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Jennifer Pharr Davis Blue Ridge Hiking Co. p.14

Leisure & Libation

Land of Plenty: Local Food p.58

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

We Made a

Podcast MORE INFORMATION, P. 43

l o c a l i n d u s t ry

Of Sound Mind Western North Carolina’s Podcast Scene p.36

Hickory Nut Gap’s Ager Family on

Coming Home

Volume X - Edition VIII complimentary edition

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Roost

TO

p.78

August 2020


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3. PAY ATTENTION TO TEMPERATURE. Pull the meat out of the refrigerator early – it should be nearly room temperature before it hits the grill. This reduces cooking time which will yield a more evenly cooked steak. The grill air temperature should be stable at 350°F - 400°F. You will increase the temperature at the end when you sear the meat. Cooking times will vary with method of preparation, size and shape of the cut of meat. We recommend striving for an internal meat temperature of 135°F for medium rare which ensures a warm red center. The temperature will continue to rise as you rest the steak (see step 5).

4. OPTIMIZE YOUR COOKING METHOD. There are many ways to cook a steak, but using an indirect cooking method followed by direct heat sear produces a delicious and perfectly cooked steak every time.

Place the meat on the indirect heat side of the hot grill. Cover the grill and cook for 6 minutes.* Ensure you have sufficient airflow to maintain the temperature. Flip the steak and cook for 5 minutes (again, covered on indirect heat). Lift the lid to oxygenate the grill. After approximately 2-3 minutes, when the coals are very hot, move the steak directly above the coals. Cook uncovered for 1 minute, then covered for another minute. Repeat the direct heat cooking method on the other side of the steak, and immediately place it in a covered dish. * For our standard 1 1/4 inch thick steaks. Cooking time will vary based on thickness.

5. REST YOUR MEAT. Select a dish that will be large enough to allow the meat to lie flat. Cover and rest for 5 minutes prior to serving. This allows the meat to finish cooking and juice out, and as it cools it will reabsorb the moisture guaranteeing a juicy steak! 2020• |828.676.0594 capitalatplay.com 200 JULIAN SHOALS DRIVE • SUITE 10 • ARDEN,August NC 28704

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Plan for the Unexpected!

Editor’s Thoughts

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| August 2020

n the summertime, when the trees turn that lush shade so green it leans blue and earns our mountains their sing-song epithet, I retreat to a cabin in Haywood County. As countless bards have recited, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey—a cliche that rings true when I head west for a weekend away. I roll down the windows, my pup, Milo, in the passenger seat, and pump the brakes on the country backroads. The gentle curves of 110 hold some of the most beautiful farmland this side of the Tennessee border. Here the region’s agricultural heritage sings a familiar song: sweeping, emerald valleys studded with sagging barns; herds of portly, grass-fed cows; rows upon rows of staked tomatoes tended by farmhands in sunhats; even a gaggle of miniature goats who stand sentinel on a steep hillside. There’s just something about those views that makes my heart swell; sure, they’re stunningly beautiful, but it’s also the way they nod to a storied agricultural narrative. Our region has such a diverse legacy of farming—from hog drovers guiding their herds south to the piedmont before the Civil War, to Depression-era subsistence farmers, to today’s innovative growers—and it’s easy to envision any of these farmers making their home among these Haywood County valleys. But as this issue proves, the latest generation of sustainably minded, eco-conscious, big-thinking agronomists are making their homes all over Western North Carolina, and they’re growing and producing all sorts of edibles as they do so. When we were brainstorming Leisure & Libation ideas for quarantine, we were struck by how lucky we are to have easy access to local food systems—local farmers, CSAs, U-picks and agritourism, farm stands, even restaurants—both in and outside of a pandemic. And so this month’s Land of Plenty (p.58) was born, in which Gina Smith explores the myriad opportunities to engage with—and eat the fruits of—local farmers. We didn’t set out to create an issue dedicated to regional agriculture, but that was only the first in a domino series of similarly minded ideas. When we decided to cover Hickory Nut Gap in this issue, too, I was so excited I scooped up that story myself. The multigenerational tale of the McClures, Clarkes, and Agers is one of farming for the greater good, and it truly stands as an inimitable testament to the positive impact agriculture can have on our community. And then there’s our column from Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Molly Nicholie, which we’re hoping might guide a few of you readers on your own quest to return to the land—after all, who among us doesn’t harbor some quiet dreams of trying our own hand at farming? And maybe that’s the real reason I swoon when those Canton farmlands unfurl their green carpets on Friday evenings: The fantasy that someday I might count myself among the ranks of those lucky enough to take up the simple but venerable mantle of “farmer.”

Till next month,

Emily Glaser


With most of life’s little daily worries like home and yard maintenance and housekeeping taken care of, I’m free to focus on my total health – body, mind and spirit. The beautiful setting, wonderful new friends, and newly discovered interests keep me engaged, active and happy! Call to schedule a visit and discover a holistic approach to a joy-filled retirement at Deerfield. Asheville, North Carolina 800-284-1531 deerfieldwnc.org

August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

5


Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

publisher THE INNOVATORS OF COMFORT™

Anne Obolensky

As welcoming

associate publisher

as the morning itself, the Stresslsess Sunrise is one of our most popular recliners. With contours that are softly rounded, yet surprisingly sophisticated, the Sunrise offers plush seating for any room. Having a full 360° swivel feature coupled with our patented Glide® system, the Sunrise responds to, and works with the motion of your body to provide unparalleled comfort. To ensure that your Sunrise is a perfect fit, it is available in small, medium, and large sizes. And it comes in both fabrics and leathers in every color under the sun. Experience how comfortable a Sunrise can be.

Jeffrey Green managing editor

Emily Glaser copy editors

Dasha O. Morgan, Brenda Murphy briefs and events editor

Leslee Kulba

contributing writers & photogr aphers

Evan Anderson, Emily Glaser, Anthony Harden, Ken Kaplan, Molly Nicholie, Shawndra Russell, Gina Smith, Kay West art director

Bonnie Roberson founders

Oby and David Morgan advertising director

Roy Brock

Information & Inquiries Capital at Play is Western North Carolina’s business lifestyle magazine. It embodies the idea that capitalism thrives with creativity—that work requires an element of play. Exploring everything from local industry to the great outdoors, Capital at Play is inspiration for the modern entrepreneur. In every edition we profile those who take the risk, those who share that risk, and those who support them—telling the untold story of how capitalists are driven by their ideas and passions. We cater to those who see the world with curiosity, wonderment, and a thirst for knowledge. We present information and entertainment that capitalists want, all in one location. We are the free spirit of enterprise.

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Sunrise

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Editorial content is selected and produced because of its interest to our readership. Editorial content is not for sale and cannot be bought. Capital at Play is financially sustained by advertisers who find value in exposure alongside our unique content and to the readers who follow it.

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This magazine is printed with soy based ink on recycled paper. Please recycle. Copyright © 2020, Capital At Play, LLC. All rights reserved. Capital at Play is a trademark of Capital At Play, LLC. Published by Capital At Play, LLC. PO Box 5524, Asheville NC 28813 Capital at Play is protec ted through Tr ademar k Regis tr ation in the United States. The content found within this publication does not necessar ily ref lec t the views of Capital At Play, LLC . and its companies. Capital At Play, LLC . and its employees are not liable for any adver tising or editor ial content found in Capital at Play. The ar ticles, photogr aphy, and illus tr ations found in Capital at Play may not be reproduced or used in any fashion without express wr it ten consent by Capital At Play, LLC .


August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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OUR Weaverville LOCATION 58 Weaver Village Way Suite 6 Weaverville, NC 28787 (828) 645-6400 McKinneyAgency.com

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OUR OURwide Weaverville Weaverville LOCATION LOCATION McKinneyAgency.com Weav McKinneyAgency.com are able to you offer with many different carriers! ble to offer theyou bestmany policydifferent at the bestpolicies price through our array of carrieres! (828) 645-6400 58 58Weaver WeaverVillage VillageWay WaySuite Suite66 ( Weaverville, Weaverville,NC NC28787 28787 McKinneyAgency.com (828) 645-6400 645-6400 McK AsAsof 2020, we able are to able to you offer policies with many different of July July 1,1,2020 we are offer theyou bestmany policydifferent at the (828) best price through our wide array of cc

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| August 2020


thi s page :

EVEN THE TR ACTORS at Hickory Nut Gap are multigenerational.

cover :

NOLIN AGER with a chick from the farm. photos by Evan Anderson

F E AT U R E D vol. x

14

TRAIL BLAZER JENNIFER PHARR DAVIS

ed. viii

78

COMING HOME TO ROOST JAMIE & AMY AGER

August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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C ON T E N T S au g u s t 2020

List of WNC Farmers Markets

NORTH ASHEVILLE TAILGATE Market , Flying Cloud Farm, photo by Colin Wiebe, courtesy ASAP

36

Of Sound Mind

Western North Carolina’s Budding Podcasting Industry

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Land of Plenty

Digging into Our Robust Local Food System

colu m ns

12 Background Checks for Paychecks

Karen Caruso of Mind Your Business, Inc.

28 So You Want to Be a Farmer

Written by Molly Nicholie

50 Reconsidering Your Most

briefs

Valuable Asset

32 Carolina in the West 54 The Old North State 74 National & World 10

58

lo c a l i n d u s t r y

insight

p.96

| August 2020

Written by Ken Kaplan

events

92 Natural Wonders & Local Farmers Markets

one last thing

98 Reenvisioning Community

We’re launching the Capital at Play Podcast this month! Find it online at capitalatplay.com or wherever you get your podcasts.


