Community Farm Update Summer 2021

This summer, Community Farm Associate Tamarya Sims brought a whole new feel for farm life to a wide variety of camp and community groups. From partnering with the NC Arboretum in their EcoExplore program to teaching kids to safely hold chickens raised on the farm, this season has been full of volunteer work days and educational activity, growing young minds along with  agriculture.

Community Farm Associate Tamarya Sims has been busy running educational programs on the farm this summer! In July, Tamarya taught groups from Project Lighten Up, Youth Transformed  for Life, and others about chickens, farming eggs, and how chickens fit into the farm ecosystems. Read more

Intern Perspective: LaKyla Hodges

Since her childhood, inspired by shows like the Crocodile Hunter and the Jeff Corwin Experience, LaKyla has loved wildlife. Today, she is passionate about intersections among environmental issues and under-represented communities. She hopes to raise awareness about the disproportionate impacts of environmental challenges on minority communities and also to help engage youth in these communities in environmental advocacy.

“I am very excited to work with the SAHC team and to help connect diverse communities with land conservation,” she says. “When working in the environmental field, it’s important to remember to consider how different aspects of one’s identity can affect how they view and interact with the natural world. Intersectional environmentalism is one of the best ways we can ensure that our environmental practices are sustainable and effective. Taking intersectionality into account can help to reach people of all types of identities by making them feel seen and comfortable rather than being “blind” to our differences. Incorporating values such as equity, diversity, and inclusion can give you a strong start to becoming a more socially conscious organization or environmentalist, but  the follow through is the most important part. Deconstructing outdated beliefs that have been passed down to you and talking with members of marginalized groups first hand are, in my opinion, the best ways to reinforce intersectional practices. Reframing your point of view and doing needs assessment are much needed yet often forgotten aspects of activism.”

Summer Youth Education Programs 2021

This summer, we were grateful and excited to be able to work in-person with YTL Training Program and YMCA Horizons to facilitate youth education in the environment and outdoor recreation. We want to give a special thank you to Board members Allison Williams, Matt Moses, and Larry Pender for helping provide exceptional and exciting experiences — from whitewater rafting to horseback riding!

Education improves through partnership, knowledge, and experience. We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Youth Transformed for Life in educational outings, and to have experts in the field of conservation and recreation partner with us as well. AmeriCorps member Cici Wood and intern LaKyla Hodges continued to work with Youth Transformed for Life (YTL) to host on-site educational programs and plan a series of excursions. Community Farm Associate Tamarya Sims led one group on an exploration of farm life, including pollinators and chickens. Matt Moses and his team from USA Raft (USARaft.com) provided on-the-river rafting experiences for youth and teens, rafting the Lower Nolichucky from the USA Raft Adventure Resort in Erwin, TN. Thank you to USA Raft for donating two afternoon excursions! Read more

Salamander Plots at the SAHC Community Farm

Child is crouched down, placing a label on a cross section slice of a small tree. There is a hammer to the right of the slice. The child is wearing a black raincoat and grey and orange sweatpants.

Student of French Broad River Academy installing salamander plots, courtesy of Tamarya Sims

There has been lots of buzz on the SAHC Community Farm about our new salamander plot program. This program was piloted by Tamarya Sims, our Community Farm Associate. Western North Carolina is often considered the salamander capital of the world. Despite this, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find salamanders in the region due to declining populations across all amphibian species. This is why Tamarya felt that the moist areas near the creek on SAHC’s Community farm would be perfect for salamander plots.

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Salamanders and Youth Education

Plethodon amplus salamander.

Plethodon amplus, photo credit Tom Ward.

You may have heard that the Southern Appalachian or Blue Ridge Mountains are the “salamander capital of the world.” These brightly colored little living gems capture the interest and imagination of young and old alike. Their prevalence among some of the world’s oldest mountains highlights the remarkable biodiversity of the region and the importance of protecting critical land and water resources — before they are lost forever.

Join us for a look at salamanders – from youth education programs to citizen-science observations recorded and reported by a conservation landowner. The stories, videos, and photos below present a snapshot of the importance of salamanders, tips for safely searching for them, and a look at the diverse species you may find in the mountains of NC and TN.

Learn a little, record your own observations, and join us in engaging with these fascinating amphibians! Read more

Youth Education with Black Folks Camp Too

Earl speaks to YMCA HorizonsEarl B. Hunter, Jr., founder of Black Folks Camp Too, speaks of bringing people together in unity to enjoy the great outdoors. Former Vice-President of Sales at SylvanSport and a recognized speaker in the outdoor recreation industry, Earl began his company as a way to bring all people together to experience and benefit from outdoor recreation. He says they are creating an educational portal, and the campfire in their logo is a way to bring people together for discussion. We were excited to partner with Earl and Black Folks Camp Too during the summer to host outdoor recreation events for two local youth programs – Youth Transformed for Life and the YMCA Horizons program.

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Stephens-Lee Bird Sanctuary Outing

In November, AmeriCorps member Whisper Moore led an afterschool group from Stephens-Lee Recreation Center to experience birding at the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary in North Asheville. In a previous afterschool session, Whisper had introduced students to migratory birds with the #GreatMigrationChallenge game. For this field trip, Bethany Sheffer and Simon Thompson of the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society chapter joined us to share their expertise.

Bethany and Simon gave a brief lesson on birding and showed students how to use binoculars by spotting a particular point on a sign. Then they headed out together to spot some resident birds that stay at the Sanctuary year-round. As they ventured over to look at some Canada Geese across the waterway, one student exclaimed “Look at the mountains!” Read more

The Blackalachian Visits Asheville

Daniel visits with SAHC and Blue Ridge Forever staff.

Appalachian Trail thru hiker Daniel White grew up in the Shiloh community of Asheville and now lives in Charlotte. Last year, he set off hiking the AT to gain a new perspective on life. Unlike many who make the trek, Daniel started his journey without any backpacking experience. Now he’s become an ambassador for outdoor recreation.

“I hadn’t slept in a tent until three days before I started,” he says. “Growing up in Asheville, the trail was there all the time, but nobody introduced me to it. Once I got started, it was a learning experience. I was only planning to hike for a couple months, but then I really got into it and didn’t want to stop.”

Daniel hopes to use his own experiences to encourage others to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Read more

CAYLA Intern: Fisayo Bashorun

In our fourth year hosting an intern from the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA), we welcomed Fisayo Bashorun to the SAHC team to work with our Communications and Community Farm staff. Fisayo is passionate about photography and aspires to serve at the state level of NC government.  “I heard of CAYLA through a teacher,” she shares. “The teacher had witnessed my eagerness to get involved in the community and felt this would be a great program for me to jump right in.” Read more

JCC at Craggy Gardens

In July, AmeriCorps member Travis Bordley and other SAHC staff enjoyed a beautiful day at Craggy Gardens while providing basic environmental education to a group of students from Asheville’s Jewish Community Center (JCC). These students, mostly elementary and middle schoolers, are a part of a summer camp offered by JCC. The theme of this year’s camp is the word Teva, a Hebrew word which translates to “nature.” Read more