The Asheville-based nonprofit Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s work included both valuable wildlife habitats, such as the Wiles Creek and Little Rock Creek preserves, and prime farmland at risk of development. Sandy Hollar Farms in Buncombe County and Bowditch Bottoms in Yancey County were among the agricultural projects completed in 2020.
As 2021 dawns, the glow of the holiday season fades and social distancing continues in cluttered homes, many will make resolutions to clean up their space. Here’s a look at the area’s more environmentally friendly ways to handle unwanted items.
For many environmental organizations across Western North Carolina, COVID-19 fell like a lightning-struck tree across the path to progress. But like an intrepid hiker, WNC’s activists and organizers have bushwhacked new trails for action in the world of the pandemic.
On Nov. 18, nonprofit Conserving Carolina announced that it had entered a contract to buy an unused 19-mile rail corridor between Brevard and Hendersonville for conversion into a greenway. Backers hope the Ecusta Trail will become a regional draw for running and biking enthusiasts.
A four-day series of virtual discussions, including a cooking demo with Ashleigh Shanti, highlights the results of the Heirloom Collard Project’s 2020 crop trials.
“I have overwhelming gratitude for the people who voted for our climate in the recent election.”
Jodie Williams, a teacher at Bell’s School for People Under Six in Fletcher, recently received a Henderson County award for supporting student health and wellness through gardening. But with many students learning online due to COVID-19, Williams and other local educators are digging deep to keep their school gardens viable.
According to a new study by Filterbuy, an air filter industry website, the median air quality index in the Asheville metropolitan area was 15.3% better over the period from 2015-2019 compared with the period from 2005-2009. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton and Greenville, S.C., metros also showed big improvements.
“We are showing women how to see their land as an asset and how to make it work economically and to see that future,” explains Aimee Tomcho, a Burnsville-based conservation biologist for the National Audubon Society and leader of Western North Carolina’s ForestHer chapter.
Mother Earth Food and Zadie’s Market have navigated the challenge of coordinating product sourcing, order fulfillment and delivery processes to create online grocery businesses that support local farms and producers.
Black Folks Camp Too founder Earl B. Hunter Jr. said new marketing collaborations would help him develop more interest in camping among the Black community. And later this month, Asheville-based artist Matthew Willey will begin work on a giant mural of honey bees at Hendersonville’s Hands On! Children’s Museum.
A $300,000 recurring allocation for the HRI, a program of Asheville-based nonprofit WNC Communities, stalled in the N.C. General Assembly due to partisan gridlock over the state budget. A joint proclamation between the HRI and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services now aims to make the hemlock’s future more secure.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Oct. 6 to award $15,000 toward the construction of an agricultural education facility at Enka High School. But as Chair Brownie Newman noted, recommendations to support such projects are normally made by Buncombe’s School Capital Fund Commission or Board of Education and funded through the regular budget cycle.
Board member Rick Livingston, who made the motion to deny the recommendation, said the proposed SE Asphalt plant’s location in a “very residential area” off the Spartanburg Highway was incompatible with both the county’s comprehensive plan and East Flat Rock’s community plan.
“This initiative will help us gather information to better understand food waste reduction efforts and how we can best communicate those with both business and residential users,” says Asheville sustainability officer Amber Weaver.
“A lot of my work right now is in helping people organize themselves and understand how they might create collaborative means of accessing meat,” says author, butcher, chef and instructor Meredith Leigh.
The okra selected for the 2020 project, Aunt Hettie’s Red, boasts both regional roots and modern acclaim. Last September, the variety was crowned the best of 54 in “The Single Biggest Chef-Centered Okra Tasting Day Ever” contest staged by the Utopian Seed Project.
“I feel like right now this COVID virus is forcing people to slow down and, hopefully, look internally and not just at their phones,” says Percoco, the Firefly Gathering’s new executive director. “It’s interesting how something like this can come in and show us how vulnerable we are.”
“Sustainability is a vast field where you can get into agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and energy,” says Heath Moody, head of the Sustainability Technologies program at A-B Tech. “These skills are vital for society going forward.”
Classes take place on a hilly, wooded eco-homestead campus featuring Bogwalker’s self-constructed cabin, gardens and fruit trees, and students can choose to camp on the property for a full immersion into a more sustainable way of life. “We are permaculture in action, a living example of the beauty and abundance of the land,” she says.
Now in its 27th year, the Organic Growers School Spring Conference welcomes growers and sustainability-minded folks of all types for a weekend of region-specific educational offerings, a trade show, seed exchange, guest speakers and opportunities for socializing and networking. This year’s conference takes place Friday-Sunday, March 6-8, at Mars Hill University.