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August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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nsight

Background Checks For Paychecks Karen Caruso of Mind Your Business, Inc. Makes it Her Business to Know Yours

O

prah Winfrey has influenced and inspired the likes of television virtuoso Shonda Rhimes, celebrity physicians Drs. Phil and Oz, and Karen Caruso, the Ashevillebased businesswoman behind Mind Your Business, Inc. (MYB). In 1996 Caruso was a stay-at-home mom with an eightmonth-old baby when she saw a segment on Oprah about a nanny who had slain a young boy. “At the time, background screening was not a common practice in day-to-day operations in business—much less childcare,” she recalls. Caruso, who was considering returning to work and would need a nanny to do so, felt a personal connection to the story. When Oprah revealed that the nanny had a criminal background that had gone unchecked, Caruso envisioned a future where she could help prevent such atrocities and protect her own family; she committed to taking action in protecting children from being harmed by unqualified and unscreened caregivers via an employment screening service. Caruso’s interest in criminal law and screening was already well-established by the time of her a-ha moment; she’d begun her career in security and loss prevention while studying criminal justice in college in 1986. “My first job was an undercover/ integrity shopper for Eckerd’s drug store. This gave me my first exposure to the importance of having good hiring practices in place. My job was to ‘shop’ new hires as well as seasoned employees to ensure they were following company policies and to determine their integrity,” she explains. “As my career continued in loss prevention, the need to conduct background checks came into focus as a tool for making informed hiring practices, instead of waiting to find out after you’ve hired someone that they are not the right fit for a position,” Caruso says. “It saved thousands of dollars in bottom line recruiting and training costs.” And so Caruso’s personal and professional experiences coalesced when she founded Mind Your Business, Inc. from her basement with $2,000 in 1996. “I knew I had the experience 12

| August 2020


photos by Billie Mitchell Photography

and the knowledge on conducting background checks. I knew that armed with this knowledge, mothers returning to work could find the most trustworthy and qualified care providers for their children,” she recalls. At the time, it was nearly impossible to find companies offering employee screening services to private individuals; MYB was the solution. She began offering employment screening services to other moms like herself, as well as small business owners around her New Jersey home. Within months, Caruso was screening her own employees as the company expanded, spurred by her experience testifying before the State of New Jersey about the importance of background checks in the childcare industry. Since then, the company has evolved into a leading provider of background investigations, EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) investigations, and drug-screening services from it’s homebase in Hendersonville (where it moved in 1998). MYB is now a multimillion dollar company that employs some 30 staff in Western North Carolina and Washington, D.C., and hundreds of subcontractors around the world. Mind Your Business’ clients include small businesses and individuals, as well as large commercial corporations and the federal government (they’ve serviced 24 government agencies to date).

“I would love to see more womenowned and minority owned businesses in North Carolina get into government contracts.” MYB may operate on an international scale—the company was included on the Inc. 5000, the list of fastest-growing private businesses in America, for 2018 and 2019—but Car uso’s business remains based in the Blue R idge Mountains. “Most people in W NC are surprised to learn that a company like ours operates here,” Caruso points out. “With technology and global capabilities, we bring federal dollars to our community that otherwise would be reserved for companies in the D.C. area.” Caruso has always leaned on and now invests in our local entrepreneurial ecosystem and its resources, like the Land of Sky Regional Council, which helped her biz receive funding from a North Carolina Workforce Development Grant, and the regional chapter of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), where she serves on the the Voices Committee, which “gives a voice and platform for women business owners to learn and grow their businesses.” “One of my favorite phrases is, ‘Your network is your net worth,’” she says of her commitment to the local business community.

K AREN CARUSO

One of Caruso’s favorite local organizations is the Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC), which she points out provides free training for companies seeking to win contracts with state and federal agencies. “One government contract can catapult you into being a multimillion dollar company. The government sets aside contracts for womenowned and minority owned businesses. I would love to see more women-owned and minority owned businesses in North Carolina get into government contracts. The SBTDC is a great resource if you are in WNC.” While Mind Your Business has, like most small businesses, been impacted by COVID-19, Caruso has adapted her plans to fit a new mold set by the pandemic. “To try to diversify our business, we have added a new service to help companies navigate re-opening during this pandemic. We are providing COVID-19 related services such as health screening, contact tracing, PPE, and more,” she explains. COVID-19 has also delayed, but not derailed, plans for the business’ new nonprofit, A Step Ahead Project (ASAP), a 501c3 organization that will pair business owners with underprivileged youth as part of a mentorship program. Just as when Caruso started the business from her basement nearly a quarter century ago, Mind Your Business, Inc. continues to provide clients with accurate, current data in order to make informed hiring decisions—counting Caruso’s clients among the millions positively impacted by the reporting of one Oprah Winfrey. Learn more at mybinc.com. August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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Trail Blazer written by k ay west photos by anthony harden

O

Jennifer Pharr Davis on Building a Blue Ridge Business

n a hazy, late spring afternoon, a light breeze ruffles the colorful nylon tent shells draped over the rails of the covered porch of the Appalachian Trail-er, set back about 50 yards from Lance Avenue in Hot Springs. Inside, Matt Dobson—a lead guide with the Blue Ridge Hiking Company (BRHC), which owns and operates the ten-bed bunkhouse—is inventorying the backpacking gear rented by a family of five he took on a threeday trip into the Smoky Mountains. “It was good to be back out there,” says the tanned, bearded outdoorsman, who carries both a degree in plant sciences from the University of Tennessee and 14,000 trail miles on his legs: “It’s been a while.” The hiking hiatus was not by choice; beginning in mid-March, access to most of the trails, mountains, waterfalls, and forests in the abundant wild of Western North Carolina snapped shut, just as BRHC’s 2020 season was getting underway. Guided half- and full-day hikes and multi-day overnights were stamped “cancelled due to COVID-19” on the company’s online booking system, and the Trail-er stopped accepting reservations for the bunks.

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| August 2020


JENNIFER PHARR DAVIS takes advantage of the trail access near the bunkhouse.

August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

15


continue north along the main street on a sidewalk embedded with granite markers stamped with the AT logo. “This has been tough on everyone,” says Dobson, shaking his head. “But if anyone can figure out a way through it, it’s Jennifer. She is the most focused and determined person I’ve ever met.”

Call of the Wild

JENNIFER PHARR DAVIS

At the same time, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy asked the thru-hikers who typically set out from Springer Mountain, Georgia, in early spring to come off the trail or delay their start on their ambitious quest to tackle the 2,193-mile trek to Mount Katahdin, Maine, as Appalachian Trail (AT) facilities and long sections closed. By mid-to-late May, national and state parks and forests began a slow and measured reopening, as did sections of the AT, and, as if emerging from hibernation, hikers began to venture out again. Stepping out onto the porch to check the tents, Dobson observes, “Normally at this time of year, there would be a bunch of thru-hikers sitting out here, taking a little break.” As he says this, a scruffy, hirsute hiker with a pack pauses on the road in front of the trailer. “Trail back there?” he asks Dobson. “Yep,” he replies, pointing behind him. “Right there.” The traveler nods his head in thanks, walks across the yard, and disappears into the woods. Hot Springs is the only town in North Carolina where the Trail runs through it. Hikers descend Deer Park Mountain from the south, are deposited into the side yard of the bunkhouse, and 16

| August 2020

Hot Springs is 273.9 miles from Springer Mountain where, in March 2005, 21-year-old, recent college graduate, and completely inexperienced backpacker Jennifer Pharr Davis stepped onto a trail that, 400 miles later, would spark a life-changing epiphany. That epiphany, in turn, would become a driving passion, fueling a career as a record-setting hiker, successful entrepreneur and business owner, best-selling author, and sought-after professional public speaker. Pharr Davis’ first childhood hiking experience gave no hint of her future path. “My dad spent most of his career in the summer camp industry, but we really didn’t do that much outdoors as a family,” she says. “We didn’t camp and didn’t hike much. I remember hiking Mount Pisgah when I was really young and thinking it was Mount Everest; it was too tall, and I did not have fun. But growing up here, even if your family isn’t actively pursuing outdoor life, the mountains are in your blood.” For Pharr Davis, “here” was Hendersonville, where she grew up the baby sister of two older brothers she was determined to keep up with and prove, as feisty Annie Oakley famously belted, “Anything you can do, I can do better.” All three Pharr siblings were athletic and active in church, community groups, and academics. Her two sports were basketball and tennis; the latter won the youngest Pharr a full scholarship to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. “I was 18 years old and knew enough to know I didn’t know what I wanted to do and that even picking a major would be challenging. My plan was that I would go through school on my scholarship, get a degree, and figure it out along the way,” she recalls. A Greek class her first semester intrigued her so much she took a deep dive into Greco-Roman history, art, architecture, culture, literature, and Greek and Latin languages. Asked what type of career a Classics degree equips one for, Pharr Davis laughs, “Well, it was kind of random. Most of my classmates went on to either seminary, law school, or teaching Greek or Latin. I went on the Appalachian Trail.” Backpacking 2,000-plus miles was not in the Classics curriculum, but was instead the result of a fleeting whim shared by a friend; it rooted so deeply in Pharr’s psyche, it propelled her to plot a fast track to her degree. “One of my best friends in college was interested [in hiking the AT],” she recalls. “I was trying to support her, so I got her some books on the AT and was flipping through them. I thought it looked so amazing. When I gave her the books, I said, ‘If you’re


THE SHOP IS FULL of Pharr Davis’ favorite gear and books.

okay with it, I might hike with you.’ At that point, she was like, ‘Oh no, I’m over it! Keep the books if you want.’ So I did, and the more I read, the more deadset I was to do it.” She stacked her classes to graduate in December rather than May so she could start the hike in March. “Honestly, everyone just rolled their eyes, like, ‘Sure you will.’ No one took me seriously. When I graduated in December 2004 and started preparing, everyone was like ‘Shoot, she’s really serious.’” Everyone could be forgiven for some skepticism. She admits, after all, that up to that point she had spent all of two nights outdoors in her entire life in a camping setting and was “woefully unprepared” in her experience and knowledge of how to use gear or “leave no trace” ethics. To prepare, she enrolled in a four-day workshop at the Appalachian Trail Institute led by founder Warren Doyle, who has thru-hiked the Trail 18 times. “He focuses very little on technical skills or gear, but instead on mental and emotional preparation. It was immensely helpful to get my mind wrapped around what I was getting myself into. After that course I had no illusions that I was going for the fun, or that it was going to be a nice walk with beautiful scenery. I knew it was going to

be really difficult, that there would be really bad days, that I would be hot, cold, wet, and hurting. I was grateful to have a more realistic view of what to expect.” All of that happened and then some. But what Pharr Davis didn’t expect was the moment she says changed her forever. “About 400 miles in I was on Roan Mountain. It’s a spectacular grassy bald with a 360° view from the top of the mountain. I looked around at the Southern Appalachians and was struck with the knowing that I was part of nature. Up until then nature was something outside of me that I saw as an observer and I wasn’t actually a participant [in]. Looking around me I realized I was part of all that beauty and that there was something wild inside of me. It was utterly powerful, and that moment and that realization changed the course of my life more than anything else.” Other lessons taken from successfully completing the Trail just under five months later were more earthbound, and she ticks them off easily: humility, adaptability, self-sufficiency, independence, endurance, resilience, and an abiding comfort with silence, solitude, and simplicity. “I found I did not get lonely and that I could be very happy with very little. I did not need much.” August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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BREW DAVIS & JENNIFER PHARR DAVIS

18

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She did, however, need an income, and within a week— thanks in some part to “completed thru-hike of the AT” on her otherwise scant resume—she had secured a position at Highland, the historic home of President James Monroe in Charlottesville, Virginia. The greatest perk was the off-season breaks the director granted her to indulge her growing passion for long-distance hiking. In the two years that followed her trek of the Appalachian Trail, Pharr Davis conquered the summit of Kilimanjaro in Africa and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006; in 2007 she checked off Machu Picchu and Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru, and the fastest known time (FKT) of 7 days and 15 hours on Vermont’s 280-mile Long Trail.

