Buzzworm news briefs

Party on the family farm

If I were a farm animal, I think I’d like to live on Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview. No confined living quarters, mundane diet, or supplemental hormones and antibiotics for these guys.

Instead, the pastured chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and cows “forage on the natural foods that they prefer and that are best for them,” explains Amy Ager, one member of the extended family that works the farm. “When they consume the forage available in one area, they literally move on to greener pastures. We do supplement the diets with some grain, but the animals have a choice as to which to eat.”

According to Amy, birds and animals raised this way “produce eggs and meat that taste better and are better for us.”

You can find out for yourself at the third annual Harvest Festival on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2-9 p.m. at Hickory Nut Gap Farm. The hosts will include Amy and her husband, Jamie Ager, the owners of Spring House Meats; and Annie Louise and Isaiah Perkinson, who own Bio-Market Gardens and Trout Lilly Market. Jamie and Annie Louise are first cousins who grew up on this farm, which their great-grandparents bought in 1916.

The festival will offer tours of all the farm operations, as well as a chance to learn about community-supported agriculture and organic and sustainable farming practices. Visitors can also tour the historic Sherrill Inn, which dates back to before 1800 and was a stagecoach stop during much of the 19th century.

Other activities will include kids’ games, pony-and-carriage rides, face painting, and storytelling, as well as demonstrations of sheep-shearing, dogs herding, spinning and cider-making.

Dinner will feature food from the various farm enterprises, including grilled hamburgers made from grass-fed beef, edamame (a green vegetable soybean), grilled peppers, eggplant and okra, fresh pickles, squash casserole, salad, cornbread with hot peppers, and apple crisp.

After dinner, visitors are invited to gather at the square-dance floor to dance to the music of Carolina Cotton, a local old-time band.

Full-day tickets ($20 adults, $10 children under 5) include dinner; half-day tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 5. The farm is located 10 miles southeast of Asheville, just off Highway 74-A East on Sugar Hollow Road in Fairview.

For more information, contact Amy Ager (628-1027; hickorynutgap@hotmail.com), Annie Louise Perkinson (628-3348; anniel@buncombe.main.nc.us), or check out their Web site (www.Hickorynutgapfarm.com).

– Lisa Watters

Clowns around town

You should know this: The guy who changes your oil, the woman you nod your head at every morning on your way to get coffee, the co-worker at the desk next to yours, even your financial adviser — one or all of these people may actually be clowns!

“We’ve had probably 400 to 500 people go through our classes,” says Mimi Shackelford (clown name: “Mimi”) about the clown training workshops and intensives held each year at The Health Adventure.

So what’s the health museum up to? Are they trying to inundate Asheville with clowns? Well, not exactly. Turns out they have two clown brigades of their own: The Clarice Morris Clown Troupe and the Bobbi Clowns.

“Some people who take the classes become clowns with us, some do it on their own, and some people just use what they learn in other ways,” notes Shackelford, a former exhibits designer at The Health Adventure who helped launch all this clowning around back in 1989.

“It started just as a lark, ” she explains. “We were just going to train folks to dress as clowns and greet people at the door.”

But the 12 participants who took that first class (taught by Shriner clowns) “were so excited about it,” says Shackelford, that they decided to continue honing their craft and establish a fund-raising arm in memory of volunteer fund-raiser Clarice Morris.

The Clarice Morris Clown Troupe has performed at hundreds of festivals, parades and shows, raising almost $100,000 to help cover The Health Adventure’s operating expenses. Individual clowns can also be hired for birthday parties and other special events.

Clown workshops are now presented twice a year, with specialists often brought in to teach new skills. “Just this last week, we had Laine Baton (clown name: “Dr. E-B-D-B-D”) from the New York Big Apple Circus do a workshop,” says Shackelford excitedly. “And we have a real clown from the circus who’s doing a balloon workshop with us.”

Several years ago, a new troupe — the Bobbi Clowns — was formed. These specially trained “phunicians” make the rounds at hospitals, hospices and treatment centers. “We believe that humor is the best medicine,” Shackelford explains.

By the time Shackelford retired two years ago, the clowning business had gotten so big that The Health Adventure had to hire a full-time clown coordinator: Morgana Morgaine (clown name: “Kabookee”).

Want to discover your own inner clown? The Health Adventure’s next clown workshop starts Tuesday, Sept. 30, 6:30-9 p.m. at The Health Adventure at Pack Place (2 S. Pack Square) The workshop will meet for six consecutive Tuesdays; the cost is $75. For more information or to hire a clown for your special event, call Morgaine at 254-6373, ext. 326.

– Lisa Watters

If you don’t vote…

… then don’t come complaining to us later. (Well, you can still complain, but if you want to have a voice in what happens — and fulfill your civic responsibility — you’ll have to register to vote and then go cast your ballot.)

The deadline for registering to vote in the Asheville City Council primary is Friday, Sept. 12, according to the Buncombe County Board of Elections. The primary happens Tuesday, Oct. 7.

But even if you miss the deadline for the primary, you can still register to vote in the general election — if you get yourself in gear by Friday, Oct. 10.

Then, on Nov. 4, voters in their respective towns and districts will choose among the candidates for public office in Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, Woodfin and the Woodfin Sanitary Water and Sewer District.

For more info, call 250-4200, or check out www.bcboe.org.

