Maariah K McAndrew discovers new ways to use herbs at a wild fermentation workshop and medicinal plant walk, one of the many elements of the Urban Farm School.
Dirty hands in the city
If you don't have acres of fertile land to till, there are still plenty of ways to sink your hands into the soil. Get serious about farming in the city at Urban Farm School, a 28-week, 815-hour program that helps growers of all skill levels develop community gardens, neighborhood CSAs and farm-to-restaurant plots. Local experts, hands-on projects and immersion courses on everything from beekeeping to natural building round out this intensive program. The "campus" is the Asheville Institute, a 1-acre "living learning laboratory" in downtown Asheville. Field trips to local farms are held weekly and everyone leaves with a database of potential employers, mentors and resources. The school is limited to 16 participants, and registration is open now. The program costs $4,600; $4,900 after April 15. http://ashevillage.org/urban-farm-school
Onions: the long and short of it
Unlike Vadalia, Ga., or Walla Walla, Wash., Western North Carolina isn't known as a major source for onions, but that doesn't stop local gardeners from dreaming about a hefty crop of alliums. Extension Master Gardener Glenn Palmer answers questions that often plague beginning onion growers: What's the difference between a long- and short-day onion? What grows well here from seed? He explains that long versus short days “indicate the amount of daylight a plant needs to begin to set the bulb. Short-day types, like Vidalia, start growing early to beat the summer heat. In our area, it doesn’t seem to make that much difference. More important is sweetness, color, days to harvest and how you’ll use them, either green or held in storage. Whatever you choose keep good records. With the vagaries of our weather these days, one year may be vastly different than the next, and you’ll want to compare the growing season with the taste and keeping ability."
Tree seedlings: start small, dream big
As the old adage goes, even the mightiest oak starts with a single acorn. Growing a tree directly from seed can present a challenge, but the Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District has a better method: This month, it offers bare root seedlings ranging in height from 10-36 inches at a tree sale. All it takes is 25 cents for an Eastern white pine, or 75 cents for your own black walnut, persimmon, river birch or white oak trees. Jesse Israel and Sons Garden Center at the WNC Farmers Market on Brevard Road will host the sale Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 2. Seedlings are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so don't miss your chance to plant a forest — big or small — this spring. 250-4785 or http://avl.mx/q5.
Appalachian Grown scales up
If you've been to a tailgate market in recent years, you've probably seen a bright green label proclaiming "Appalachian Grown: Local Food Fresher." ASAP's food-branding efforts will get an expansion, thanks to a $35,000 grant from The Community Foundation’s Food and Farming Focus Area. “The expansion of this proven program will contribute to the revitalization of our food system and maximize opportunities for local farmers and food entrepreneurs,” says Senior Program Officer Tim Richards. No need to guess if your food is from around here — Appalachian Grown will bring even more WNC foods to the forefront as it boosts this successful program.