Trail Blazer After those two years, feeling that she had plateaued professionally at the museum, she was at a crossroads. “I could go to graduate school for archeology or historic preservation, which were in line with my education. But by then I knew in my heart what I wanted to do. I dreamed about hiking. I was spending weekends and evenings teaching friends what I knew about hiking and the outdoors. I thought if I could somehow figure out how to do this for a living, that’s what I want to do. If I can make this my career, that is my choice. Grad school was my back-up plan.” She went back to North Carolina in the fall of 2007, took a part-time job with lodging at a camp, and worked on the business plan and website for what in May 2008 she incorporated

as the Blue Ridge Hiking Company. Owner and sole employee: 24-year-old Pharr Davis. There were no guided hiking companies in Asheville then, or anywhere she could find except Alaska and Hawaii. “I had so much to learn: how to become an LLC, how to get insurance, permits, certifications, set up a website,” she says. “I had no business background. I made some missteps and did some things looking back I would have done differently, but nothing huge. I just figured it out along the way.” What puzzled family and friends, but Pharr Davis figured out early on, was that people would pay to be taken on a hike. When they told her it was a “crazy idea,” she countered with a comparison to Asheville’s most iconic tourist attraction, the

Biltmore Estate. “I pointed out that visitors to the Biltmore could have an amazing experience on their own, but on a guided experience they would get to see some secret rooms and learn something they wouldn’t otherwise. That they could understand. I could take people out on trails that maybe intimidated them, or they didn’t have time to plan, show them things they wouldn’t see on their own. That was the original idea behind Blue Ridge Hiking Company. In the beginning it was just me, which was very much the vision for the business and comes from the trail mentality: I’m going to travel light.” By this time, she had found a life trail partner in Brew Davis, a middle school teacher who, in 2007, segued from being a friend of her brothers’ to her boyfriend. On June 8th, 2008, they married, and after a short honeymoon in New England, August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 19


embarked on a quest to set the women’s record for the fastest thru-hike of the AT, with Brew as JPD’s support team-of-one. They knew they had a short window of time, and a “supported hike” made the most sense to them. Carrying as little weight and gear as possible, she did lengthy, consecutive day hikes, meeting up with Brew at pre-planned places along the trail to sleep, fuel up on calories, and re-supply food and water.

Jennifer focused on BRHC, though she admits she was not at first thinking about company growth or adding employees. “This was very much a lifestyle business for me. But very early on, two different people wanted to take different hikes on the same day, and it occurred to me that I could hire additional guides. That was the first step in growing the company and offering an even better service.”

“When I got to the end, there was almost a sense of disappointment because I had limited myself mentally going for the women’s record because that’s the category I’m in, so I really kind of lowered the bar on what I thought I could do before I even started.” 57 days, 8 hours, and 35 minutes after they started on Mount Katahdin in Maine, the notoriously worst stretch of trail, she finished, setting the women’s record. “It was much harder than we envisioned and a challenging way to start our marriage, both of us would say that, but it was also very positive. We learned how to work as a team, and it was an invaluable foundation for our relationship.” Back in Asheville, Brew started another school year, and 20

| August 2020

Today, BRHC’s 15 guides—seven or eight of which are currently active, all of which are independent contractors—have met the company’s stringent hiring requirements, which include at least two years of hiking experience, certification in wilderness medicine, extensive knowledge of the local trail network, and specific experience on the trails they will guide. For many years, the meet-up place for day hikes was the Asheville Chamber of Commerce; guides would then lead a


The Trail-er in Hot Springs is a safe, clean, and comfy place to rest off the Appalachian Trail.

caravan of hikers’ cars to the trailheads. “There were just too many cars involved, so we bought a company vehicle to transport clients to and from the hikes, and then a second vehicle. I wish I could say this was all a part of my strategic vision,” she notes with a laugh, “but the company has grown in response to a needs-based system.” A custom system on the BRHC website was developed to address not only the needs of clients, but more equitably assign guides to them. “We ask our guides for a certain number of days per month they are available. In the beginning, if a client called and said they wanted to see wildflowers, I would pick a guide who was also a naturalist, trying to match client interest with guide expertise,” Pharr Davis explains. That match-making method led to some grumbling about subjective assignments. The new system has a short profile and photo of every guide, who upload their available dates into the main calendar. When a client comes onto the site and requests a particular date for a day hike, available guides’ profiles pop up, and the client chooses their own guide. “Our guides think this system is fairer, and our clients have more ownership choosing guides they feel comfortable with.”

Widening the Trail While the team of guides allows Pharr Davis to increase opportunities to get people outdoors, she has always been and continued on p.24 August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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Pacific Crest Trail 2,650 miles

The Long Trail 280 miles

GR11 Trail 550 miles

Appalachian Trail 2,185 miles (three times) Mountains-To-Sea Trail 1,175 miles

Day hikes in every state

Camino de Santiago more than 500 miles

NORTH AMERICA “There is nowhere else I would rather live and hike. We are so fortunate to have an amazing array of diversity and beauty on our continent!”

Machu Picchu 7,972 feet elevation

Around the World, One Step at a Time

S

ince completing her first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2005, Jennifer Pharr Davis has logged 14,000 miles on six continents, lacking only Antarctica. “I hate being cold,” she says, explaining the omission. “But never say never.” One long trail she has her sights on conquering: the 3,000 mile Continental Divide. “I’ve done about 1,000 miles of it and would love to complete it when my kids are older.” Here are some of the very long walks and very high peaks JPD has hiked and climbed on six continents.

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Cotahuasi Canyon 11,000 feet deep

SOUTH AMERICA “When I hiked to Machu Picchu, I realized what an incredible experience it is to have a local guide. I learned so much about the history and biodiversity of the region. I also hiked deep into Cotahuasi Canyon and relished being in such a beautiful landscape that was totally untouched by modern development or tourism.”


Day hikes in Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China

Mount Kilimanjaro 19,341 feet above sea level

ASIA

“In Asia I saw people practice hiking as a form of daily discipline, just as they would tai chi. It was clearly a form of medicine and meditation for many of the folks I passed on trail. I think sometimes I interrupted their peaceful time on trail because of my 6-foot stature. Several of them would raise their hands over their head to let me know how tall I was!”

AFRICA “I hiked to the top of Kilimanjaro and decided that was as high as I ever needed to go. It was amazing to make it to the summit, but my favorite part of the trip was hiking near the base of the mountain and going on safari after the climb.”

Bibbulmun Trail 1,600 miles

AUSTRALIA “Australia had a very wild and untamed feel to it. At one point I went three and a half days without seeing another person. Before I hiked there, I thought that kangaroos were cute. Turns out they are large, powerful, wild animals. At one point I had a five-foot Emu run straight at me. I was terrified!” August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 23


remains the face and force of the Blue Ridge Hiking Company. Her catalogue of memoirs, motivational books, and hiking guides, and a busy public speaking schedule have broadened her business and personal brand beyond the outdoor industry. “The public speaking thing began in Charlottesville,” she explains. “I had hiked the AT by myself at 21, and then the Pacific Crest Trail by myself at 23, and those were pretty unique experiences. When people heard about them, they asked me to talk to their school or church or club. I loved that; I could talk about those trails all day long. One day after a talk, someone handed me a check for $100, and I thought, ‘What? People would pay for me to talk?’ I didn’t really pursue that side of it until after I started the company and was giving talks to promote the company.” One such talk at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City in 2009 introduced Pharr Davis to a publisher who helped turn a manuscript, based on the journal she kept on her 2005 AT thru-hike, into Becoming Odyssa. Published in 2010, it is the first in her catalogue of nine books. Because it was a small publisher, Pharr Davis did a lot of the promotional legwork through the public speaking network she had been building. “The book kind of took on a life of its own. It really hit a chord, especially with young women because there’s just not a lot out there on women adventuring. It’s a very male-dominated genre. It was a pretty unique niche: a young woman writing about young women’s issues and being on an adventure.” That profile also gave her confidence on the public speaking circuit. Facing an auditorium filled with bankers or a conference room with corporate management teams (Wells Fargo, American Airlines, Cox Media Group, and GE Aviation are among the dozens of audiences she has addressed), she reminded herself that she had accomplished things they never had and might never even attempt, and indeed they were enthralled by her tales of endurance, resilience, conquering fear, and solo adventures in the wild.

Pushing Through In between building a company, writing a book, and public speaking, Pharr Davis had still managed to log hundreds of miles of trail after setting the AT women’s record in 2008, yet it was that achievement that conversely gnawed at her. “When I got to the end, there was almost a sense of disappointment because I had limited myself mentally going for the women’s record because that’s the category I’m in, so I really kind of lowered the bar on what I thought I could do before I even started. Knowing when I finished I had more in me stuck with me and nagged at me for the next three years.” In 2011 she and Brew were talking about starting the family they both wanted. The feeling that she was capable of setting the overall record for fastest thru-hike of the AT smacked into the fact of the toll age and children would have on her body. The 24

| August 2020


solution was obvious: “It was sort of a miracle I could talk Brew into helping me again. It is the least fun way to spend your summer, helping someone hike the AT. But I knew if I didn’t try, I would always regret it and wonder if I could have done it. So he agreed to help.” It was Brew, in fact, who pushed her over a pivotal hump early in the effort, with a guiding principle that has served them both since. “Day 12 was the worst day,” she recalls. “We were both miserable. He was dirty and uncomfortable. I had shin splints. I was in pain. I was sick. And I told him I was done. He told me I could quit, but I couldn’t do it then, I could do it the next day. I was really surprised because he is normally the more empathetic one in our relationship. But loving someone is knowing them really well, and he knew if I quit, I’d regret it. He wanted to make sure I was confident in that decision and was not quitting because of the circumstances of that moment, which were pretty dire. It was a big sacrifice for him; it would have been the easier option to quit, but he didn’t take it, and he encouraged me to keep going.” The next day she rose again at 4:45AM, was on the trail at five, and kept her pace of three miles an hour for the next 16 hours to hit her average 47 miles per day. “I saw the sun come up and sun go down every day. I loved that,” she smiles. On July 31, 2011, after 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, she set the overall record for fastest thru-hike that earned her the title of National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year. It also cleared the path to motherhood. While pregnant with their first child, she and Brew backpacked 550 miles through Spain from the Mediterranean to the

Atlantic. After daughter Charley was born in late 2012, she spent time writing her second book about setting the AT overall record and resumed some guiding, baby tucked in bjorn. The couple’s plan to spend the next summer on the road promoting that book turned into a year of peddling Called Again out of the back of the car and day hiking as a family in all 50 states. It also precipitated changes in the business and family structure. “What we had been doing before we had a child was not working. We had to redefine the rules and balance and find what would work. We decided that the most family-friendly option with the most potential for income was for Brew to leave teaching and for us to work together. It felt like a huge, scary leap, but that decision has been great and works for us.” Son Gus was born in 2016, and before he turned one, she signed on to hike the 1,175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) as part of the MST 40th anniversary. The plan was for her to day hike across the state, fit in some family hiking here and there, and stay in campgrounds or friends’ houses at night. “It was pretty much a disaster. Gus was not as easy a baby as Charley. He just flailed his body at whatever danger he could find, and Brew was so stressed out. It was too much, and we had to rework our strategy. Part of adventure is finding your limits.”

