Community support grows for local foods on campus and at tailgate markets
There’s a direct link between the Farmland Values Project and a budding farm in the Swannanoa Valley. Carolyn Fryberger ’07 (Environmental Studies) created Crossing Point Farm earlier this year on a half-acre of rented land. This summer, she has her hands deep in the soil as she nurtures her gardens and sells her crops through a farm share program and through Foothills Family Farms, a cooperative that supports a booth on Wednesdays at the West Asheville Tailgate Market and Saturdays at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market.
A veteran of professor Leah Greden Mathews’ Farmland Values Project, Fryberger did GIS mapping, making her aware of the need to protect the region’s farmland. “I came into contact with many people in the agriculture community. It turned my head about what I wanted to do in my life,” Fryberger explains. “I was interested in these issues, but I really like doing things that feel tangible. Farming really appealed to me.”
After graduation she traveled to Austin, Texas, where she spent nine months learning as much as she could about organic farming. She worked on a 20-acre Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm called Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Fryberger grew up in Black Mountain, and when she learned of farmland for lease in neighboring Swannanoa, she jumped at the chance to return to her N.C. roots.
Her crops consist of fresh market and storage crops: arugula, beets, beans, bok choy, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, collards, eggplant, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce mix, onions, peppers, radishes, spinach, summer squash, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tatsoi, tomatoes, turnips, and winter squash. “I’m grateful for the connections I made through the Farmland Values Project,” she says. “I have reconnected with those people now as a farmer.”
“I’m grateful for the connections I made through the Farmland Values Project.”
Fryberger calls farming her graduate education. “I want to learn as much as I can and see what comes of it. If I decide to continue in farming, I want to purchase the land I’m on and a larger farm in McDowell County. I can also see myself going into a career of food policy or land-use policy. Having experience as a small grower will be invaluable.”
Bringing the Farm to Campus
The North Asheville Tailgate Market (pictured at top)—the longest-running tailgate market in the Asheville area—moved to a campus parking area in 2007. On Saturday mornings, from late April until December, about 40 local food producers bring vegetables, fruits and herbs as well as honey, baked goods, canned goods, free-range meat and eggs, plants and flowers. Not only can students and neighbors buy fresh produce, but they also develop relationships with people who are farming for a living. Knowing where their food comes from and why protecting area farmland is so important enhances their connection to community. And when they make purchases, they support farmers and keep farms running.
“They planted herbs, fruits and things that possibly would have been in gardens in ancient Rome and Greece.”
Students have opportunities on campus to learn how to cultivate and harvest gardens. Melissa Acker, landscape director, counts five distinct garden areas on campus. One, called “the ancient garden,” was developed by the Classics Department. “They planted herbs, fruits and things that possibly would have been in gardens in ancient Rome and Greece,” Acker says. Others include a permaculture demonstration garden at Sam Millar Facilities Management Complex, a community garden planted by Facilities staff, a faculty garden near the original Physical Plant building, and the Student Environmental Center garden behind the Dining Hall.
Acker says she is pleased that students gain awareness of how important farming is in a community. “Farmland is not just a chunk of land,” she says. “The value goes way beyond that. Preserving farmland is a passion of mine. It’s so critical. It kills me to see beautiful soil covered by pavement.”