I was on my week (still next week while we are all Eating Local). I love Parker Binns Vineyard and the lack my attention to them in the last two weeks of my Eating Local does not take away from their quality of wine. They are building an amazing new facility and it is situated at the top of a hill that will have one of the most amazing views in Polk County.

Mountain Brook Vineyards is nothing short of what you would expect from your best friends making some wine and inviting you over to enjoy it. Their place is bucolic and serene and someone who is better at wine tasting than I has said they make some of the best in our region.

Russian Chapel Hill is run by a man named Andrey who has a heart that I assume makes it difficult to walk around due to its oversized nature. The Chapel that he has built might seem odd by a passerby driving through to get to their business  meeting. But standing within it’s walls and hearing him talk about building it for the soldiers he served with in the military is near harrowing.

Green Creek Winery is the jet-less trip to the Napa Valley. I have never felt more far away from home and still now I’ll be in my bed at night than here. It might just be me, but it is a transporting place and I have been glad to have a sip at this fine place.

These folks create a product for us. Henderson County is five times our size in population and near 100 more square miles in size and yet they have only two wineries. Nothing against them but Polk County was made to produce good grapes and fine wines. Visit these places and help their businesses grow.

Last thing for this evening, if you have a bit of interest in visiting the farms and wineries that we have talked about over the last six weeks you can. No VIP pass required, you don’t have to know a guy, or sell your soul. On September 19th we have the PolkFresh Farm Tour. Farm across the County open their doors to you so that you can see what they do, how they do it, and how they are damn proud of the product they make. Come and visit them and show your support. The farms will make you proud and the wineries will make you at ease. Visit our Farm Tour page for more information and to get tickets.

Here’s a link to most of the places we have been these last six weeks. 

Saturday Buying and Sunday Eating in Boone

So I have no excuse for the time it has taken to make my first blog post. It has been a busy few weeks but I am glad to be back on my week of eating 100%.

Saturday morning I was in Boone so in preparation for the Eat Local Challenge I went to the Watauga County Farmers’ Market.  I have been before but everytime it seems to get better and better. We parked two parking lots away due to the volume of visitors and even had to do that stare down the other driver who is trying to steal your spot thing. It was tense. So we got a Fried Apple Pie from The Farmer’s Wife and a Fresh Lemonade (sorry kid, I forgot what your name was but I gave you $1 tip so I hope we’re cool) to calm down.  And if you’re reading this guy in the parking lot, remember one thing…I won.

We got:

  • Honey from Faith Mountain Farm
  • Beets, purple green beans, Cherokee purple tomatoes, and beets from Against the Grain Farm (I went to there farm during the High County Farm Tour – it is an amazing place)
  • Turkey Burger from I forgot.
  • Summer Banana Apples (Particularly excited about these as I planted two of these this year from Century Farm Orchards and have no idea what they taste like – just went with the good sounding description.) Also from I forgot.
  • Potatoes from Caroline at Octupus Garden (Hey Caroline!)

We also heard some great tunes from Redleg Husky. It’s nice having music to meander too. Like a farmers’ market soundtrack. The artists, Tim and Misa were very nice too.

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If you find yourself in Watauga County and are preparing for a local food odyssey – then make your way over to Ashe County for the cheese. I bought a wheel of cheese from Ashe County Cheese. Won’t say much more than that but if I forget to mention it, just expect everyday I have a chunk.

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We didn’t buy anything (sorry owners) but really enjoyed The Honey Hole. They had a wide range of bee keeping equipment, poultry supplies, and good food gift items. The best part was the outside entry and indoor display beehive right there in the store. For all you poultry fanciers, check out the leash option for walking your chicken down Main.20150815_171553


Lastly for West Jefferson, stopped at Boondocks Brewing for a few beers. Really enjoyed the IPA and grew extra hair on my chest from the Campfire Scottish Ale.

Dinner that night was good but it being the last night of not eating local it inherently was not very local. Though the Come Back Shack has local turkey and beef burgers, I opted instead for a veggie burger with fries.

Sunday brunch brought a great feast at Melanie’s Food Fantasy. They had beautiful pollinator gardens on their patio and outside the restaurant. I had a hard time deciding but ended up with local scrambled eggs, biscuit from Stick Boy Bread Co, covered in gravy, bacon, whole grain pancake, and apples. It was a feast and was great.




Sunday evening after getting home I went to the new mega Ingles in Mills River. So fancy that they lights in the freezer section only come on as you walk by…good job Ingles! They had a nice display of local produce as soon as you came in the door. I bought Annie’s Bread, smoked Sunburst Trout, and another tomato. Had a picnic of sorts at home with the Ashe County Cheese.

The picture at the top is from the Mt. Jefferson State Park.