The Long View In early 2019 it seemed the sky was the limit for the Davises and their business. After years of using the Asheville Chamber office as their day hike pick-up and August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 25


drop-off location and contracting with hostels and services in Hot Springs for longer backpacking trips, they made two key moves: They opened the BRHC store on College Street in Asheville and bought a double-wide trailer in Hot Springs. The store was planned as a retail outlet for tourists shopping for hiking equipment and Asheville souvenirs and a meeting place for their day hike clients to use a restroom, fill their water bottles, grab a snack for the trail, and maybe buy some gear. “For years, our clients had been asking us what kind of gear we used, what shoe was good for certain types of hiking, what kind of pack was best. We were pointing them to websites to buy from, and then we thought it would be great if we could curate our favorite pieces of gear and have them in a shop.” The small size of the store and its location on a side street keeps the rent relatively affordable for downtown. The bunkhouse was a lucky and timely find. “Most of our backpacking trips run in and out of Hot Springs, and we used services there, but we were kind of outgrowing those. Plus, for ten years, we were keeping the gear to outfit 30 people in our basement. We had always hoped for our own physical location in Hot Springs, and then this double-wide trailer right on the trail came up for sale, and within 24 hours we put in an offer.

HOSPICE HOME STORE

It was perfect, and we got all that stuff out of our basement,” she finishes with a laugh. The store’s grand opening on April 5, 2019, was jam-packed with people and jamming with live music performed by Brew Davis himself, whose two CDs are sold in the store; they hired a caretaker for the bunkhouse, which they named the Trail-er for its location. It serves a dual purpose as basecamp for BRHC-led backpacking trips and hostel-style lodging for itinerant hikers, paddlers, and others passing through Hot Springs. “We’ve always been pretty financially conservative as a company, and last year felt like the first year we really took a risk. Everything happened just how we thought it would the first year, and this year we thought we’d see a profit. The coronavirus hit at such a bad time, not just for us, but all of Asheville, just as we were coming out of the off-season and into our main operating season. All the trips we had booked dropped off the calendar one by one; we had to close the Trail-er and the store.” Pharr Davis is standing behind the counter in the cozy shop, three days past her 37th birthday on May 25th, which she celebrated backpacking with friends. “It was great,” she says, eyes lighting up and a wide smile brightening her tanned

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face. Tall—6-foot since 8th grade—and slender, dressed trail-ready, she moves with the easy grace of the skilled tennis player she was. With less than 500 square feet of retail space, the smallbut-select inventory is pristinely displayed. “The shop is so

Or in your company. “We’ve always had low overhead, but this has been hard. We have felt the need to be adaptable, nimble, and resilient. I have written and spoken about endurance, but with business there are factors where you don’t control everything, and it’s not just about how much you want something. BRHC started as one person with no physical location, and we could go back to that,but hopefully we won’t have to.” Pharr Davis has hope to bolster her endurance. By early June, the store had re-opened on weekends, the bunkhouse was accepting limited reservations, hikes and backpacking trips were taking off, and she was beginning to see a silver lining. “I think this whole experience of being shut in has created a huge desire in people to get outdoors, be in the mountains, and be part of nature. Challenging yourself, being vulnerable, accepting a small amount of healthy risk, and figuring it out is an adventure. In my experience, adventure makes me feel alive.”

“I think this whole experience of being shut in has created a huge desire in people to get outdoors.” congruent with who we are as a company,” she says. “We don’t want to sell people things they don’t need. We have what we feel are the best options based on our cumulative 60,000 miles of backpacking. We buy from smaller companies, local companies, and companies as concerned with the environmental footprint as we are.” She demonstrates how lightweight much of the gear is. “Weight is weight,” she shrugs, “whether it’s on your back, your feet, or in your hands.”

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Financial Advisor

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column

So You Want to Be a Farmer? Best Practices for Turning Your Green Thumb into a Career from Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP)

F

A R M L I F E C A N C E RTA I N LY BE A

romantic image, especially in these stay-at-home pandemic times: quit your day job, work outside in nature, be a steward of the land, and grow food that nourishes yourself and others.

M molly nicholie

is the program director for ASAP’s Local Food Campaign.

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Sure, the work is physically taxing and often monotonous, the hours are long, and you’re at the mercy of weather and other environmental factors, but the payoff can be a freer and fuller life. Ready to take the plunge—or at least learn a bit more? The following guide is designed to offer a few best practices and considerations in starting a farm business, as well as highlight some of the many resources available in our region.

Apprentice on a Farm If you have not worked directly with a farm business, the first step in deciding if farming is for you is to get some firsthand experience. Typically, the best way to do this is to intern or apprentice (these terms are often used interchangeably) for a few seasons, which will help you learn about | August 2020

production techniques and business management. Look for opportunities through the Organic Growers School’s Apprentice Link database (organicgrowersschool.org), ASAP’s free classified ads ( fromhere.org), the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (carolinafarmstewards.org), and the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (attra.ncat.org). Organic Growers School also offers several entry-level “Farm Dreams” workshops for would-be farmers and a yearlong course, “Farm Beginnings,” for those with some experience.

Set Goals and Outline a Plan If you want your farm to be more than a hobby, you need to think through realistic short- and longterm goals for starting your business. For most folks,


M that means don’t quit your day job. Most farms in Western North Carolina depend on “off-farm income,” especially when starting up. Building production, sales outlets, and a customer base takes time, so it is important to set goals for what that looks like over the first five years, as well as the first ten. Your business plan is your strategy for how you will reach those goals. Crunching the numbers and market research is a side of farming most people don’t see, but it is often the most important factor in economic sustainability. Ensuring you have sufficient access to land, capital, and market opportunities is critical to setting your business up for success before you ever put a seed in the ground. Being a farmer is not just about producing a quality product but being a savvy business person (or partnering with someone who is). Your business plan does not have to be complex, but it is important to have one that can act as a functional tool. Expect it to change and grow with your operation.

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Find Land A key task in starting a farm is, of course, obtaining some land to farm. Whether you start by leasing or buying, NC FarmLink (ncfarmlink.ces.ncsu.edu) is an invaluable resource, including a database of available farmland, farmland seeker profiles, sample leases, and other documents. ASAP’s free classifieds on fromhere.org also often list farmland. Your business plan will be directly tied to your land, so you should not only consider what will grow well on it, but also access to market outlets and labor.

Consider Your Product and Market Outlets A key component of your business plan is what products you will offer. NC Cooperative Extension is a great resource for new and the beginning farmers looking for production assistance—whether determining what will grow well on a particular piece of land, staying current on new plant varieties, or disease prevention strategies. When considering your product offerings, take into account your skills, interests, and expertise, as well as market demand. Everyone in town might want to buy mushrooms, but if you have hated mushrooms since you were a kid and have never grown them before, they may not be a good fit. Inversely, if you love growing mushrooms, but there are five other growers already serving farmers markets, groceries, and restaurants in your area, think about how you will differentiate your business or if there is room in the market. Market outlets are typically divided into direct sales and wholesale. With direct sales, you sell straight to the consumer via farmers markets, CSA shares, farm stands, U-pick, or online stores. These markets typically require a high level of salesmanship and time commitment but have the highest return as you set the price for your products. Wholesale markets are when sales are made through an intermediate August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 29 goodwillnwnc.org goodwillnwnc.org


column

buyer who will resell your product, such as a distributor, restaurant, grocery store, or institution like a school or hospital. Prices vary across the wholesale markets, but generally you can expect that the higher the volumes, the lower the prices will be. Some level of liability insurance and food safety certification will typically be required for wholesale markets. There are pros and cons to each of these markets. Just like many farms choose to grow a diverse mix of products, having several market outlets is critical to reducing your risk and developing a sustainable business model. ASAP offers free oneon-one support for farmers in market planning and assessment. This can include discussion of new or existing enterprises, potential market opportunities and requirements, connections with area buyers, and direct or wholesale marketing resources.

Consider Your Legal and Operations Requirements In addition to determining if your production and market outlets can support your goals, you need to plan your business structure, licensing, insurance, labor/staffing, equipment, and record-keeping. It can be helpful to determine your skill sets and capacity, identifying what gaps you may need to fill. With multiple facets of your farm business needing time, energy,

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and expertise simultaneously, it is important to enlist help at different levels of your operation, both in the short and long term. Take advantage of business planning resources available through government and nonprofit agencies, including ASAP, the the U.S. Department of Agriculture (usda.gov), Mountain BizWorks (mountainbizworks.org), county and regional NC Cooperative Extensions (ces.ncsu.edu), and the Small Business Center Network (ncsbc.net).

Access Capital It costs money to start a business, and a farm business is no different. Farmland, equipment, labor, and marketing are all part of your start-up costs. Loans are the most common way to finance a farm. Grants are few, and when they are available, they are most often targeted at existing farms’ new projects. While many folks are wary of incurring debt (as they should be), strategically borrowing money and creating a plan to pay it back is a critical component of growing your business. To gain access to capital, you must understand what the lender is looking for: a return on their investment. Personal character and credit history go a long way, but so does a solid business plan. When it comes to seeking financial support, be professional, prepared, and patient.


Your local Small Business Center and Mountain BizWorks are good resources to help you through this process. ASAP has connected farmers with several lenders, including Carolina Farm Credit, Self-Help Credit Union, Natural Capital Investment Fund, and the USDA. When considering pursuing a loan, “The Farmer’s Guide to Agricultural Credit” from the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (rafiusa. org) should be required reading. This guide will walk you through the different types of agricultural loans and help you understand the criteria that lenders consider.

