The cultivation of agriculture is the first and most important way Homo sapiens differentiate themselves from other creatures.
Dowdy Bradley is 68 years old, and for nearly all of those years he’s been involved in some kind of farming, staying with the land through drought and flood, surplus and scarcity. The drought of 2016, however, has been the worst, hands-down — for him and for growers throughout the region.
“This has been some of the hottest, driest weather I’ve seen, “ Bradley said. “I was worried about the water because it was already getting low. A couple pastures just dried up.”
Armed with five-gallon buckets and a groundswell of energy, 14 teens from Balsam-based SOAR Camp descended on Eugene Christopher’s Waynesville farm this month with a simple task before them — feed the hungry of Haywood County by collecting as many potatoes as possible.
Clouds hung low over the waning daylight Nov. 11, air slightly hazier than usual from the smoke of nearby wildfires. The leafless November scene could have been a bleak one but for the liveliness of the soundscape, which featured the back-and-forth banter of high school kids freed from the rules of volume control that govern a typical school day. The rumbling of Christopher’s tractor served as the background to their shouts as he traversed the rows, turning the soil for harvest.
It may be mostly men tending to the crops these days at Darnell Farms, but it’s Afton Roberts who has turned the farm into a thriving agri-tourism business in Swain County.
A cadre of curious animals gathers at the gate as Joe Moore, owner of Indian Springs Farms in Bethel, approaches the pasture.
“Hello girls,” he says, addressing the herd of bright-eyed, tuft-headed alpacas. As he opens the door, some draw near to sniff his shirt or hands, while others — the shier ones, presumably — hang back to gauge the situation from afar.
These days, bovines — not elk — are the only cows wandering around the Ross dairy farm in Jonathan Creek.
Elk may be the most polarizing animal in Western North Carolina right now, but William Carter has kept a closer eye on the issue than most. Carter makes his living off a small mountain farm in the Jonathan Creek area, sharing a property line with the Ross dairy farm — that family’s elk-related struggles have earned them plenty of unwanted time in the local spotlight.
As the elk population has grown, Carter’s found himself wondering what the future holds for his acres of beans, pumpkins and cattle pasture.
A minor adjustment to elk depredation rules brought 70 people — about 40 of them college students — out to Haywood Community College last week for a public hearing with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Nearly five years ago, Taylor and Preston Gregg stood on top of Chestnut Ridge and recited their wedding vows.
After years of sitting empty, the old Drexel Furniture factory in Whittier will now enter a new phase of useful life as home to the recently formed Thomas Valley Growers, LLC.