Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mills River Educational Farm-a local treasure

A view of the gardens from the porch of the educational building
Late yesterday afternoon, my husband and I partook in a delightful learning experience at the Mills River Educational Farm. This is a little known treasure right in our midst here in the southern mountains of western North Carolina. It is located in Mills River, just about a ten minute drive from the Asheville airport. What a gem! This is a very small farm dedicated to finding the most sustainable methods for growing food. Run by a non-profit, some of our local farming experts are part of the team.

Yesterday they offered a class called "Soil Fertility Part 2" and it was dedicated to compost, cover crops, and understanding soil and organic waste reports. I have known all the speakers for twenty plus years, Jon Nilsson, Mark Schonbeck, and Pat Battle, so it was fun reconnecting.  Jon Nilsson, our local compost expert, spoke first on understanding waste analysis reports. This is important information if you are making compost. That was followed by a presentation by Dr. Mark Schonbeck, Virginia based consultant on soil fertility, cover crops, and all things organic. Mark spent several hours talking about the pros and cons of a very long list of cover crops.
Rocco explaining the buckwheat cover crop in one of the greenhouses.  That's Lisa Soledad Almaraz filming.
Then we took a short tour of the greenhouses and the gardens. We munched on some 'Vortex' beans and 'Sungold' tomatoes while Rocco Sinicrope explained what they were trying to accomplish in the greenhouses, how they were using buckwheat as a cover crop in one greenhouse, and using organic mulches topped by landscape fabric to grow squash in the field.

Pat (in the hat) and Mark (scratching his head) in front of the pizza oven.
Then Pat Battle treated us to wood-fire oven baked pizza. No one makes a pizza like Pat's! All were topped with veggies from the gardens and some with sausage from pigs Rocco grew. Then we headed back inside for a discussion about soil test reports by Mark.  It was a good way to spend a warm Saturday evening, expanding our knowledge about growing our own food in a manner that is good for the land and for us. It was also a joy to spend five hours with a small group of like-minded people.

There will be more classes in the coming months. To learn about them and the Educational Farm, visit their website at Living Web Farms.  And this is all just ten minutes from our farm!  Now, to address the way we are making our compost!  I think hubby is out on the tractor doing something about it already.


  1. Great, thanks for sharing this! I live in Mills River, too, and though we only have a little bit of land, we're trying to move towards more farming and sustainable living. This sounds like a great resource.

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  3. I have an over grown field on my farm that needs to be mowed, with a bush hog or other such tool on a tractor. How much can I expect to pay per acre in Western North Carolina?

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  4. Alice anne, I don't know what the going rates are for someone to mow your fields. We usually work out a barter arrangement with our neighbors when we need work done that we don't have the equipment for.