– Tracy Rose

PAC to PAC

Runners to your marks: It’s time for another Asheville City Council race. On Tuesday, Oct. 7, 13 city residents will vie for six spots on the Nov. 4 ballot. Advancing past the primary is the first hurdle Council contenders will face this election season. With such a crowded field, simply establishing name recognition will surely prove to be a formidable task. And if the last Council election is any indication, having a deep war chest could prove pivotal in boosting candidates over the bar.

During the race two years ago, many disgruntled voters called for campaign-finance reform after a lone political action committee calling itself Citizens for New Leadership funneled $8,000 apiece into the successful campaigns of Mayor Charles Worley and Council members Joe Dunn, Carl Mumpower and Jim Ellis. (Ellis fell short in the popular vote but was subsequently appointed by Council to serve out Worley’s unexpired Council term.) The race proved to be the most expensive in the city’s history, and in the aftermath, City Council appointed a citizens’ committee to explore campaign-finance-reform measures. But the group (each of whose seven members was individually appointed by a single Council member) could not reach any agreement on what steps to take, other than raising the filing fee for candidates.

With no significant reform in place for the upcoming election — and with a retooled Citizens for New Leadership now gearing up under a new name, the Committee for Balanced Government in Asheville — some city residents are attempting to fight fire with fire. A newly formed PAC, Match Our Mountains, recently announced that it, too, will be giving candidates financial support this fall. According to a press release issued by the group, MOM is “a broad-based coalition to elect leaders who will strengthen our local economy and protect our environment.”

MOM spokesperson Lewis Lankford told Xpress that the group “feels like the City Council has turned in the past two years in a direction that the Asheville majority doesn’t want.” Lankford added that the PAC wants to give equal footing to both economic development and environmental issues. “Anybody who thinks that clean air and other environmental issues aren’t important to the business of Asheville doesn’t understand what the business of Asheville has become in the last 10 years,” he said.

Langdon Aiman, treasurer and spokesperson for the Committee for Balanced Government in Asheville, recently told Xpress that although some members of Citizens for New Leadership are involved in CBGA, “this is a new group; two-thirds of the members are new.” Their message, he notes, is a continuation of the one promoted two years ago: “We feel that the city is still not economically viable. Some people still have concerns that [Asheville's] public policies don’t promote the creation of jobs.” The new name, said Aiman, reflects both the fact that the former PAC succeeded in placing four of its candidates on Council and the “recognition that a City Council that is too far off the center either way is not good for the community.” For his part, noted Aiman, “I think that the four have brought some balance to the City Council, but I haven’t agreed with all of their decisions all of the time.”

The two PACs are taking markedly different approaches to both membership and fund raising. According to MOM’s press release, the group will “be limiting contributions to a maximum of $100 per person with the goal of developing a broad base of support and minimizing the role of large individual donations in local politics.”

Aiman told Xpress that the Committee for Balanced Government in Asheville will be limited to 100 members. Asked if his group would be setting a minimum or maximum contribution, Aiman responded: “It’s complicated. We’ll have two types of members: contributors and voting members.” Aiman declined to say how much each tier would be asked to contribute, answer, noting that he needed to consult with the PAC’s other members first. “I wish I had the permission to give you more information,” he added.

To contact Match our Mountains, go to www.matchourmountains.org; to learn more about the Committee for Balanced Government in Asheville, call Langdon Aiman (258-0262).

– Brian Sarzynski

A right to self-determination

“We’re here; we’re not going away. We’re ready to make some demands, by God!” proclaims Carol Hubbard of ACCESS Independent Living, a WNC-based grassroots advocacy organization for people with disabilities.

Hubbard and other North Carolina residents with disabilities plan to descend on the Capitol Building in Raleigh on Wednesday, Sept. 17 for the N.C. Freedom March. The march is being staged to support the MICASSA legislation, the Olmstead decision, and accessibility under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act — all issues affecting people with disabilities. The event coincides with a144-mile march and rally for disability rights (organized by the national advocacy group ADAPT) that culminates in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the marches, Hubbard explains, “is to make sure our legislatures and the powers that be know that we’re serious about our rights. We’re claiming the rights that so-called normal people take utterly for granted: to live where they want, to have people they choose in their lives, to be able to get out and get into the public buildings. We’re just talking about basic civil rights.”

Disabled and older Americans, says Hubbard — already at risk of forced institutionalization in nursing homes due to an “institutional bias” in Medicaid — now face an even graver risk. Budget woes in nearly every state have driven state legislatures to slash budgets, especially for Medicaid programs. And because states are not allowed to cut federally mandated facilities such as nursing homes, the optional assistance (such as home- and community-based attendants and support services) are first on the chopping block, Hubbard explains. And these services are precisely the ones that help older and disabled Americans stay in their own homes and communities.

“Every poll indicates that no one wants to go into a nursing home. People want community care,” Hubbard declares.

The irony, she adds, “is that nursing-home care is tremendously more expensive than community care. … These are hard times economically; we deserve our tax dollars to be spent efficiently, in ways that suit us — not in ways that suit lobbyists.”

Another big issue, notes Hubbard, is accessibility as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And though the law is on the books, it isn’t always enforced, she maintains. “Access is a prerequisite to participation in society,” asserts Hubbard. “If you can’t get there, if you can’t get in, if you can’t get on a bus, if you can’t get out of your house, if you can’t get to the doctor’s office or to the grocery store, you don’t have equal rights.

“We’re fighting for our life to get on the bus — not even to ride in the front; we just want to get on the bus. That’s our point.”

To learn more about the march, or to offer or request transportation, call Bart Floyd of the Western Alliance CIL at 274-0444, or Hubbard at 250-9929.

– Lisa Watters

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