What’s new in food: Green acres, green students and a Baby Bull on the loose

GREEN SCENE: The city of Asheville has 10 acres of cultivated farmland in East Asheville available for organic farming by an approved grower. Photo by Balsam Gardens

Got a hankering to grow?  The city of Asheville is offering city slickers and farmers who will commit to using organic growing methods the opportunity to apply to lease 10 acres of cultivated farmland in East Asheville.

Located near the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex on Azalea Road, the property was previously leased by New Sprout Organic Farms and Balsam Gardens. “It is little known that the city has owned the tract farmland for a long time,” says Nikki Reid, the city’s director of community and economic development. “We want to coordinate with the city’s goals to advance racial equity, and we are strongly encouraging farmers of color and women farmers to apply, as well as other local small-business owners.”

The request for proposals is posted on the city’s Community and Economic Development Department website, along with additional information about the property, which is split between two sites around the city’s beneficial landfill. Also posted are links to organizations — such as Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s farm incubator program, the National Black Farmers Association and Rural Advancement Foundation International Farmers of Color Network — that can assist applicants in navigating the request for proposals

If farming isn’t your cup of seed, the city is also seeking RFPs for 8 River Arts Place, a renovated, historic 1,000-square-foot building in the newly completed River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project. The property features an outdoor deck, 13 dedicated parking spaces and a public restroom maintained by the city.

“We are open to however people see themselves in that space,” Reid points out. “A single venture, joint venture or a group of partners — we hope people will use their creativity on what works for Asheville and for RAD.”

Each webpage provides a timeline with required deadlines, including dates for mandatory site visits. For more information and a link to the RFP for farmland, visit avl.mx/9fm. For 8 River Arts Place, visit avl.mx/9fn.

Sprouting out

The Growing Minds Farm to School Program, started in 2002 by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project at Hazelwood Elementary School in Haywood County, offers Western North Carolina children from preschool to grade 12 opportunities to learn about local foods and farms in classrooms, cafeterias and in their communities.

Growing Minds’ website, one of the program’s most important resources for educators, school nutrition directors and families, recently received a much-needed refresh. Last year, Growing Minds project coordinator Gwen Hill started working on navigation issues on the site, and using some grant money, contracted with CAKE Websites & More to undertake a redesign. “We didn’t do a complete overhaul because we have a lot of content we wanted to keep, but we did improve navigation, made it more user-friendly and gave it a cleaner look,” Hill explains.

Because field trips to farms were off the table in 2020, Growing Minds added Meet Your Farmer videos featuring interviews with local growers on their farms and, in some cases, virtual tours conducted by farm kids. Some of the site’s recipes have been translated into Spanish, and Growing Minds is in the process of doing the same for the Farm to Preschool toolkits. “The toolkits are designed as handouts for children to take home, so we want to be able to offer those materials to families where the primary language is Spanish,” Hill explains.

Take a tour of the new website at avl.mx/9fo.

Sage move 

When one door closes, another opens. At least that’s the case with the Green Sage Café location in Westgate Regional Shopping Center, which shuttered permanently May 21, and Green Sage on Merrimon Avenue, which reopened May 28 after temporarily closing in early April due to a labor shortage.  The entire team from Westgate moved north to fully staff the Merrimon store so it could reopen.

The South Asheville Green Sage Café on Hendersonville Road is open, as is the downtown location, which is undergoing an exterior face-lift. The building’s owner is doing extensive repairs to the roof, plus adding a new paint job and new awnings. An interior remodel will take place in the winter.

“Operating through COVID this past year has been challenging. We made the health and safety of our team and guests a top priority and survived largely because of the assistance of the PPP loans,” says Green Sage founder and owner Randy Talley, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program. “We are grateful for our team’s commitment to Green Sage and serving our health-conscious community.”

Green Sage is at 5 Broadway, 633 Merrimon Ave. and 1800 Hendersonville Road. avl.mx/9fp

Heading downtown 

Downtown workers, residents and visitors can now indulge in Well-Bred Bakery & Café’s supersized Mountain Éclair without trekking to the locations in Weaverville, Biltmore Village or on Reems Creek Road.  At press time, a bite-sized café (420 square feet) is scheduled to open Wednesday, June 2, in the Grove Arcade.

“We have been voted Best Bakery [in Mountain Xpress Best of WNC] for seven years in a row. We’ve done that without a location downtown,” says Laura Bogard Taylor, Well-Bred’s general manager. “The Grove Arcade is beautiful, and it’s on brand with Well Bred. … It’s a way we can afford to be downtown, in a really cool group of other local businesses.”

Eleven food and/or beverage businesses are open or opening soon in what Grove Arcade management is branding as Restaurant Row. Well-Bred’s downtown location will be counter-service only, with breakfast foods served all day plus pastries, lunch, coffee and other beverages. Most of the menu items will be prepared at the production kitchen on Reems Creek Road.

Well Bred is at Grove Arcade, 1 Page Ave.; 26 N. Main St., Weaverville; 6 Boston Way, Biltmore Village; 232 Reems Creek Road., Weaverville.  avl.mx/9fr

Baby Bull

Like a bull in a china closet, Baby Bull tore up Instagram the penultimate weekend of May with multiple shared photos of double smash burgers, lobster rolls, fried fish sandwiches, french fries, hush puppies, pork rinds and chilled bottles of wine from its bottle shop. The latest big idea from restaurateur Drew Wallace (The Admiral, Bull & Beggar and Leo’s House of Thirst), Baby Bull threw a stealth opening the evening of May 21 and continued the revelry through the weekend before closing for three days to recover from the mayhem and determine future operating days and hours. The casual, counter-service hangout with outdoor seating is in the space that previously housed the original location of White Duck Taco, then, briefly, Henrietta’s Poultry Shoppe and Broth Lab.

Baby Bull, 1 Roberts St. avl.mx/9fs


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About Kay West
Kay West began her writing career in NYC, then was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, including contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. In 2019 she moved to Asheville and continued writing (minus Red Carpet coverage) with a focus on food, farming and hospitality. She is a die-hard NY Yankees fan.

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