ASAP’s Farm Tour connected the community with agriculture at farms throughout Western North Carolina last month. Radio reporter Jen Nathan Orris was on the scene at four farms and recorded this audio adventure to share the magic of local farms through sound.
Our first stop was Two Trees Farm in Canton for a tour of their vegetable and flower gardens, orchards, chickens, and blacksmith shop. Farmer Sara Martin walks through their property and points out the many aspects of their farm.
“If you guys want to follow me we’ll actually just walk around and I’ll show you guys what we’ve got going on,” Sara Martin says. “So our farm is a little unconventional in that most farmers grow just a few crops and then they market large quantities of those few crops. We have a lot of different things on our property, so it’s more similar to what someone would do if they wanted to have their own homestead type situation. It’s just kind of a beefed up homestead so we can share the bounty with some other families as well.”
“Our property is very hilly and so we have invoked the ancient tradition of terracing to allow us to grow on this steep and dynamic landscape,” she adds. “So what we’ve got here outfront, we’ve got our tomatoes, we’ve got some of our garlic, we’ve got peppers, and we’ve got greens and squash growing on these terraces in the front here. We also do a lot of perennial growing on our property just because of the fact that it is steep and we don’t want to disturb the soil very frequently and so that’s why we have apples up there.”
The tour continues as she explains how the farm’s solar power works. “We put in our solar system to run our farm about three years ago,” she says. “This generates enough electricity that in the summertime we actually are completely, well, we’re still connected to the grid, so we’re not off-grid, but we’re completely running off of our solar power. We actually put electricity back into the grid in the summertime and in the wintertime we don’t quite generate enough. And our big reason we don’t quite generate enough is because we’re also running the blacksmith shop off of it. So it’s not just our home that we’re running off of the solar power, we also run our plant starts business and the blacksmith shop off of the solar power as well.”
The sky grows darker as she walks through the homestead. Heavy raindrops start to fall as she exclaims, “We are blessed with a lot of water on this property! We actually have the opposite problem that a lot of people have. We’ve got to figure out what to do with the water versus trying to figure out how to keep everything watered.”
Thunder rolls through the homestead, so she brings the group inside the farm’s dome greenhouse.
“It stays warm year round because we have 900 gallons of water in here,” she says. “That’s heated by the sun during the day and then at night that warmer water radiates heat. So we actually don’t have to worry about heating the space until it’s going to be consistently in the teens.”
The solar-powered dome greenhouse allows them to grow some unusual crops for Western North Carolina. “We have two avocado trees. We have fig trees and grow pomegranates in here and lemons. We have tea trees and we also have a really big crop of turmeric—all these beds that look kind of empty, if you look closely you’ll see like those sprigs starting to come up. We actually grow our own turmeric out here on the farm. And so this will all be full of turmeric here soon it’ll end up actually eating this whole space over here. You won’t even be able to walk over there here in about three or four weeks,” she says with a laugh.
The next stop on the tour is Franny’s Farm in Leicester. This is their only public tour for the year and we’re excited that they welcomed everybody from the ASAP tour.
It’s raining when we arrive, but the farm is still magical with white fences, a big barn, and green rolling hills. We encounter a few people who were at Two Trees Farm during the tour, including Ethan Thomas who lives in Monroe, North Carolina, which is East of Charlotte. He just turned 15 and is visiting his great-grandparents.
“We came to visit them,” he says. “It was my birthday yesterday, so this is kind of a fun thing we could do together—kind of like family bonding.”
He says he loved seeing Two Trees Farm and learning about their solar power, adding that he and his family would like to live off the grid someday. He’s also interested in permaculture and is using the farm tour as a way to gain insight into how he and his family could start their own homestead in the future.
He takes a minute to notice the small goat running around the events barn at Franny’s Farm. “I hope he’s friendly,” Ethan says with a smile. “He looks like he knows his way around.”
That’s the end of our first Farm Tour report. Tune in next week to hear updates from more farms and then we’ll end the day with a cookout at a grass-fed beef farm. See photos from the making of this episode on social media and at www.asapconnections.org
Aired: July 1, 2019