Get Off the Grid Fest workshops explore sustainable gardening and farming

FOR LAND'S SAKE: Through his nonprofit, the Recovery Eco-Agriculture Project, Frank Holzman teaches sustainable land use and how to establish balanced ecosystems. He'll offer a presentation on regenerative gardening and farming at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Get Off the Grid Fest. Photo courtesy of Get Off the Grid Fest

Rural Riceville Road, which ambles through fields and forests just a few miles east of Asheville, may seem an unlikely setting for a festival. But a 16-acre pasture on that route will soon play host to the second biennial Get Off the Grid Fest.

The inaugural Get Off the Grid Fest happened in 2017 in Blairsville, Ga., to coincide with the total solar eclipse. The second event, which takes place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 9-11, will feature 30 live music acts, including Rising Appalachia and Sol Driven Train, but the festival’s focus, as its name indicates, is renewable energy and sustainable living. As part of that overarching theme, multiple free workshops on agriculture and gardening topics are scheduled throughout the weekend.

Festival co-organizer Laura Love says she had two specific criteria in mind for the individuals and organizations she tapped to lead the event’s agriculture and food classes: They should be local and have an off-grid vision. “By off-grid, we don’t mean that they must use renewable energy on a farm,” she explains. “We mean that they have beliefs and practices that are off the grid of corporate farming practices.”

The workshop topics vary widely. Danny’s Dumpster owner Danny Keaton will speak about composting with black soldier flies. Mountainview Farms Project will host a workshop on aquaponics, and Living Web Farms will offer classes on biochar and renewable energy systems for farms.

There will also be presentations on goatherding, beekeeping, forest farming, climate change and more, as well as a tour of Warren Wilson College’s farm and recycling center. Additionally, Love notes, farmers and gardening enthusiasts may want to check out the festival’s solar energy expo, which will feature small-scale solar equipment and workshops on how to build microgrids.

The lead speaker for the food and agriculture track is sustainable farming consultant and author Frank Holzman, whose Saturday afternoon discussion will explore regenerative gardening and farming. “It will cover how to work with the land to bring it to its full potential and allow it to function as a living organism,” he says.

No camping, pets or coolers are allowed at the festival, and no parking is permitted on-site. Free shuttles will run continuously throughout the event from four nearby parking areas.

WHAT: Get Off the Grid Fest
WHERE: Big Berea Pasture, Riceville Road, getoffthegridfest.com
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 9-11. See website for schedule. $45 Friday through Sunday, $30 Saturday and Sunday, $15 Sunday

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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