INTO THE WOODS: Volunteers are developing a new demonstration forest farm at the Madison County Public Library to increase awareness and knowledge of forest farming techniques. Photo courtesy of Rachell Skerlec

Forest farming can bring economic, environmen­tal benefits to WNC

While growing food and other crops beneath the forest canopy isn’t new — it’s been practiced by indigenous and traditional cultures around the world for centuries — a new focus on forest farming is highlighting the possibilities of forest-based production of non-timber crops in Western North Carolina.

UP A CREEK: Crumbling banks can lead to loss of land, water pollution and habitat degradation for wildlife. A guide from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service provides property owners with advice and strategies for stabilizing stream banks on their property. Photo courtesy of N.C. Cooperative Extension Service

Slip, sliding away: WNC creek banks imperiled by erosion

Stream erosion is a growing problem in Western North Carolina. When a stream bank on your property erodes, more sediment enters the waterway and the area and appearance of your land is diminished. Government publications and agencies offer guidance for property owners hoping to stabilize their banks and promote healthy stream ecology.

COAT OF MANY COLORS: Jacob sheep have finer coats than many primitive sheep breeds, making them an ideal choice for farmers looking for a hardy, easy-to-keep fiber animal. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Strub of Hobbyknob Farm

Woolly bully: Local farmers preserve heritage breeds

Heritage livestock breeds have a lot to offer WNC’s small farmers. Fiber animals that evolved on small farmsteads are hardier and easier to manage than breeds developed for high yields and consistent characteristics. WNC farmers are exploring the advantages these heritage breeds offer, protecting them from possible extinction along the way.