You can’t fool your tastebuds…

My week of eating local has been going without too much issue.  I usually eat from my garden or the farmers market because its cheaper than the grocery store, so it hasn’t been too much of a change.  I am, however, missing pasta, bread, pizza, and my guilty pleasure, kettle chips.

Another issue is that local beer and wine tend to be a bit more pricy, but it is always nice when they are gifted, so I have been able to enjoy some wine from Russian Chapel Hill, as well as some beers from Bottle Tree Brewing out of Tryon, NC.

But back to the pasta issue…

For two weeks I have been wanting to make Gnocchi.  A traditional Italian dumpling  made from potatoes and flour, and usually served with a sauce.  Finally I got motivated to venture out of my comfort zone, and make something that is actually pretty hard to get right.  I baked potatoes from my garden, pureed them in the blender, added local flour just as the recipe said to….but….they just seemed weird.  After boiling the dumplings I gave one a try.

Gross.  Not pasta.  Not edible.  What now?

I had made a tomato sauce to go with the dumplings, but the failed dumplings and disappointment made the sauce equally as unappealing.  So….it went in the fridge, to be dealt with at a later time.  And you know what I did?  I went and got a frozen pizza and gelato.  Don’t judge me.  I tried, I failed, I failed again.  And I can tell you that a little junk food here and there is just what the soul needs.

I made up for it last night with a tasty dinner of sautéed squash, eggplant, and Italian sausage from Chinquapin Farms.  And today for lunch I’ve packed some chicken from Mountain Valley Farms and the sad tomato sauce I made on my failed gnocchi night.  11868585_10156000496705171_1369114007_n

So….I have to say, some things just can’t be made, but I’ll keep on experimenting.


Until next time!


Sydney K.

Land, Labor, and Capital

Land, Labor, and Capital

Generally, in Economics, there are things called factors of production. Typically this is land, labor, and capital. Additionally, there is human and social capital. How do you get these factors working together for a more unified agricultural front in Polk County?

Land – Agricultural production requires land. From a patch in your backyard to a 500 acre industrial operation in Iowa, plants and animals need space to mature.

Persons per Square Mile

Polk: 86.3

Henderson: 286.1

Rutherford: 120.2

McDowell: 102.1

Buncombe: 362.9

Polk County administers a farmland preservation program to keep active farmland in production. However, I’m sure there is untapped land throughout the county. Polk County enjoys the lowest population per square mile of any adjacent county. We are a rural county. How do we make land productive, making the most of existing resources to benefit local food?

Labor – But who will work the land, making it beautiful, bountiful, and becoming of Polk? For this, we need labor. People working the land, investing sweat equity into the production, are who turn dirt into dinner.

Young farmers throughout the country are casting about for opportunities to farm, learning the trade, and will eventually need to settle. Matching unused land with skilled, eager new and beginning farmers will become a critical need.

For example, Polk County is home to many seasonal residents and horse farms. Horses and well-managed horse farms require a lot of attention. I had a conversation with one resident who hopes to eventually have a live-in farmer to farm a pasture, taking care of the property and horses all the while. This type of mutually-beneficial transaction could be a great boon to our area and contribute to a base of new farmers in our community.

The influx of young farmers could have a tremendous impact on the image of Polk. A dedicated, passionate set of young farmers could transform the image of the community. Recently, in Columbus, there opened a pottery studio. Imagine if the bohemian contingent increased, etc

Capital – Farmers need equipment… tractors, forks, spreaders, etc. There is a certain amount of available capital in the farming community. My roommate tends a garden at our house, and he occasionally borrows our neighbor’s truck.

Our neighbor was talking about selling the truck that my roommate uses for the garden, and when he does, my roommate noted that he wouldn’t be able to use it.

I heard a story on NPR about crowd-souring solutions to small government projects. Namely, in Boston, where fire hydrants become covered with snow, a Code for America fellow developed an app where people could adopt a fire-hydrant to dig out in the snow. Read more

It got me thinking, what if we could create a collaborative community where farmers could list spare capital they have available to share. It could be a map, database or other method of communicating the physical capital available in a community.

For a small farmer/gardener, it seems like there are select tools with flexible use schedules that could be shared with others. I researched this further.

In the county, Soil and Water has a shared-use drill and Cooperative Extension had a sprayer for control of a certain invasive. In the case of the sprayer, the tragedy of the commons occurred. A user didn’t add oil, and that was the end of it. The drill, however, is managed by a local hardware company. Much like a Rug Doctor rental, there is more accountability.

Such a program would require a web app of some sort as well as, I think, a manager. Someone would have to coordinate the distribution of available assets so that X farmer doesn’t get Y piece of equipment, because he plans ahead, icing Z farmer out of the program. But it would be cool.

Collaboration among farmers, fostering a sharing economy and increasing the number of young participants in farming would be, I think, an overall boon to the community and a progressive step to strengthening our local food system.