Fresh from the farm

This year’s edition of the Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project’s Local Food Guide just hit the streets, and according to Local Food Campaign Director Charlie Jackson, “This is one of the most comprehensive guides in the country.”

And that, he explains, is due in no small part to the fact that “our farmers and businesses are leaders in the local-food movement.”

About 20,000 copies of the free, 54-page guide are being distributed throughout the region at local businesses that support family farms. It’s also available on the ASAP Web site (

The guide lists local farmers, tailgate markets, CSA (community-supported agriculture) farms, grocers, restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, and other retail businesses that prepare and sell locally grown food. New in this edition are listings for apple orchards and pick-your-own farms. There’s also a seasonal-availability chart, profiles of selected farms, and even a kids’ page.

“The local-food movement is growing, because more and more people are realizing what we lose if local farms disappear,” asserts Jackson. According to agricultural census records, nearly three-quarters of the farmland in Western North Carolina has been lost over the last century, leaving the region more dependent on distant farms for food.

The local-food movement seeks to reverse this trend. By buying locally grown food, consumers support local farmers while keeping more money circulating within the local economy. Currently, most of the consumer food dollar goes to support large farms thousands of miles away.

“Our food now travels more than we do,” notes Jackson — an average of 1,500 miles from farm to Americans’ dinner tables.

“This means that food is now grown more for transportation and shelf life than for taste,” he points out.

The Local Food Guide is compiled and printed yearly by ASAP, a community-based nonprofit working to support farms and rural communities.

For more information, call Charlie Jackson at 293-3262.

— Lisa Watters

Songcatcher revisited

Fans of the movie Songcatcher (filmed in WNC four years ago) and mountain-music lovers in general may want to check out the “Songcatchers Music Series,” four Sunday-afternoon outdoor concerts happening in July at the Cradle of Forestry (Hwy. 276 in Pisgah National Forest).

The series — a celebration of Appalachian music and stories passed down through the generations — will be presented by musicians who performed in and served as consultants for the movie. Here’s the schedule:

Well-known storyteller, musician, author and folk singer Sheila Kay Adams, a Madison County native, takes the stage on July 6. Adams has been performing Appalachian ballads and telling stories for more than 20 years; she’s also known for her clawhammer-style banjo playing.

On July 13, the band Too Hot to Cook will present a mix of Appalachian, Celtic and French Canadian dance tunes, as well as some vintage swing tunes and songs. Together for more than 20 years, the band has played many local and regional festivals, including the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention and Asheville’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.

Mary Jane Queen — the inspiration for the character of Viney Butler in the movie Songcatcher — will take the stage with her grown children July 20. They’ll perform songs brought over from Ulster by early settlers; old ballads, hymns and spirituals from the Baptist and Methodist traditions; and comic songs that derive from both the European and African-American traditions. Queen lives in the Caney Fork section of Jackson County, near where she was born in 1914.

And finally, on July 27, musician and folklorist David Brose will sing ballads and folk songs. He’ll also discuss the work of Olive Campbell, who founded the John C. Campbell Folk School and is known for her work collecting mountain ballads. Campbell was one of the inspirations for Songcatcher.

All concerts start at 2 p.m. Admission is $5 adults, $2.50 youth ages 4-17 (bring chairs or blankets to sit on). Picnics are welcome; snacks and drinks will also be available in the Forest Bounty Cafe. After the concerts, visitors may walk the Biltmore Campus Trail to hear more music by local musicians.

For more information, call the Cradle of Forestry at 877-3130 or visit their Web site (

— Lisa Watters

The raw story

The latest food movement to sprout up in Asheville actually precedes modern dietary practices by about 100,000 years. Before early humans learned to use fire, they ate their food raw — and some nutritionists maintain that this is still the most natural way for us to eat.

A series of lectures and seminars on the raw-foods lifestyle will be presented in the Grove Arcade conference room in the coming weeks. Kris Pletschke, author of the forthcoming book Raw Conscious Evolution (self-published, due out this fall), will share his nutritional knowledge and ideas.

“The stairway of health has many floors, and no matter where you are, I can help you reach the next level,” Pletschke proclaims.

The series is sponsored by New Roots Organic owner Rob Everett. Although he doesn’t follow a raw-foods diet himself, Everett believes that “eating 15-20 percent of our foods raw can help all of us.”

New Roots (located in the Grove Arcade) stocks only organic produce, most of it locally grown. Some of his most devoted customers, notes Everett, are raw-foods enthusiasts, including Carol Blake, the coordinator for the upcoming seminars.

Blake is still in transition, but she says she’s seen drastic improvements in her health since she began incorporating raw foods into her diet.

Advocates say they experience better overall health, mental clarity, and increased energy eating raw foods, compared to a traditional American diet.

“It’s ironic that the acronym for the Standard American Diet is SAD,” notes Pletschke.

And if you think that eating raw foods means consigning yourself to a life of salads, guess again. “People on the diet are really creative,” says Blake. “You can eat whatever you’re used to by eating raw foods, and you can make all kinds of exciting things.” Pletschke will demonstrate how to make concoctions such as fudge balls, Thai coconut curry and even spaghetti using raw foods exclusively.