Move Forward, Solidify Your Plan, and Find Support As you have already realized, there are many elements of starting a farm that need to happen simultaneously. While some folks spend years making a plan and others jump in to figure it out as they go, find a balance that works for you. Farming involves a lot of risk, and only some of that can be mitigated by planning. The benefits in farming are not usually monetary. If you see the high-dollar price tag on pasture-raised chicken or heirloom tomatoes and think this is your ticket to striking it rich, then you may want to reconsider. In ASAP’s conversations with farmers across the region, their number one financial goal

is to get out of debt. You will hear that farming is a way of life. This is not to romanticize farming, but to try to illustrate that

FARMING INVOLVES A LOT OF RISK, AND ONLY SOME OF THAT CAN BE MITIGATED BY PLANNING. if you look at it solely from a financial standpoint, very few people would choose it. But once you’ve weighed the risks and benefits, if you believe this is the life for you, then be smart in moving forward, solidify your plan, and take advantage of the support available in the region. ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) is a nonprofit serving farmers and the community in the Southern Appalachian region. Many of the topics here are covered in more depth in ASAP’s Farmer Toolkit, available for free download at asapconnections.org. ASAP’s Business of Farming Conference, held annually in February, is a great opportunity to learn more from experts and peers.

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CAROLINA in the

WEST [

news briefs

Birdie Taking Flight? henderson county

Pending due diligence, the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority will purchase Broadmoor Golf Links from Warrior Golf Management. Warrior declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March and put the property up for sale for $3 million. Sitting on 193.31 acres, mostly located in the floodway, Broadmoor was one of very few golf links in Western North Carolina, and it was designed by renowned golf architect Karl Litton. While the airport has not announced what it will do with the parcel, spokesperson Tina Kinsey said the purchase would allow the airport to ensure compatible uses on an adjacent parcel and that the land will be used in a manner that will diversify the airport’s revenue streams. Continuing to use the property as a golf course has

]

not been ruled out, but the airport would have to contract with a management company due to FAA regulations. The airport authority already owned the entrance to the golf links off Boylston Highway, and it has set aside sufficient funds for the agreed-upon $2.75 million purchase price.

Higher Climbs buncombe county

The nonprofit Carolina Climbers Coalition has found a way to keep people employed and catch up on a backlog of construction projects. For the last 25 years, the organization has been pursuing a mission of protecting, preserving, and enhancing rock climbing in North and South Carolina. Executive Director Mike Reardon says he was inspired to replicate the model of the Civilian Conservation

Corps when he launched the Carolina Climbing Conservation Corps (C4). The Civilian Conservation Corps was created during the Great Depression when national unemployment levels were even higher than they are now; in Buncombe County the unemployment rate during the COVID-19 crisis had reached a record 17.5%. C4 started with $5,000 in seed money from the Carolina Climbers, and it continues to accept contributions from individuals and corporations in the private sector. It deploys teams to provide heavy manual labor for trail-maintenance projects and pays $25/hour, three days a week. To date, C4 has worked at Big Rock near Pickens, South Carolina, Melrose Mountain in Tryon, and Rocky Fork State Park in Tennessee.

Rebuilding Business haywood county

The Haywood Community College Small Business Center (HCC SBC) has expanded its services to better meet the needs of enterprises adversely affected by COVID-19. Beginning June 1, the center opened a new program called Reboot, Recover, Rebuild for Small Business. It is providing one-on-one counseling on topics like managing personnel through

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shutdowns, staying on top of frequently changing regulations, and how to anticipate markets in a shifting landscape. It can even help people with ideas for capitalizing on entrepreneurial niches in the new economy. Prior to the launch of this program, the HCC SBC launched a free, live training webinar series, The Small Business Journey: Building Business Resiliency, Making an Impact. Produced in four parts, the series was hosted by Russ Seagle, executive director of the Sequoyah Fund and owner of Seagle Management Consulting in Cullowhee. Reboot, Recover, Rebuild is made available through an appropriation of the North Carolina General Assembly, and representatives of all small businesses in the county are invited to apply.

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the old north state

& world news

Amazon submitted an application to the town for a sign permit. (Renderings of the signs said “Amazon.”) One reason Amazon was able to fly under the radar for so long was that the giant retailer was asking for no incentives from local government, as most businesses with that large of a footprint do. The new facility will occupy 112,000 square feet on 28 acres. Amazon estimates it will invest $28 million in construction and create 200 jobs paying at least $15/hour. The facility will likely be operational by the end of the year. Bill Moss at the Hendersonville Lightning guessed right in February, identifying similarities to an Amazon construction site in Bremerton, Washington, which included size, timing, proximity to regional transport infrastructure, and the names of the limited-liability corporation buyers.

Amazon Fufilled henderson county

The warehouse under construction in Mills River, the object of so many inquiries directed at lighthearted answer-man investigative columns, indeed turned out to be an Amazon delivery center. As such, the warehouse will collect merchandise shipped into the general area for distribution among trucks servicing the “last mile.” Speculation panned out when

Back to Nature buncombe county

In February the owners of Earth Fare announced they were filing for bankruptcy and would be closing all stores. In March it was announced that an investment group was purchasing the Westgate store and several others. In April help-wanted ads went out for

national

carolina in the west

about 100 positions at the Westgate store. And in June the Westgate store reopened under the Earth Fare name. The Westgate location and seven others were purchased by Randy Talley and a group of investors. Talley and Earth Fare’s founder, Roger Derrough, opened the Westgate location in 1994, sold it to an investment group in 2007, and launched Green Sage Café next door. Talley had lost hope for submitting a winning bid until Dennis Hulsing, owner of the Crowne Plaza Resort, which sits behind Westgate, called the day before bids closed. The new store has hired back many employees who used to work in the building, and it has been spruced up, decluttered, adapted for COVID-19, and stocked with items consistent with Earth Fare’s original food philosophy.

A Riveting Opening henderson county

At the time of this writing, the Riveter had opened its bicycle park, summer camps, and bar, but it was still waiting for Phase 3 of reopening before bringing its greatest attraction, its climbing gym, back online. Located in Fletcher, the Riveter is an indoor facility that offers a range of athletic activities that

223 Boyd Cove Road Leicester 28748

MLS #3461827 Private 93 Acre Mountain Cove with Cabin, Bath House and several springs. Southern exposure.

August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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carolina in the west

are normally conducted outdoors. In May 2019 announcements went out about a new indoor outdoor adventure arena coming to town. In February the grand opening date was announced. Unfortunately, no sooner did the Riveter open than shut-down orders closed all but essential services in the state. When the climbing gym does open, members will have access to over 16,000 square feet of indoor climbing features, including caves, boulders, rope lanes, and more. Clinics and programs will then be offered for all ages and skill levels. The climbing gym will hopefully reopen in August, along with the indoor bicycle tracks and fitness gym.

One Size Did Not Fit All buncombe county

The Town of Weaverville withdrew from Buncombe County’s Stay Home, Stay Safe orders. Mayor A l Root explained counties across the state had stricken language in the state orders that would also define as “essential” any business that could function so long as standard rules for social distancing could be followed. The governor’s stayat-home orders also stated that counties could not impose orders more restrictive than the state’s on an incorporated area within their jurisdiction without the consent of that jurisdiction. Elsewhere in the state, Huntersville had already similarly challenged Mecklenburg County’s orders. Four days later, following communications with Buncombe County Chair Brownie Newman, the town agreed to adopt one more-restrictive provision, which placed a temporary ban on short-term lodging for leisure travel, persons already lodging being exempted. Newman did not want visitors from parts of the country with high infection rates bringing the highly contagious COVID19 virus into the county. Root agreed to the concession, noting there were no major hotels in the town, and only a few bed and breakfasts would be affected.

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Waiting to Say “Whee!” avery county

Due to delays scheduling inspections, the February opening date for the Wilderness Alpine Coaster was pushed back into what turned out to be the COVID-19 shutdown. The park was, however, allowed to reopen during Phase 1, but only to people living within a 45-minute drive of the park with a reservation. Carts and card readers were sanitized between uses, and guests had to wear a mask and follow other state rules. With Phase 2, the park opened to all members of the public, with reservations only required for visits Friday through Saturday and holidays. The coaster features 2,000 feet of winding track on which visitors ride carts powered only by gravity through a scenic, thrilling 770-foot drop. The coaster is the only one of its kind in North Carolina. It was opened by Eric and Tara Bechard, who, having enjoyed alpine coasters in Europe, wanted to build one in Western North Carolina.

Inside and Out haywood county

Bruce O’Connell, owner and manager of the Pisgah Inn, said the dining room will never be the “madhouse” it once was. Located remotely, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the inn is no stranger to closures for extreme weather events. It’s hard to get to and relies on seasonal workers, who it houses in dorms for the duration of their employment. COVID19 posed a different set of problems. The inn’s dining room, with majestic scenic overlooks, was fitted to operate in compliance with social distancing regulations, and it served only lodging guests with a reservation-only system. With Phase 2 of reopening, the inn could serve fewer than half its normal number of guests, but O’Connell said it was just as well, since he could only house half the number of employees needed to run at capacity. While still requiring

reservations, the inn has opened to members of the public and guests and has begun serving lunch as well. In former days, the inn could serve around 1,000 people a day but O’Connell likes how reservations help with planning. Fortuitously, the inn opened a graband-go café adjacent to the dining room last year. It required only minor retrofits and training to continue generating revenue during the worst of the shutdown.

A Show of Support buncombe county

Percepta, a global company that creates and manages customer loyalty programs for automobile dealers, announced it will set up operations in Asheville to launch a partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, North America. Percepta will offer a customized portfolio of customer service products geared to the luxury brand, including a contact center, customer care packages, a technical hotline, and concierge amenities. Services directly benefiting dealers could include support with recalls and legal consultation. Communications can be conducted via voicemail, email, chat, and social media. The contract is expected to create over 60 jobs that come with competitive pay, healthcare benefits, paid vacation, paid training, special employee appreciation events, career growth and learning opportunities, and programs for giving back to the community. In business since 2000, Percepta began as a customer support arm for Ford Motor Company. Its Asheville operations are conducted out of the building in South Asheville that was formerly home to the Sitel call center.

Open for Business henderson county

A mong ot her tow n s to tr y it , Hendersonville closed Main Street to vehicular traffic for an Open Streets


Weekend. On May 29 the commercial downtown strip was barricaded from 6th Avenue to Allen so more people could get downtown to do business while upholding social distancing guidelines. Stores could only operate at half-capacity, so spreading into the streets and sidewalks with outdoor dining and sidewalk sales made perfect sense for businesses trying to recover losses. They had lost income during the mandated shut-down, and they continue to suffer as people remain apprehensive about exposure. Parking was accesible in garages a block off Main Street since accommodations were made for handicap parking. Yoga and Massage (YAM) even held live, socially distanced classes all day on the spacious courthouse grounds to attract more pedestrian traffic. Business was so hopping, the city agreed to close Main Street for four more Open Streets weekends.

