Let there be no doubt that something special is happening in the Sustainable Agriculture program here in Pittsboro. Opportunities abound as of late to put it all to the test amidst our farming community. Returning home to Chatham County, from a weekend steeped in
sustainable living and farming workshops, at the 20th year of the annual Organic Growers School in the mountains of Asheville, I find myself gratefully reflecting on the calibre of our amazing little program. Session after session, whether the topic be broccoli production or growing great garlic, effective electric fences or whole farm planning, I found myself ahead of the curve and able to fine tune my tool box, engaging with each presentation from a foundation and depth of knowledge I am just now beginning to recognize. The thoroughness and breadth of what we are learning in such a relatively short time is increasingly evident as I begin to step out into the broader arena of our local production farming community.
Just last week, I spent the day at a workshop on Nutrition, Grazing and Soils, co-hosted by NC Agriculture Extension, Fertrell Company and Organic Valley. As the presenters dove
into rotational grazing, nutritional values of forage crops and proper long term management of pastures, I was acutely aware that in just two months of learning about Sustainable Livestock Management, I had already been exposed to so much that I was able to synthesize the material and truly participate in the workshop, accessing the finer points. It felt really great to sit in a room of livestock farmers, some of whom have been at it for decades, even their whole lives, and be a part of the dialogue. Many have lived through the influx of commercialized fertilizers and
pesticides to come full circle back to the “way it was”, the way they had begun or the way
the granddads had farmed. I especially enjoyed talking with Franklin Teague, who started their dairy farm over 70 years ago with just seven cows, and hearing the history of Reedy Fork Dairy and their recent transition to organic production. In 2010, they opened Reedy Fork Organic Feed Mill, to meet their own needs as well as local demand, becoming our only North Carolina organic feed supplier, just up the road in Elon.
The more I go out and take advantage of these opportunities and immerse myself into the broader production farming community, the more I see how much we are learning and
how truly unique this program is in its intensified, hands-on approach. Doors continually open in my mind, allowing me to gain knowledge that builds upon the fertile ground being sown with every handful of dirt we turn and seed we plant on the student farm. It is so affirming and validating of the sustainable agriculture adventure we are traveling at CCCC to be able to jump into the broader farming community with such a thorough foundation of skills and knowledge grounded in such solid integrated learning. I come away from each experience with increasing appreciation for the dedication and generosity of everyone in Sustainable Ag at CCCC!