KISS ME: Bradley Johnston has worked with cows all his life, so it makes sense that the Mills River farmer feels as comfortable clowning around with the herd as he does with his human friends. Photo by Kendra Topalian

Bradley Johnston brings boutique dairy farming to Mills River

Mills River native Bradley Johnston has worked with cows all his life, but his newest venture — Mills River Creamery — is a departure from the high-volume wholesale dairy trade he used to practice. Johnston’s small herd of Jersey cows eat non-GMO feed and produce a type of milk that many find easier to digest than the usual supermarket fare.

GARDEN GLORY: Students from West Henderson High School took home the gold in this year’s battle-of-the-schools BOOST garden competition for their “peace and harmony” design. All four gardens remain in bloom and on display throughout the summer. Photo courtesy of Bullington Gardens

BOOST in bloom

Four of Bullington Gardens’ many displays have a special significance this year: Each was designed by a team of Henderson County students as part of the BOOST job skills training program. Developed to give high school sophomores with special needs real-world work experience, the Hendersonville program blooms with the promise of future success.

FOOD OR FAMINE: In the event of a natural disaster that disrupts commercial food supplies, Western North Carolina will need to develop alternative ways to grow nutritious and diverse crops, such as community gardens or neighborhood greenhouses. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Local food resilience programs plan for future disasters

A coalition of local food activists, resilience planners and city of Asheville staffers are asking a hard question: In the event of a major disaster that disrupts the food supply for more than a few days, what will people in Western North Carolina eat? A recent workshop looked for answers to that question and brainstormed strategies for collaborative solutions for securing the region’s food supply in hard times.

GREEN THUMBS UP: Buncombe County Master Gardener Volunteers are ready, willing and able to help local residents with a wide range of plant and gardening questions and conundrums. Photo courtesy of Extension Master Gardener Volunteers

Get growing help this season from local Master Gardener volunteers

The Garden Helpline of the Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers is now open to provide information, advice and and even a little handholding for anyone with a gardening-related question. The service is free, and volunteers are available by phone or in person at the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension office.

LEGALIZED IT: North Carolina passed legislation allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp in 2015. But barriers still stymie farmers hoping to develop hemp as a new cash crop. Photo courtesy of Vote Hemp

DEA holds up industrial hemp in North Carolina

Local farmers are still holding out hope that 2017 will be the year industrial hemp grows in WNC fields for the first time in decades. But the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration isn’t making it easy for growers to source seed or seedlings in time for planting, which may mean another year of waiting for eager prospective hemp growers.