Green in brief: SAHC conserves nearly 3,000 acres; OGS gets social

Tiger Creek hiker
NEW TRAILS AHEAD: A hiker visits the 54-acre Tiger Creek property protected by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy as part of the nearly 3,000 acres preserved in 2020. Photo by Travis Bordley, courtesy of SAHC

SAHC tallies nearly 3,000 conserved acres for 2020

Even amid the challenges of COVID-19, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recorded a banner year for land conservation in 2020. The Asheville-based nonprofit closed more land projects over the past year than in any previous year since its 1974 founding, bringing 2,986 acres throughout Western North Carolina and East Tennessee under protection.

“There is something tangible and reassuring in preserving land — it’s something you can put your hand on,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s executive director, in a press release summarizing the year’s accomplishments. “These conservation projects help preserve cultural connections to the past, places to connect with nature and vital resources we rely on now, and which will be increasingly critical in the future.”

The nonprofit’s work included both valuable wildlife habitats, such as the Wiles Creek and Little Rock Creek preserves, and prime farmland at risk of development. Sandy Hollar Farms in Buncombe County and Bowditch Bottoms in Yancey County were among the agricultural projects completed last year.

“The events of 2020 have underscored the importance of being adaptable,” noted Silverstein. “SAHC’s conservation work is critical in securing natural resources that ensure the region’s resilience in response to climate change.”

Organic Growers School debuts Show Us Your Land campaign

Rocky Ramos and crew at Soil Shine Farm
LAND OF PLENTY: Farm manager Rocky Ramos, right, and apprentices at Soil Shine Farm & Ferments in Burnsville enjoy farm-fresh melon slices. Photo by Olivia Ramos

Asheville-based Organic Growers School is encouraging farmers, gardeners and home growers throughout Western North Carolina to share pictures and stories of their operations through the recently launched Show Us Your Land campaign. The nonprofit is amplifying submissions through its social media channels to inspire others in their progress toward organic living.

“We’ve noticed in 2020 that more people are choosing to grow their own food and eat locally — a lot of us were forced into that with grocery shortages,” says Carrie Moran, communications director for OGS, about the impetus for the program. “And I think this year highlighted some food justice issues. People are out there looking for support, but also for inspiration.”

One such submission came from Angel Lunn, a former OGS marketing associate and owner of Zänë Acres Farm in Kannapolis. “Honestly, my land may not be much to look at to others. It’s half an acre in a residential area, backed up to a school track and field,” Lunn says. “But none of that matters because it’s ours: We own it. By sharing our land aspects, we allow people to explore the possibility that they don’t have to own acres of land to sustain growth, to feed their families and to change their communities.”

And Olivia Ramos, who co-owns Soil Shine Farm & Ferments in Burnsville with her husband, Rocky, says she wanted to celebrate how local agriculture thrived in 2020 despite the pandemic. “It’s so wonderful how many new people got introduced to gardening and farming this summer, either because other plans changed or they realized their dependence on the land,” she explains. “We were so lucky to be a part of that shift and get to work with extra apprentices who came from all sorts of nonfarming paths.”

Save the date

  • Jennifer Powell tree photo
    STILL LIFE: This photo by Jennifer Powell, a student of documentary photographer Susan Patrice, is among the works to be displayed at The N.C. Arboretum starting Saturday, Jan. 16. Photo courtesy of The N.C. Arboretum

    A new citizen photography exhibit featuring photos of Southern Appalachian landscapes debuts at The N.C. Arboretum’s Baker Exhibit Center Gallery on Saturday, Jan. 16. The images were taken by participants in a virtual workshop led by Asheville-based documentary photographer Susan Patrice and will remain on display through Sunday, May 2. More information available at NCArboretum.org.

  • EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems, a project of N.C. State University, holds multiple free virtual workshops throughout January and February. Highlights include Butcher Basics for Home Consumers on Tuesday, Jan. 19, and the 2021 Winter Vegetable Conference Wednesday-Thursday, Feb. 24-25. More information and registration at avl.mx/8up.
  • The Land of Sky Regional Council marks the retirement of Bill Eaker, the organization’s senior environmental planner, with a Zoom party on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 11 a.m. Eaker’s 40 years of service to the community have included co-founding the French Broad River Foundation (a predecessor to RiverLink) and chairing the Haywood County Planning Board. More information and registration at LandOfSky.org/Bill.
  • The Creation Care Alliance offers an online symposium Thursday-Friday, Jan. 28-29, exploring the ways people of faith can work toward environmental and social justice. Shantha Ready Alonso, executive director of the national nonprofit Creation Justice Ministries, will be among the featured speakers. More information and registration at avl.mx/8uj.
  • The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s 18th annual Business of Farming Conference will take place virtually Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 25-27. New workshops at the event, including Direct Marketing in the Time of COVID and Optimizing Your Online Store, are designed to help local producers respond to the pandemic’s impact. More information and registration at avl.mx/8ul.

Raise your voice

  • Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission seek information on sightings of the mudpuppy, a rare aquatic salamander native to Western North Carolina. Mudpuppies are often mistaken for hellbenders but can be distinguished by their spots, smaller size (12 inches versus 16-17 inches) and red, feathery gills. Sighting information and photos should be sent to commission biologist Lori Williams at lori.williams@ncwildlife.org.
  • The Woodfin Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to hold a hearing on a 92-acre mixed-use development next to Asheville’s Richmond Hill Park at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1. The area is known to be habitat for several regionally rare species, including the marbled salamander and Eastern fairy shrimp, and borders the French Broad River.
  • The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation asks for public input on the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail, a proposed trail network of over 130 miles across Buncombe, Henderson, Polk and Rutherford counties. An online survey on which construction projects and priorities should be emphasized is available through Friday, Jan. 15, at avl.mx/8uk.

Community kudos

  • SERLC and HRI volunteers
    HEMLOCK HELPERS: Volunteers with the Southeast Regional Land Conservancy and Hemlock Restoration Initiative treated 279 trees for the hemlock woolly adelgid in December. Photo courtesy of Karin Heiman

    Asheville GreenWorks received a $50,000 grant from the Gannett Foundation to support urban tree planting. The foundation is the charitable arm of Gannett Co., the parent company of the Citizen Times.

  • Lisa McDonald, the founder of Sweet Bear Rescue Farm in East Flat Rock, is spending January helping to construct an earthship — a type of passive solar, earth-based sustainable structure — as a school building for students in Haiti. McDonald hopes to construct an earthship on her own property this summer, which will be available for educational tours and vacation rentals.
  • National nonprofit The Conservation Fund announced that 205 acres would be added to the Pisgah National Forest near the Linville Gorge. The addition, supported by the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Conservancy and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, protects the view of Long Arm Mountain from the gorge and conserves the Bull Branch Creek watershed.
  • The Southeast Regional Land Conservancy recently treated 279 hemlock trees in rural Madison County for protection from the hemlock woolly adelgid. SERLC volunteers received cost-share and staff support from the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a program of Asheville-based nonprofit WNC Communities.
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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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