New to Incubator Program: Julia Costa, Wild Jewels Farm

Julia Costa of Wild Jewels Farm joined the Farmer Incubator Program this year, with plans to produce vegetables, edible flowers, and mushrooms to supply local restaurants, using organic growing methods.

“Farming is my passion,” says Julia. “I have been working on farms for several years, and I’m looking to start my own new farm business in the Asheville area. I have been working as a chef for the past six years in conjunction to farming, and that experience has provided a great way to connect to my customers and understand how to work with people in the restaurant industry.”

Julia has been a farm worker, student, intern, school garden educator, and owner-operator at various farm operations.

“Farming has become a way that I feel I can contribute to my community,” continues Julia. “It is work that I enjoy and a fantastic way to connect to the local community, both to others engaged in farming and through customer relations. Farming is also my creative expression, and sustainable farming in conjunction with nature is a major inspiration for me.”

Julia applied to SAHC’s Farmer Incubator Program because she was looking for a setting where she can start slow and test different products and markets.

“I hope that I can create a foundation for my business and move toward owning my own operation with increased experience, knowledge and security,” she says. “I look forward to connecting to more farmers in my community. I would also like to use my passion and talent for cooking to bring people together and to educate about food sources through farm tours, cooking classes, and on-farm dinners.”

More Farm Updates

Headwaters Market Garden is in their 3rd year of the Farm Incubator Program, finishing up their 2nd full season of production. This year they have experimented with ducks for integrated pest management in the vegetable growing area. Wes Buckner and Cheyenne Cearly of WC Performance Horses and Cattle are rotationally grazing their herd of Longhorn-Brahman cross cattle, with three calves born on the Community Farm.

We continue to work with KD Ecological Services to use applied herbivory (aka a herd of 15 goats) as part of a comprehensive management plan for invasive plant species on the farm — particularly kudzu.

The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina recently awarded SAHC a $30,000 grant in order to continue and expand programming at the Community Farm. We are grateful for this support!

The Farmer Education Workshop series  has continued successfully throughout 2019, and we have more workshops scheduled this fall. In September, we hosted 20 neighbors, local farmers, landowners for a pasture walk led by Buncombe Co. Cooperative Extension. The workshop consisted of an informative stroll, with on-site plant ID and discussion of management strategies with recommendations on how to keep pastures healthy and productive.

“I joined the group as a new intern with SAHC,” recalls UNC Asheville intern Miranda Murray. “It was an exciting foray into the world of local agriculture. As a student of Ecology, I spend a lot of time learning about and managing exotic invasive plants in forests, so it was fascinating to gain a new perspective. I learned that pasture land is an ecosystem in itself, and with the right management strategies, pastures can be productive, beneficial, and botanically diverse.”

Check out her account of the Pasture Walk Workshop.

Farm Interns Create Chicken Tractor

Summer farm interns Elizabeth Powers, Julia Smith, and Elizabeth Powers helped create a mobile chicken coop as a resource for farmers in the Farmer Incubator Program and part of our livestock infrastructure. It has an automatic door that closes at night, with room to house 100+ layers (chickens laying eggs) securely from predators.

“The chicken tractor can be used as part of our rotational grazing system, as a way to help manage healthy soil,” says Community Farm Manager Chris Link. “It is mobile, so chickens can consistently be on fresh pasture. Egg quality improves dramatically when they have access to fresh pasture. The coop can be pulled by tractor to move around the farm as we do rotational grazing  — so we can move the chickens behind the cattle. They eat bugs attracted by the larger livestock, helping to manage pests and fertilizing soil in the process.”