Free introductory lectures are scheduled for three successive Thursdays (July 10, 17 and 31). The workshops ($35 apiece, or $75 for all three) will take place on Saturdays (July 12 and 19, and Aug. 2). The series will conclude with a free potluck dinner on Thursday, Aug. 7, and the public is invited to attend.

“We consider this our gift to Asheville,” says Blake. “We’re privileged to have this information and think it can make a big difference in human health and the environment.”

For lecture and workshop times or to register, call 713-4527.

— Rebecca DeRosa

Bibliobus rolls on

“It’s a big expansion,” reports Asheville-Buncombe Library System Director Ed Sheary, talking about plans to broaden the scope of El Bibliobus, a multicounty program bringing library materials to the Hispanic community.

In October 2001, four county libraries — Buncombe, Haywood, Madison and Transylvania — pooled their resources to launch this bookmobile for Spanish speakers. The rolling library holds about 1,500 books, videos and audio materials (one-third of them in English) for children and adults. In the first few days of service, El Bibliobus staff issued more than 100 new library cards in Buncombe County alone.

El Bibliobus (the former Buncombe County bookmobile) follows a regular monthly route, serving people who can’t take advantage of regular library services due to lack of transportation, language difficulties, work commitments during library hours, or other reasons. The route includes stops at factories, schools, neighborhoods and churches.

Last month, the North Carolina State Library announced that it would renew grant funding for the project. Besides allowing El Bibliobus to continue operations through the end of June, the money will also pay for establishing service in Henderson County.

“We look forward to taking this unique service into more areas of Western North Carolina to help narrow the gap between library services and the Hispanic community,” said Sheary.

For more information or the current Bibliobus schedule, call 250-4728 or visit the Asheville-Buncombe Library System Web site (

— Lisa Watters

Seed money for social change

Three years ago, a group of local activists and donors saw a need in the community for funding for small, local projects promoting social change. Thus was born the Dandelion Fund, “named for the common herb that stubbornly persists despite systematic attempts to eradicate it,” states the organization’s brochure.

The idea, explains board member Beth Trigg, was “to create a kind of conduit or funnel for people who had access to wealth (or even a small amount of money) that they wanted to give away in Western North Carolina to support social-change efforts here.”

Now, those folks are looking for a little help to keep the grants coming. The Dandelion Fund is holding a fund-raising event on Saturday, July 12 at the Asheville Community Resource Center (63 N. Lexington Ave.), starting at 7 p.m.

The evening will feature readings by local poets, music (by Middle Eastern band Soora Gameela and percussion project Boba Fetish), food and drink, and a silent auction. The art for the auction will be up on the walls beginning Saturday, July 5, and people are welcome to make advance bids. Admission is “donate what you can.”

Most of the grants, says Trigg, have been “for groups that were just starting out, or groups that didn’t have access to traditional funding sources, or groups that didn’t have 501(c)(3) status yet — really small, usually all-volunteer nonprofits or community organizations.”

To date, the Dandelion Fund has distributed about $30,000, usually in grants of $1,000 or less. They’ve also partnered with the Fund for Southern Communities, so that donations to the fund can be tax-deductible.

“They actually process the money and hold the funds,” Trigg explains, “but all the decisions about how the money is spent are made by a group of people who are involved in social-change work locally.”

Among the groups funded are the Asheville Prison Book Program; the October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality (based in Hendersonville); the Asheville Global Report; the Spanish-language publication El Eco de las Montanas; and the Murphy-based Revitalize, Energize, Educate & Prepare (for a History Quilt Project that brought youth and elders together to create a quilt illustrating the heritage of blacks in far Western North Carolina).

From time to time, however, the fund has also supported larger, more established groups such as Clean Water for NC (for a “Challenging Corporations” workshop); the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project (to send WNC activists to the Eastern Forests Direct Action Camp); and the YMI Cultural Center (for its “Ties That Bind” project, which showcased the history of African-American railroad workers in the area).

“Usually the only reason we would make a grant to groups like this is if they’re doing a new project that they wouldn’t be able to [call on] their usual funding sources for. … Something maybe outside their usual mission or more social-change-oriented,” Trigg explains.

For more information about the event or to donate artwork, call Tamiko Murray at 255-3678. For more information about the Dandelion Fund, call Trigg at 281-1061 or visit the Web site ( Tax-deductible donations can be sent to: Fund for Southern Communities/Dandelion Fund, P.O. Box 409, Asheville NC 28802.

— Lisa Watters

Get up! Stand up! Stand up for your rights!

The USA PATRIOT Act, enacted in the turbulent aftermath of 9/11, has raised a growing chorus of protest around the country. More than 120 municipalities (including Greensboro, Carrboro and Orange County, N.C.) and three state legislatures have passed resolutions opposing all or part of the federal law that many legal authorities say explicitly contravenes freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

On Thursday, July 3, the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County will facilitate a public discussion of the law at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe (55 Haywood St.), beginning at 7 p.m. Speakers will include Asheville-Buncombe Library System Director Ed Sheary, Evan Mahaney of the American Civil Liberties Union, Christiana Tugman (who wrote her UNCA senior thesis on the PATRIOT Act). The event will begin with a reading of the Bill of Rights (by poet Glenis Redmond) and will conclude with a reading of the Declaration of Independence (by Andrew Reed).

For more information, call Malaprop’s at 254-6734.

— Cecil Bothwell

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