Finding something lost: A sense of serenity and a connection to others are two of the things often lost in addiction, notes Craig White of First Step Farm. But those are also the very two things this farm-based recovery program seeks to grow.

Harvesting serenity: First Step Farms uses agricultur­e to overcome addiction

First Step Farms WNC is two farmsteads, both located on historic farmland in Candler. One site grows vegetable starts for small farms; the other grows flowers for weddings and school graduations. But the farms’ primary purpose goes beyond agriculture — the two sites are home to a substance abuse recovery program that uses farming to restore self-confidence in recovering addicts.

“We're trying to integrate both cultural and traditional knowledge, as well as build a sense of ownership for the kids over growing their own food and their own health,” says Katie Rainwater of Cherokee Central School and FoodCorps. “The best way to do that is to get dirty.”

Empowermen­t from the Earth: Reclaiming Cherokee health and heritage

Cherokee is a community in flux. Decadeslong high poverty and unemployment rates are beginning to decline, but access to healthy food remains limited and cultural values seem to be changing. “It’s Western civilization versus our traditional Cherokee ways,” say community leaders. But community efforts are using gardens to reconnect the Cherokee people to local food, health and a collective heritage defined by knowledge of the earth.

"Learning and working with the land is something anyone can do, and it's something that no one should be separated from," says Calixta Killander, garden manager at The Farm in Candler.

Who are the new farmers?

From the rancher with the cowboy hat and lasso to the grower on the tractor gazing out over the cornfield, our idea of a farmer is most often of a male — specifically an older, white male. In many ways, statistically speaking, that image isn’t wrong — but it may be changing. Diversity in agriculture is growing in WNC. Who are these new farmers? What challenges are they facing? And what new perspectives will they bring to agriculture in WNC?