DeLana Parker, Buncombe County Schools Teacher of the Year for Roberson District, contacted Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy about using the Community Farm for volunteer service projects for the 6th grade National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) from Charles T. Koontz Intermediate School. We have organized a series of three work days to teach different groups of students about permaculture techniques and provide them with hands-on experience.

A group of seven students and five adult volunteers came out to the Community Farm for the first NJHS work day, including a tour and educational presentation on sustainable farming practices followed by hands-on volunteer experience. The program focused on Hugelkultur — a practice of creating mounds with downed woody material, which form raised beds for plantings and help capture water run off to reduce erosion.

Students and adult volunteers worked on the Community Farm extension property. They constructed an A-frame level to mark out the contours of the land and began laying woody material along the contour lines to form Hugel mounds. Future volunteer groups will cover the mounds in soil, creating raised beds for plantings. The mounds also form a barrier and slow the flow of water across the land, preventing sedimentation and pollution of streams. Plants on top of the mounds can use the captured water as part of a self-sustaining system.

“We want to keep water on the land for as long of a time and as far a distance as we can,” explains Community Farm Manager Chris Link. “This is an economical way to repurpose on-site resources and increase soil fertility levels. Hugel mounds and swales are utilized by permaculturists, homesteaders, farmers, and land managers to plant annual and perennial crops.”