OTTER-LY ENGAGING: The Nature Center’s otter inhabitants draw kids and adults alike to watch their antics, which can be playful, cuddly and athletic, all in the space of a few minutes. Photo courtesy of the WNC Nature Center

The incredible shrinking subsidy: WNC Nature Center achieves 3-year reduction goal in one year

When the WNC Nature Center learned the city of Asheville’s subsidy for the facility would shrink by more than half over three years, the environmental education attraction wasn’t immediately sure how it would make up the funding shortfall. But it didn’t take long to figure it out: the Nature Center met the three-year goal in only one year. The attraction is expanding to meet demand, and visitation is setting new records nearly every month.

‘IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SYNERGIES’: To increase soil fertility, Living Web Farms keeps cover crops growing in different sections of its greenhouse at all times. “We try to give each bed one season in cover crops. This greatly helps with disease issues, which are major problems when you keep growing the same crops repeatedly,” says Patryk Battle, director of the nonprofit educational and research farm. Inset, Battle tosses fall cover crop seeds into a stand of summer cover crop. Courtesy photos

Regenerati­ve farming offers keys to a sustainabl­e future

Regenerative farming methods that use cover crops and other techniques to build soil fertility and boost the resilience of crops to stresses like drought are taking root in North Carolina. Gabe Brown and Russell Hedrick are among the pioneers in these techniques who will be speaking in WNC in connection with the Organic Growers School’s spring conference and related events.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Siblings Althea and Matthew Raiford will share lessons learned on their Brunswick, Ga. farm. The Raifords advocate specializing in a well-curated selection of crops and developing value-added products. Photo courtesy of the Organic Growers School

Organic Growers School’s Spring Conference builds sustainabi­lity, community

The Organic Growers School’s Spring Conference is hardly a new event: The annual gathering of farmers, gardeners, homesteaders and assorted sustainability seekers turns 24 this month. But organizers say those attending this year’s edition, whether they’re newbies or longtime conference regulars, will surely dig up some novel information.

BUILDING CULTURE: From the ancestors of the Ani Katuah to the first European settlers and later tobacco farmers, the evolution of human settlement and existence in the Southern Appalachians can be traced through the structure and buildings they erected to support their ways of life. The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University documents the evolution of built structures in its latest exhibit, Shelter on the Mountain, on display through May 28. Photo of an open cathedral-like hayloft of the 1951 gambrel-roof barn built by Delbert and Charlie Shelton in the Shelton Laurel community. By Earthsong Photography/ Don McGowan

Rural Heritage Museum highlights history of WNC barns

From the Ani Katuah to white settlers and tobacco farmers, barns and buildings have played a central role in defining the culture of the Southern Appalachians. Shelter on the Mountain: Barns and Building Traditions of the Southern Highlands traces the evolution of local building practices.

ROCK STARS: For 70 years, the Mineral Research Laboratory in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood has worked with mining companies around the world to come up with efficient ways to harvest and process minerals, as well as educate the public on North Carolina’s mineral resources. Utilizing its unique pilot plant (above), the lab has the capability to provide data on the cost and scale of operations for companies to use in commercial enterprises. Photo by Max Hunt

Minerals Research Lab cooks up cutting-edge solutions

For 70 years, the Minerals Research Laboratory on Coxe Avenue has collaborated with mining companies and educational institutions to develop more efficient processes for extracting the state’s mineral resources as well as ways to reuse potentially harmful byproducts.

Sustainability expert Doug Bruggeman is proposing an investment strategy to protect multiple watersheds in WNC.

N.C. Supreme Court rules taking of Asheville water system unconstitu­tional

“Many years ago,” says Mayor Manheimer, “our city leadership made the bold and wise investment in a watershed and water infrastructure that provided the foundation for the robust water system we have today … This ruling ensures that Asheville can continue to own this great water system and continue to provide safe drinking water for years into the future.”

Trudie Henninger. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Arboretum

Julian Award winner Trudie Henninger: Connecting kids with nature as citizen scientists

For several weeks this past spring, Trudie Henninger led a class of kindergarteners outside to monitor and study the changes in nearby redbud trees. The process was slow. The kids grew restless. “They’re not doing anything, they’re not doing anything!” they insisted. But then one day, the whole class came running inside, chanting, “They’re blooming, […]

HEART OF OAK: Forest researcher Tara Keyser (right) explains to a group of forest industry partners why new forestry management techniques are needed to regenerate oak trees — and how the method she is studying might help. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Bent Creek study tests method for reversing oak decline

Economically and ecologically valuable, oak trees dominate the forests of our region. But forest experts say that when the mature oak and hickory forests are cut, they are increasingly being replaced by fast-growing and aggressive yellow poplar. Researchers have been seeking solutions to the problem for decades, with little success. A new study in Bent Creek hopes to change that.

NEW PLANS, NEW CONCERNS: Members of the Swannanoa community met with Community Advisory Group members, federal and state environmental officials Thurday, Dec. 1 to discuss future plans for the Chemtronics Superfund site. Photo by Max Hunt

For the record: EPA reviews 2016 Record of Decision, presence of new contaminan­ts at Chemtronic­s site

Swannanoa residents met with members of the Community Advisory Group, federal and state environmental protection officials Thursday evening to review the 2016 Record of Decision for the Chemtronics Superfund site. The EPA also revealed the presence of a new contamination detection on the property.

Map of area to be remediated. Graphic from draft remediation plan by Pioneer Technologies Corporation

Few attend public hearing on DuPont Forest cleanup

A “doughnut hole” of contamination in DuPont State Recreational Forest likely will be cleaned up in the coming year as a remediation plan moves forward. State officials held a public comment session on Thursday, Dec. 1 at the Transylvania County Public Library, but only a half dozen people attended and just one came forward to comment. […]