More on Asphalt western north carolina

Carolina Cat added the Etnyre line of asphalt paving equipment to its product offerings at all eight of its Western North Carolina locations. Manager Jonathan Law told Construction Equipment Guide he had always intended for Carolina Cat to be a one-stop shop for asphalt and paving products. Having terminated contracts with other manufacturers of asphalt distributors and chip spreaders, he needed to fill a void. He was pleased with the partnership, not only because he considers Etnyre the best in the business, but also because he picked up a few more products to offer customers, like vertical storage tanks and hauler tanks. Furthermore, he’ll now be able to service the Etnyre equipment his customers already own. Carolina Cat personnel have already received classroom and hands-on training from Etnyre in service, inspections, parts, and sales. In addition to Caterpillar and Etnyre, Carolina Cat also supplies Gomaco equipment for concrete paving and Weiler products for commercial and highway construction.

Preserving Views jackson county

The Preserve at Whiteside Cliffs is now open. The tiny home community is home to 47 luxury cottages on 33 acres surrounded by miles of natural terrain with unobstructed views of W hiteside Mountain. The property, on the Highlands-Cashiers plateau, is marked by streams, waterfalls, and deep lakes, and Norton Mill Creek meanders through the development. Community amenities include site management, a rustic, secured gate, landscaping, electric car charging stations, fiber internet, hiking trails, and fire pits. The cottages themselves are exclusively built by Designer Cottages, a division of Clayton Homes. Architecturally, they feature modern lines and finishes and other high-end features like cathedral ceilings with wood beams and floor-toceiling fenestration with seamless 270o views. The homes average 458 square feet, with home and land packages starting at $299,000, compared to Highlands’ $650,000 median listing price. Engel & Völkers Highland Cashiers, co-owned by Grace and Mark Battle and formerly Old Cashiers Realty, is the exclusive listing agency for the project.

Perfect Placement buncombe county

Taking over a year to establish its organizational infrastructure, the HCA Healthcare Mission Fund was launched this spring. It was created in 2019 to satisfy terms of the nonprofit Mission Hospital’s acquisition by the for-profit HCA Healthcare. The fund was designed to invest $25 million in local businesses working to improve the quality, cost, or efficiency of healthcare. It was mere coincidence that the fund designed to spur innovation and economic development launched when COVID-19 was straining healthcare resources and corresponding shutdowns pushed many businesses to

the brink of collapse. Initial grants will range from $500,000 to $5 million, with funds held in reserve for follow-up grants as advisable. Scope of impact, market traction, and potential for growth will weigh heavily in determining which businesses will be rewarded. The HCA Healthcare Mission Fund operates separately from the Dogwood Health Trust, which was set up to address social determinants of health and draws on different reserves overseen by a different organizational body. Both funds were created to satisfy terms for Mission’s acquisition.

Difficult to Site henderson county

Citizens have organized as Friends of Flat Rock to oppose the construction of an asphalt plant near US 176 and US 25, just outside East Flat Rock. On May 1 Jeff Shipman, on behalf of Southeastern Asphalt, filed an application with Henderson County to develop a 6.5-acre portion of a 12-acre tract. The rezoning would accommodate the asphalt plant, operations, and materials storage, and the location would be convenient for construction trucks during the widening of the local portion of I-26. Asphalt plants are typically difficult to site due to heavy vehicle traffic, noise pollution, air pollution, and, therefore, depression of property values. In addition, groups opposing the East Flat Rock plant have raised concerns about water pollution; proximity to neighborhoods, game lands, an elementary school, and an assisted living facility; and environmental injustice, because the plant would inflict these harms disproportionately on low-income communities. In addition to over 4,000 signatures collected by Friends of Flat Rock, General Electric and the Flat Rock Village Council have officially registered their opposition with the county.

August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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Of

Sound Mind

Local Creatives & Entrepreneurs Have an Ear for Podcast Production written by shawndr a russell

We’re launching the Capital at Play Podcast this month! Find it online at capitalatplay.com or wherever you get your podcasts. 36

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local industry

s the co-host of two new local podcasts— The Great Reset, which is dedicated to discussing the micro and macro implications of COVID-19 and the cracks in our society being revealed, and The Creative Hub Studios Podcast, where my business partner and I discuss all things branding, creativity, and design—I have a particular interest in podcasting. That’s why it was heartening to learn that podcast listenership is on the rise, with more than 50% of homes—some 60 million households—tuning in, 24% listening to podcasts weekly as reported by Podcast Insights. For a little perspective, Convince & Convert reports that nearly four times more people listen to podcasts every week than watched the Game of Thrones final season premiere. And listeners tend to be wealthier, with 41% being part of households that make more than $75,000 a year, a quality of life threshold only 29% of the population achieve. As they did with technological advancements of yore, including the internet, smartphones, and social media adoption, young people under the age of 34 make up the largest community of podcast listeners, with 48% of this demographic listening to at least one podcast per month—typically many more—in comparison to 32% of 35-54 year olds and 20% of folks 55 and up. Most heavy listeners listen while they’re at work, in transit, or while exercising, but half of all podcast listening does in fact take place at home. Perhaps one of the most surprising stats? Comedy is the top podcast genre, followed by education and news. Another shocker: 93% of fans listen to all or most of an episode, indicating that loyalty is high among podcast listeners. Many creators have a global audience—such is the nature of podcasting, an inherently accessible media outlet. Slicing data to showcase what’s happening specifically with podcast listenership in a particular place can be challenging; because there are so many platforms through which to publish a podcast, all of which necessitate their own complex data collection, it can be difficult to track down stats beyond listeners per state and country and the split between male and female. While most platforms do offer upgrade options to see more specific data, for many podcasters, it’s hard to justify the cost when podcasting might not be profitable at all, and many of the regional podcasters we spoke with are not concerned with their downloads or stats.

Yet it’s easy to surmise that podcasts in Western North Carolina have had more than a million listens combined over the past year, with the No BS Job Search Advice Radio—which launched in 2009— averaging 600,000 listeners per year alone. However, the consensus among our regional podcasters is that podcasting is a labor of love in which they focus on storytelling or offer support and, for many of these entrepreneurial producers, it’s actually a vehicle for promotion that supports their core, capitalistic business; through their podcast, they can exhibit their expertise in hopes that services or products are purchased by listeners or to grow their personal brand.

Backgrounds and Beginnings Unsurprisingly, many of our local podcasters have backgrounds in communication through radio, journalism, or marketing. In fact, The Dirty Spoon was the product of leftover content co-host Jonathan Ammons had after writing print stories and memoirs. “The Dirty Spoon started as a place for me to put the uncut transcripts from articles I wrote for the Mountain Xpress,” he says. “It slowly evolved into this space where people in the restaurant industry could rant and rave and deliver an insider’s perspective.” As their tagline says, “We don’t look for what’s on the table, but what’s under it, bringing you real stories from the people who shape what we consume.” They also have a unique format that Jonathan describes as a variety show, which includes music, conversations, and articles sourced from food writers that are then read aloud on the show. The opportunity came about when WPVM had a food show drop in 2018 and wanted a similar program to fill the slot. “Jon knows his way around a soundboard and has a perfect ear for music; he has a full background in sound engineering and production, and I have deep experience as a creative journal editor and years of website management and marketing,” Dirty Spoon co-host Catherine Campbell shares. Her background as a writer for The New York Times, Writer’s Digest, and McSweeney’s and work as a marketer with her own local company, Bright Planning, has also been an asset. “Because there’s no pressure to make this my source of income, it’s fulfilling on a creative level,” she says. Anne Fitten Glenn, the journalist and beer writer behind the podcast and radio show Imbibe Asheville, was also approached by a radio conglomerate. “Matt August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 37


local industry

ANNE FITTEN GLENN INTERVIEWING the co-owners of Asheville’s DSSOLVR , photo by Matt Mittan

Mittan, the owner of BizRadio Asheville and long-time friend, asked if I’d be interested in starting a radio show and podcast on the beverage business. It’s been fairly easy for me to find guests as I’ve interviewed most of these beverage workers previously for my books or for magazine and newspaper articles,” Glenn says. But she points out that her listenership extends beyond craft beverage enthusiasts: “Anyone who is interested in small business and entrepreneurship can learn from the crazy-fast expansion of the craft beverage industry over the past decade or so.” Joe Kendrick, the voice behind Southern Songs and Stories and producer behind WNCW, has a history in media, too. He started his first podcast in 2009 as another version of his radio segment, What It Is, a music, talk, and opinion roundtable that aired weekdays on WNCW from 2007 until 2012. His new podcast launched in 2014 as part of a vision to produce a video documentary series for public television that failed to get picked up. “I found myself getting lots of interviews and audio from festival-goers and staff, which was the birth of the podcast version,” he says. Very quickly, Dynamite Roasting in Black Mountain became a sponsor, the show was picked up on Bluegrass Planet Radio, and then Osiris Media added the show in early 2018; “and eventually we brought it full circle when it became a part of the WNCW podcast lineup in the summer of 2019,” Kendrick adds. My co-host on The Great Reset, Tommy Calloway, also notes his radio background made DIYing the podcast much less daunting. “I’ve conducted many interviews over the years via radio and other mediums, and I also have a background in marketing, graphic design, comedy, and a lot of performance 38

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experience. That certainly helps with the overall process, “ he says. Launching on March 26th, Calloway explains, “We began this podcast based on the many conversations we had concerning society, culture, economic, educational, and political systems, and what concerned us, and what needed to change. COVID-19 was a catalyst for us to begin this podcast as the virus has highlighted many of the cracks in the veneer of our systems in this country and globally, and it was an opportunity to pursue some of those changes.” Begun with philosophical aims, it has evolved into “almost an archive of COVID-19,” he says. Another podcasting couple, Sarah and Tony Ubertaccio of Making It in Asheville, were both content creators in Brooklyn who had their sights set on moving to Asheville in 2018 to start a marketing company. “Initially, we wanted to start a podcast as a way to document our transition… and everyone kept saying, ‘Bring your own job!’ So we thought that this type of podcast could potentially help us meet people and get connected to potential clients,” Sarah says, referring to their podcast’s mission to share “behind-the-scenes stories of the many incredible artists, entrepreneurs, and, well, ‘makers’ in Asheville.” While many of the podcasters we polled built their podcast on a sturdy foundation of personal experience in communications, the other half relied on their professional expertise in other areas. Marisol Colette and her husband, Adam, were inspired to create Reading Aloud by the frank and loving conversations they had behind closed doors, but Marisol’s background as a licensed clinical social worker and somatic experiencing practitioner and Adam’s as an activist with a deft hand for messaging have certainly helped them grow their podcast quickly. “Adam and


JOE KENDRICK (L) INTERVIEWING for Southern Songs and Stories, photo by Jeff Williams

