Monday, August 23, 2010

Swannanoa, NC: Warren Wilson College Farm

Warren Wilson College is a well known liberal arts school near Asheville that began as an agricultural school in the 19th century. There is still a large agricultural component and we were lucky enough to meet the student farm crew who is running the CSA as well as the market operation this season. It appears as though we have arrived at some kind of farm utopia; everyone is young and beautiful and farm chores in bikini tops is the norm here. Jenn, our main host told us about the origins of Warren Wilson. Agriculture was top priority from the foundation of the school, and in the original mission statement there is even a line about city boys with their "diseases and attitudes" not being welcome on campus.

The farm is divided into 2 distinct operations; the garden/vegetable production section and the livestock production. We toured around the garden which has an extensive herb section that students harvest to make teas and tinctures for personal use and to sell at the bookstore. The drying shed for the herbs was a small and beautiful log cabin with a kitchen in the downstairs and an attic that had an abundance of different herbs hanging from the rafters. The sweet smell that wafted over us was a mixture of lavender and licorice. Besides the herb shed there is another bigger log cabin with a wide front porch complete with a hammock (that someone was napping in as we strolled up) that serves as the eating area and meeting house. There is an old barn that serves as headquarters in the morning to decide what needs to be accomplished for the day and houses farm equipment and tractors.
Most of the students who do the work do not have agricultural backgrounds but really enjoy the peace and fresh air that comes along with working on the farm. Warren Wilson has a booth at the local farmers market in Asheville and plenty of Ashevillens support them there. Jenn says that she likes to scope out the market before she sets the prices for the WW farm in order to give local farmers some advantage. Jenn will set the prices of her produce just a little bit higher than the rest of the vendors so that people will be more willing to buy produce from a farmer who may be solely relying on his or her farms income to pay the bills.

Before leaving we sat in the barn to speak with some of the rest of the crew and noticed the whiteboard with the day's duties listed on it. Underneath "hoe the squash" was the last objective on the list which our friend in the hammock was getting a jump start on: nap.


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