A Day at the Farm

By Seth Young on June 19, 2017.

One of the best parts about a service term with Project Conserve is the learning and service opportunities outside of your host site.  Usually once or twice a month, Project Conserve members come together at a location in Western North Carolina for a day of service, learning, or a combination of both.  On June 12th, we had a training with a service component at Living Web Farm in Mills River.  

We begun the training by meeting Pat Battle, our host for the day, at one of Living Web’s newest properties.  This location was previously the site of a high intensity, unsustainable tomato farming operation.  Over the past four years, Living Web has planted cover crops in an attempt to remediate the soil back to health.  Project Conserve members had the honor of sowing the first crops on this plot of land since Living Web acquired it.

After a brief intro and tutorial, we began planting sweet potatoes.  We filled four rows with roughly 150 sweet potato plants each.  But as they say, many hands make light work and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.We jumped back in the vehicles and caravanned to Living Web’s location on Kimzey Road in Mills River where we enjoyed our lunch which was graciously donated by Harris Teeter and Ingles.

After lunch, Pat joined us once again, this time to share some of his immense knowledge.  He spoke on the basics of no-till agriculture, the importance and science of cover crops, and the variety of ways to make healthy compost.  One topic that Pat was very passionate about was biochar which seemed new and captivating to many of us. Biochar is essentially charcoal used as a soil amendment.  It is capable of increasing soil fertility and productivity as well as helping to mitigate the effects of climate change through carbon sequestration.

After Pat’s brief lecture, he gave us a guided tour of the farm.  He explained to us the basics of soldier flies, trellis systems, and seed starting.  

He also took us through the garden and taught us about the medicinal, nutritional, and ecological properties of dozens of plants.  His passion and decades of local knowledge were on full display as we strolled through the garden in the early June heat.

It was a very educational and enjoyable day that covered a wide range of topics dealing with sustainable agriculture, but the highlight of the day may have been the pizza party afterwards.  We picked a variety of greens and vegetables from the garden to make a enough salad for all of us.  Pat had been feeding his wood fired pizza oven all day to get it up around 800 degrees and had made pizza dough the night before.  Project Conserve members quickly topped the pizza’s before they were thrown into the oven for just a few brief minutes.  Here, they were overseen by our resident bakery veteran, Jack.  All in all, it was a great way to end our day at the farm.

Project Conserve members would first and foremost like to thank Pat Battle and Living Web Farms for hosting and teaching us for the day.  We also would like to thank Polk County Recreation for use of the van for shuttling purposes.  Lastly, we would like to send a sincere thank you to all of our food sponsors for the day which included Harris Teeter (Hendersonville & Asheville locations), Ingles (Brevard), Hendersonville Co-op, Fresh Market (Asheville), and Asheville Pizza & Brewing!