i was trying to find other projects in asheville connected to food justice, urban ag, farm incubation etc, but wasn’t really finding any leads. i did however have a connection to boone, and when they started listing projects going on in boone i decided the 2 hour drive into the mountains was well worth it. my main contact was hillary from maverick farms, an amazingly busy lady trying to do all kinds of incredible projects to support her community. some readers may know maverick farms as the home of mother jones and grist writer tom philpott (he wasn’t there)
heading into valle crucis, i connected with hillary who had me meet up with her at the fig (farm incubator and grower) farm.the fig farm is located on some beautiful but over grazed bottom land in a lovely valley. the land is protected land, so it will always we farm land, but the protection also makes for putting in structures like pack sheds and greenhouses very difficult. in a testament to hillary’s connection to this land, her father had farmed on the same piece of property some years before. the farm is currently incubating four farmers, mostly vegetables, but a couple of pigs were chowing down on kitchen scraps when i visited. one farmer has a larger plot and is mentoring the others, who only have 1/4 acre parcels. i thought that seemed really small, but hillary assured me that for many, that was more than enough. they are only in their first year, so many of the question i was asking had yet to be tackled.
a short drive over from fig is maverick farms.maverick was start in around 2004 as hillary’s parents retired from farming, and the kids and friends couldn’t bear to see it leave the family, so they started a non-profit and kept the farm. In addition to the fig farm, they sell grow a few acres on site, manage the high country csa (a multi-grower csa), do youth programing, and host local events at the farm. i figured since it was a bunch of young people managing a farm that it would be pretty crusty and dirty like i’m used to, but this was deluxe accommodations. i had a comfy bed where i could sleep to the sound of the stream running though the farm. it made for some of the best sleep of my life, and i was excited to get up and explore the farm in the light of day.the farmhouse – looks much smaller than it is from this image, it’s actually quite rambling and large. bella the dog.sign posted on several of the buildings. north carolina has strange agro-tourism laws.
after a quick breakfast i went into the town of boone to check out the farmers market where hillary and farm hand maddy were selling. the market was full of vendors with beautiful displays. i was told that this was a bit smaller market than usual, but it was still very impressive, especially given boone’s small size.
after the market i head to a project called f.a.r.m. cafe in down town boone. located in half of a drugstore, it occupies a former lunch counter. the idea behind the cafe is that no one is turned away for a meal, you pay what you can making a suggested donation. you pay more if you can, less if you can’t and can volunteer if you have no money at all. they are also supporting local growers by purchasing as much of their menu as possible locally. i had a simple but pleasant meal of red beans and rice and salad while looking out the window and people watching folks going by in downtown boone. boone is not very big, you can walk the whole down town in a matter of minutes, walking down the street i stumbled upon this. a statue of doc watson. these flowers are before his passing last week, but had been placed as get well wishes during his sickness. i’ve seen more recent photos where you can barely see the statute so many flowers are placed in loving memory of this hometown hero. later in the afternoon i tried to find another farm, got lost on mountain roads and headed back to maverick to do a couple of hours of work in hopes of at least slightly offsetting the cost of my free room and board.
we played games in the evening, made ice cream and i was given a series of possible hikes for my way back to asheville the next day.
i headed out after breakfast and caught a quick hike to the top of hawksbill, well worth the effort for the view.because of the large change of elevation up the mountain i was able to see many different wildflowers. having worked up a sweat, i was ready too cool off, and went for a dip in a lovely stream next to waterfalls. it was cool and refreshing. all this good living made it hard to head back. amazing people, projects, food, farms, mountains, forests, and waterfalls. i was really struck by what an amazing place the mountains for north carolina are, and knew this would not be my last visit.