SAR AH & TONY UBERTACCIO, photo by Sarah Hooker

I have always had deep, philosophical conversations, mostly on road trips. We started recording our conversations a few months after we met. Finally, we decided to make them public and share these intimate conversations with others to hear what we talk about, why we talk about it, and, most importantly, how we talk about it. We believe these intimate conversations are the starting point for how we think and interact with others in the world,” Marisol explains. For Her Two Cents, a financial podcast focused on empowering women financially, co-hosts and financial planners Laura Webb and Faith Doyle share knowledge gleaned through a combined 45-plus years in their industry. “Faith and I wanted to try and find an interesting, fun, and multi-generational way to encourage women to take action,” Webb says, who claims 40 of those years of experience. Since the financial industry comes with strict guidelines of permissible business activity, Webb and Doyle have to make very clear that this podcast is purely educational and a separate and outside business activity from their firm, Webb Investment Services. And as financial gurus, they, of course, wanted to do their due diligence before launching their podcast, so they took a class with Trey Scott of Three Flames Productions, as well as his Podcast Accelerator offered through the Thought Leader Study Hall. “Trey was a tremendous help in shortening our goal to launch Her Two Cents by March 31st,”—the date of the Women’s Empower Lunch they’d schedule pre-COVID-19—“and have five episodes already recorded, so we backdated from there to know what we had to do,” Doyle explains. Also relying on his professional background, No BS Job Search Radio Show host Jeff Altman inaugurated his podcast in 2010 in order to share lessons learned as a headhunter. “I launched it as a 15-minute, off-the-cuff rant about some element of job search[ing], plus a few minutes where I spoke about some of the jobs I was recruiting for. Primarily it’s served as a ‘business card’ for me to allow people to get to know, like, trust, and respect my views of job search and career coaching,” he says. The show has since evolved into a seven-days-a-week podcast with millions of listens, but it almost didn’t happen. “It took me two months to get up the courage to open an account with the service I use, [BlogTalkRadio], and a few more weeks to actually call in and record an opening episode. It was scary to think that someone was actually listening (at the beginning, they weren’t!), but I started to carve out a niche for myself,” he shares.

Distribution and Appeal

MARISOL & ADAM COLETTE, photo courtesy Reading Aloud

Hyper-local podcasts like Making It in Asheville and Imbibe Asheville have no plans for world domination. “We want to build a sense of community, and that’s where things like our Monday Mixer events—think, ‘Networking that doesn’t suck’—come into play,” Sarah explains. “You really get to understand what resources our community offers and how people have found their way specifically in Asheville.” Anne Fitten’s focus as a long-time Asheville journalist and writer has also netted her an almost August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 39


local industry

FAITH DOYLE & L AUR A WEBB, photo by Michelle Citrin Studios

exclusively regional audience with 1,500 downloads over 39 episodes of Imbibe Asheville, not including data on how many people listen to her live 4PM slot on BizRadio. “Most are in Asheville and environs. Most other listeners are elsewhere in North Carolina and in Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia,” she says. Southern Songs and Stories attracts a similar demographic, with 85% of listeners from the United States and a majority from North Carolina. Certainly many successful podcasts are very niche—“Every other podcast seems to be true crime or mystery,” Ammons jokes—and many do cultivate large appeal by the nature of their topics. Take Reading Aloud, named one of the top 100 relationship podcasts on Apple in 2019. Technically, anyone who is in or wants to be in a relationship—almost certainly the majority of the population—might be interested in such a show, and Marisol shares that on Reading Aloud, they “focus on more important topics people aren’t used to hearing other couples talk about, like racial justice in relationships, money, and our fertility journey… [and] demonstrating a unique way of communicating (healthy, loving, funny, hard-hitting).” And in response to COVID-19, they have launched a spinoff series, Love in the Time of Corona, which they do live on Facebook Tuesday nights and then edit for release via the podcast on Thursdays. Podcasts by nature are global since even a place-focused podcast could intrigue ex-pats of that happen upon the show, dig the content, and become loyal listeners. Take The Dirty Spoon, for example, which shares stories from all over the world but often skews local, including in their latest spin-off series, 40

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Home Fried, a look at how COVID-19 is impacting makers countrywide, which the duo says has really helped grow their audience, with these episodes netting new subscribers from all over the country every week. For this show, they happily venture outside Western North Carolina, recently interviewing industry folks from Germany, London, New York City, and Los Angeles. “With one foot planted in the food world, that title ‘maker’ often allows us to reach into all other forms of craft, touching on graphic arts, music—the possibilities are really endless,” Ammons says. They’ve also launched small spin-off shows and podcast specials that are exclusive to their podcast subscribers such as Second Helpings, which features extended interviews with guests from the Radio Hour, and special reports like Tinderbox, an audio-doc about how restaurant workers felt trapped having to return to work despite COVID-19 numbers going up. “All of these shows appear in the same podcast feed so that there is always something new to listen to from Dirty Spoon,” Campbell adds. The other three podcasts we profiled—The Great Reset (philosophical), Her Two Cents (financial), and No BS Job Search Radio Show (career)—all work to appeal to a global audience with broadly applicable content, but The Great Reset discusses Asheville extensively in hopes that it can be an example of a city that truly embraces the opportunity that COVID-19 presents. “We talk to people from all walks of life, including educators, cafeteria workers, stock market day traders, politicians, business owners, philosophers, city planners, writers, artists, medical professionals, and more to


photo by Sarah Hooker

give a wide swatch of perspectives and experiences. We want to highlight the shared human experience as this pandemic affects everyone on the planet,” Calloway says. No BS shares this wide gaze, and Jeff strongly believes that his job search advice “is good anywhere in the world.

“The first few years were a slog to get many listeners. Now, people are looking for what I have and are liking it a lot.” We’re the number one Apple podcast for job search.” Yet he doesn’t agonize over his numbers or demographics. “I don’t care about the specific numbers I have for any service. I care about impact, and yes, I know impact can be measured by numbers, but for me, it’s a distraction to pay attention to all the data. I focus on my audience and giving them great information,” Jeff says, although he does note that 93% of his downloads are in the United States. Webb and Doyle emphasize to their mostly female listeners that “financial wellness is so strongly connected to health and well-being. We target women of all ages, thus the multigenerational approach—everyone can learn

something. We make it fun, informative, and give some tidbits to build confidence in dealing with your money no matter what age or stage you are in life,” Webb says. The podcast has helped them reach a much broader audience, but Webb acknowledges that “already having a network to begin from” has helped since she’s been in the industry for more than 40 years. They also purposely keep episodes to 30 minutes or less because, as Webb says, “20 to 30 minutes is easy—time to listen while taking a walk, exercising, or even on a drive.” They also plan to continue to develop some basic tools for listeners to use to help them with their financial journeys and add additional value to their podcast experience.

Processes and Potential At the most basic level, podcasting requires capturing audio via an app like Zoom, GarageBand, or your phone’s voice memos, loading that audio file to podcast platforms or opening an account with a podcast distribution service such as Podbean, and then sharing the link to your website and social media channels. Many professional podcasts add in an editing step to improve sound quality as well as to add in intros, outros, music, and transitions (or hire out this process). Each podcaster we spoke with shared a slightly different production process, most being DIY since podcasting is not yet a lucrative standalone income stream for most. August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 41


Podcasting Resources

auxbus

echo mountain

Allows you to plan, record, and launch all from one place quickly, easily, and affordably with a free music library for intros, outros, and joiner music with automatic improved audio quality. Works with all major podcast players, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts. Named a “Top 10 Startups to Watch” by NC Tech Association.

Catering to musicians with a cool vibe inside an old church, Echo Mountain does promote its recording services for “audio books and voice-over clients.”

auxbus.com creative hub studios

Located in the heart of downtown Asheville next to Pack Square, this new exhibit and event space also houses a podcast recording lounge rentable by the hour. Basic and premium editing and publishing services available, as well.

creativehubstudios.com dave hamilton design

Long-time musician and technolog y consultant Dave Hamilton offers podcast editing services and counts among his clients LEAF Global Arts, Moog Music, and The Orange Peel.

hamiltonmediadesign.net sound temple recording studios

Specializes in music, film, and TV mixing but also offers voice recording and editing, and the owner can help with copy or short rewrites during the recording.

soundtemplestudios. com/services/audiopost 42

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echomountain.net wpvm

A unique way to get into the world of audio recording? Reach out to WPVM radio, which has a beautiful studio on Wall Street that’s set up for live or pre-recorded shows, and you can use the audio files to release as your own podcast (video, too).

wpvmfm.org wncw

This broadcast service based out of the Isothermal Community College has a lineup of WNCW podcasts, including WNCW Local News, NPR News, On the Way Up, and Southern Songs & Stories, and handles all production. They have an open door policy to folks who want to volunteer to be radio hosts, and that audio could also be utilized as a podcast.

wncw.org asheville play *CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR RELOCATION

A shared-use multimedia recording studio that lends equipment, soundproof ing, and professional production suppor t to podcasters.

ashevilleplay.com


local industry

photo by Joanne Badr Morgan

Introducing the Capital at Play Podcast! While Capital at Play has been Western North Carolina’s only business magazine for a decade, as of this month, we’re now the region’s preeminent business podcast, too. We’ll be releasing a new episode every two weeks in which Oby Morgan (left), our founder, interviews a trailblazing entrepreneur who we’ve profiled in a recent edition. Plus, we’ll occasionally dig through our archives—ten years and hundreds of interviews—to find “alumni” to come on the podcast and speak to things that are relevant now. Our first two episodes include an interview with Jamie Ager of Hickory Nut Gap Farm & Meats, in which Oby speaks with the fourth generation farmer (see Coming Home to Roost, p. 78) on topics like the history of HNG Farms, the economic system of agriculture, and pioneering a truly new business model for farming, and a discussion with famed Chai Pani chef Meherwan Irani on creative intuition, business pivots during COVID-19, and how the pandemic is leveling the playing field.

