WASTE WATCHERS: Largely unheralded, the Buncombe County Metropolitan Sewerage District ensures that the waste generated by its approximately 130,000 customers is properly treated and disposed of before it enters local waterways. The agency is currently in the midst of a $266 million capital improvement project that will upgrade its plant facilities for the future. Photo courtesy of MSD

MSD upgrades its infrastruc­ture with capital improvemen­t projects

To fulfill its critical mission and increase its capacity to deal with a growing service area and customer base, MSD is in the midst of a $266 million capital improvement project, which will help ensure that the community’s waste is properly handled and safely disposed of.

IN THE BEGINNING: Reputed to be the third oldest river in the world, the French Broad has gone from a polluted industrial dumping ground to a key cog in Western North Carolina’s outdoor and tourism industries. This renaissance is a result of government, nonprofit, and individual efforts to improve water quality throughout the watershed. Photo by Mike Belleme; courtesy of Transylvania Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Development Authority

Communitie­s along Upper French Broad work to restore water quality

In this two-part series, Xpress invites you on a guided a trip down the river as we examine the work of various communities to write the next chapter in the French Broad’s history, beginning with Transylvania and Henderson counties.

GROWING PROFITS: Researchers at the Upper Mountain Research Station study the potential of medicinal herbs as a lucrative crop for area farmers. At the Aug. 15 Buncombe County Friends of Agriculture Breakfast, speaker Margaret Bloomquist will introduce attendees to the prospect of this blooming market. Photo courtesy of the Jeanine Davis Program at N.C. State University

Aug. 15 breakfast to introduce farmers to thriving market

While Western North Carolina is already known for producing high-quality medicinal herbs, there’s still plenty of potential for growers to get in on the ground floor of a market that appears poised to expand. Farmers and others interested in opportunities in medicinal herbs can learn more at the Buncombe County Friends of Agriculture Breakfast on Aug. 15.

IT'S EVERYWHERE: A view of Chimney Rock surrounded by kudzu. Photo courtesy of Chimney Rock State Park

Krazy with Kudzu looks at good and bad of invasive vine

While pretty much everyone agrees kudzu is a big problem across the South, there seem to be as many philosophies for dealing with it as there are leaves on the vines. At Chimney Rock State Park’s Krazy with Kudzu event on Aug. 12, park visitors can learn about a variety of approaches to living with — or destroying — the pervasive plant.

LIVING THE DREAM: “It’s a wonderful thing to wake up and stand in your underwear overlooking the mountains,” says van-lifer “Mr. Wolf,” embracing the great outdoors beside his van on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Hokey Pokey

Van life: What happens when the road leads to Asheville?

Rising housing costs, a longing for travel, the opportunity to leverage technology to work remotely: It’s not any one trend alone that’s driving a resurgence of interest in life on the road. Our correspondent looks at the van life phenomenon through the lens of its connections to Asheville and Western North Carolina.

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.

ELECTRIC ENERGY: Local band Franklin's Kite performs at an event at Highland Brewing. On June 17, the band will be holding a benefit concert to raise funds for the Isaac Dickson solar project. Photo by Beth Smith

Conscious Party: “Powering the People” benefit concert for Isaac Dickson Elementary

WHAT: A concert to benefit Isaac Dickson Elementary School WHEN: Saturday, June 17, 7-11 p.m. WHERE: Altamont Theatre WHY: Community members have come together to demand power over their power supply: Parents and community members will hold a benefit concert at the Altamont Theatre Saturday to raise money for Isaac Dickson Elementary School’s new solar […]