fr drexelIdeas surrounding the fate of a vacant factory building in Whittier have been swirling since Jackson County commissioners started taking a serious look at its future earlier this year. Turn it into an agriculture center? Make it a recreation park? Deed it to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians? Demolish it?

fr cornoopsA damaged corn crop and a no trespassing order from a farmer’s lawyer could thwart Shining Rock Classical Academy’s goal of finding a permanent home for the new charter school by December.

out frBy Katie Reeder • SMN Intern

Demand for locally grown food is soaring in Western North Carolina, but recruiting — and retaining — the farmers to grow the goods has been a challenge. That’s a problem a trio of farm-centric groups is hoping to address through a $100,000 grant they just landed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. 

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Organic Growers School and Western North Carolina FarmLink are collaborating to create Farm Pathways: Access to Land, Livelihood and Learning, a new program that will mentor beginning farmers and link them with the resources they need to succeed. It’s set to begin in 2016.

fr statefarmHaywood County farmers caught some face time with elected leaders this week over heaping plates of bacon, eggs, grits, biscuits and hash browns to talk candidly about the issues facing today’s farmers — and the unrelenting rain over the past week wasn’t one of them.

out frTucked away along a squirrely offshoot of Jonathan Creek Road, Dennis “Bear” Forsythe’s 15-by-15-foot greenhouse is like his own private Eden. The small outbuilding in rural Haywood County holds 500 plants representing 58 species, everything from pineapple to pepper. 

“I just love doing it,” Forsythe said. “You have running water and it’s soothing, it’s relaxing. You come out here and you say, ‘I grew everything here from seed.’”

fr petacowsSwarming flies. Cows trudging through knee-deep manure. Lame legs, an overgrown hoof, blood oozing from a nose. Bones protruding from emaciated bodies. There’s no denying that the picture painted in a recently released video from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was a grim one.  

out frSurvey your supermarket and you’ll see pretty much the same stuff anywhere in the country: oranges from Florida, onions from Georgia, potatoes from Idaho. 

Some variety has crept in recently — with artful displays of mountain-grown produce paying homage to the local food movement — but generally the corn we eat in North Carolina is the same corn they’re eating in Iowa and Utah. 

fr copperpotIt’s about preserving tradition — delicious tradition.

“We live in a small town, and it’s wonderful when you start meeting local farmers and seeing what they’re trying to do, trying to support themselves by living off the land,” said Jessica DeMarco. “It’s appealing, and we want to help support this concept, this way of life.”

coverBy Paul Clark • Correspondent

Mary McNeil carried her shopping bag around Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market like a kid on Halloween. In went fresh-ground sausage, newly prepared chorizo and a few cuts of meat from animals that spent the summer happily munching Haywood County’s glorious green grass. 

Walking through the market outside the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre on a crisp fall day, McNeil felt good not only about the quality of meat she was buying from a surprisingly large number of meat vendors, but also about what she was doing for the local economy. Buying meat from local farmers helps them keep their land in farms and their families in the pink. 

coverSunshine spills into Jackson County. The warm late summer rays cascade down into the mountains, ultimately flowing into the fields of Balsam Gardens. A handful of figures are seen wandering the mystical property, picking some of the freshest and finest produce found in Western North Carolina.

“Being able to remake my own little piece of society in the way that I want to with my hands is what keeps me going,” said Steven Beltram. 

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