For a little perspective, to be in the top 1% of podcasts, you have to get more than 36,000 downloads within 30 days of a new episode’s release. Some of the most popular podcasts net millions of listens per month, including The Joe Rogan Experience, with 200+ million monthly listeners, and The Daily, The New York Times’ popular podcast with more than two million listeners per month. Of course, these brands already had substantial audiences, a very different experience than most of the podcasters of Western North Carolina. For Jeff Altman, perhaps the most-listened-to podcaster in Western North Carolina, consistency over ten years of shows and his career hunting expertise have led him to nearly 2,000 episodes of No BS Job Search Advice. He uses BlogTalkRadio, a service that allows anyone to broadcast live, host call-ins with a guided platform. Altman says BlogTalkRadio makes it easy for him to record, post, and distribute to other platforms but doesn’t have the most notoriety or best-looking interface and has a limit of hosting 2,000 episodes. “I’m a big believer in easy, and the service I use is both inexpensive and easy. But I’ll be facing a challenge later this year when I hit the 2,000 episode limit offered by the service,” Jeff admits, noting that he plans to schedule a conversation with the company soon in order to lay out a roadmap for the future of No BS. He also batches his recordings and then edits each show over the weekend for distribution the following week and uploads his shows to YouTube, JobSearchTV.com, and OTT (over-the-top application) for television. Looking back, “The first few years were a slog to get many listeners. Now people are looking for what I have and are liking it a lot. The messages I receive through LinkedIn telling me how it made a difference and

helped them find work—even when I’m not coaching them into a new role—feels great,” he adds. Of course, most of these podcasters try to distribute to as many outlets as possible. Making It in Asheville utilizes Pinecast to distribute their podcast to Apple, Spotify, Google podcast, and “every platform we’ve ever heard of,” Sarah of Making It in Asheville laughs. They make sure to share every episode on their website and have recently launched a YouTube channel of their podcast recordings. Reading Aloud uses Audacity to record, Libsyn to distribute, and occasionally boosts Instagram and Facebook posts with their episodes. For Her Two Cents, they release an episode a week (see Doyle’s How To Start a Podcast sidebar) and plan to keep this schedule for six months, then take a few months off and tackle their long list of topics and guests. Webb and Doyle utilize podcast builder Auxbus, a locally created solution that lets you plan, record, and launch your podcast. (Auxbus is currently for sale as owner Dan Radin is moving North after securing a new job and the birth of his daughter.) “Our evergreen pieces and music are added, and the episode is built and produced. It then goes out to Omny, where it is then available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify,” Doyle explains. The Great Reset is also a DIY endeavor, with Calloway handling the recording, editing, and mixing with Logic Pro (dubbed a complete professional recording studio on Mac), and then uploading each episode to Podbean for mass distribution and SoundCloud separately since the two platforms don’t communicate automatically. “I like that Podbean has those connections and tracks all the downloads and statistics and consolidates that data in one place,” Calloway says, adding that August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 43


local industry

photo courtesy Reading Aloud

SHAWNDR A RUSSELL & TOMMY CALLOWAY, photo courtesy The Great Reset

The Great Reset had almost 2,000 downloads over 45 episodes in its first three months of production. “We were initially booking five guests a week and trying to get at least five new podcasts out a week. We realized that was hard to sustain, so we have slowed down some while trying to get as fast a turnaround as possible with our new recordings,” he adds. However, three of our featured podcasts maintain a monthly release schedule and a much more involved production process thanks to the hosts’ long-standing radio backgrounds and their content. For Dirty Spoon to come to life, “Catherine calls out to various writers’ forums to seek pitches for stories and vets them before sending them to me. I track down volunteer voice actors to read them, many of whom work in the service industry and are looking for a way to get demo reels to break into the voice work. Once we record the voice actors, I score out each piece—sometimes that literally means writing original music for the piece. Other times, it means sourcing something from the radio station library or my own, and then we piece the show together so it has an emotional flow. Lastly, we source illustrators—often more folks from the service industry—to create original drawings for each story, because, as Ira Glass always says, ‘Radio is a visual medium,’” Ammons explains. Once the show is published, Catherine takes over the marketing, social media, and management of their Patreon account. They recently garnered syndication through Pacifica Network, one of the oldest radio distribution groups in the country with more than 180 stations in the world. Southern Songs & Stories also goes through a laborious production process. Joe shares that it takes weeks to produce each monthly (sometimes bi-weekly) episode. “From the 44

| August 2020

initial research to interviews, recording performances, finding additional subjects to interview, transcribing the interviews, and then writing the episode. Then comes the audio production,

“But the number one thing we’ve done to grow our audience is simply hit the publish button every week. No questions asked.” which might take the better part of a day, and finally writing an article to go along with the podcast, creating social media posts, and following up with key people from the episode to make them aware of its release. I do all this myself, from start to finish,” Kendrick explains. He then loads the episode to his Squarespace site, which pushes his RSS feed to most podcast platforms. Plus, his podcast’s relationship with Osiris means that JamBase is a media partner, exposing the show to JamBase’s 700,000+ registered users. As for Glenn, she recognizes she has it a bit easier with Imbibe Asheville. “Lucky for me, Matt has a production studio at the radio station that’s super high quality. He produces and lightly edits the shows, which helps me a great deal. I do the social media promotions on Instagram and sometimes on Facebook.” She then uploads the edited audio files to Buzzsprout, which


Have you Heard? 75%

of the US population is familiar with the term “podcasting” – up from 70% in 2019. (Infinite Dial 2020)

50% of all US homes are podcast fans. (Nielsen, Aug 2017)

155 Mill ion of the US population has listened to a podcast – 104 million listened to a podcast in the last month. (Infinite Dial 20)

Podcast listeners listen to an average of

7 different shows in 2019, up from 5 in 2017.

HA! HA!

H

A!

HA!

Comedy

! H A HA

is the most popular podcasting genre, followed by education and news.

!

distributes to all the channels, including Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Castbox, iHeart, Google Podcasts, and Podcast Addict.

Lessons Learned The reality gleaned from these conversations is that it takes time and consistency to grow any type of listening audience. Making It in Asheville started out in May 2019, “and for a long while, no one was listening. Almost no one knew us and even less were listening,” Sarah says. Now they glean between 300 and 500 downloads per episode and have racked up 16,000 total downloads in about a year across their 60 episodes. “A lot of it depends on how much the guest shares the episode with their network. We’ve seen really well-known guests perform well, of course, but we’ve also seen lesser-known guests having incredible episode engagement simply because they share the episode with their network, and they’re active on social platforms. But the number one thing we’ve done to grow our audience is simply hit the publish button every week. No questions asked,” she adds. Marisol says one of their keys for growth has been following advice they were given by several fellow podcasters early on: “People give you between five and 15 seconds to decide if they’re going to listen. So we always try to start off with a bang. The voyeuristic nature of our podcast keeps people interested, too.” Glenn shares that she finds it “fascinating that so many people listen to podcasts,” yet acknowledges that, “I’ve definitely had some existential angst over being a writer in a world where many people seem to read less and less, but I’m happy I can reach people with similar stories and information via my podcast.” Just a few months into their podcast journey, Webb is pleased with their decision to launch Her Two Cents: “It can be an easy and cost-effective way to reach a broader network, especially by having a variety of guests and topics and encouraging them to share with their network,” she says. So far, they’re averaging 58 downloads per episode with 12 episodes live. They noted that just one interview with the executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation, Gigi Hyland, gave the show a big boost, since it was shared to credit unions everywhere. Interviewing others has proven to be a worthwhile experiment for Jeff Altman, as well, who notes he’s been doing a lot more interviews this year on No BS Job Search Advice. “More people are anxious to have their message shared on a platform like mine, and they share the podcast with their followers,” he says, adding that being a guest on other shows himself has also been very beneficial. The Great Reset has also benefited from interviewing some higher profile guests, including writer and philosopher Paul Kingsnorth based out of Ireland, whose episode has netted more than 400 downloads so far and helped expand the show’s international reach into 25 countries.

What’s Next? While The Joe Rogan Experience podcast just signed a $100 million dollar exclusive contract with Spotify, for most hosts, podcasting isn’t a real moneymaker. Sure, some podcasts offset their costs, time, and efforts through donations, advertising, and sponsorships, but no one locally is raking in big money yet, and they don’t anticipate

source: .podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/ August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 45


local industry

So You Want to Start a Podcast?

F

aith Doyle of Her Two Cents breaks down their DIY (with support!) process.

We host Zoom calls where each participant records their side on the Voice notes on their phone.

1

2 3

They send in the sound file, and I compile the files. I then edit them in Audacity and lace the cleaned tracks together.

Once the files are clean and merged together, I upload them to Auxbus, a podcast builder online, our evergreen pieces and music are added, and the episode is built and produced.

4

The episode then goes out to Omny, where it is then available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

5

We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and push our episodes out through those channels as well.

6

After we wrap up our first season, we will reevaluate topics and begin the next season, where we will release an episode every other week, which should last the bulk of the year for 2021.

7

46

| August 2020

FAITH DOYLE editing a finished podcast , photo by Jeff Doyle


they will. Perhaps more media outlets will sign podcast hosts to exclusive deals like Spotify is doing—they also just signed Kim Kardashian and DC Comics to podcast deals—but times are tighter than ever for many outlets during COVID-19 as advertisers have pulled back budgets dramatically. Facebook a nd G oog le a lone are predicted to lose $44 billion in global ad revenue in 2020 according to The Economic Times. While 850,000 active podcasts and 30 million episodes currently exist on the market, none of our interviewees expressed concerns that the industry is saturated. “We don’t think the market is even close to as saturated as traditional content (i.e. blogging) is. We’re still seeing companies and famous people launch their first podcast episodes, and we think that there’s still a lot of room for hyper-local podcasts like ours to speak to their community specifically,” Sarah says. She notes that plenty of well-known companies and famous people have recently launched new podcasts, from motivational speaker Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us to Asheville-based Instagram expert Tyler J. McCall’s The Online Business Show. Imbibe Asheville’s Glenn agrees wholeheartedly: “Is the book market saturated? Hell no. Why would it be any different for podcasts?” Many podcasts, including The Dirty Spoon and Southern Songs & Stories, have utilized Patreon as a source of income. Patreon’s model allows fans to become active participants in creators’ content via monthly subscriptions; more than 150,000 creators, ranging from musicians and artists to podcasters, are sharing exclusive content via the platform with their fans. “We also welcome sponsorship opportunities that might be a great fit,” Campbell says, adding, “I’d like to see the show continue to grow in that direction, towards a more global outlook, blending audio-documentaries, memories, and interviews from contributors from around the world.”

Southern Songs & Stories dropped Patreon after joining the WNCW lineup, and the show now attracts around 1,000 listens per month. At first, Joe certainly had visions of wooing sponsors and crowdfunding support, but he notes, “Overall, I do not depend on financial reward or great ratings to be motivated and to stick with this project. Of course, both would be nice, but mainly I focus on the connections I can make with people, from the artists and people I interview to the fans of the series,” he says. Plus, he acknowledges that podcasts “have eclipsed radio in many quarters. I teach a podcasting class on Outschool to teens and preteens, and practically none of them listen to radio, but most all of them have a favorite podcast.” You can expect to see more people convert their existing content, such as radio and TV shows, video series, or blog content. Inside Podcasting’s Skye Pillsbury predicts we will see an uptick in “small business owners making podcasts with the singular goal of building their credibility within a niche space. This is going to grow—doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, plumbers, designers, general contractors, psychologists—they should all have podcasts.” And with these highprofile (and high-dollar) Spotify deals continuing to garner media attention, more DIYers and amateurs will continue to try and stake their claim on the world of podcasting. The possibility that many more podcasts will come out of Western North Carolina is high because, as The Great Reset’s Calloway points out, “Asheville is a creative hub at this end of the state, and I would argue in the Southeast. It lends itself to creativity and DIY ingenuity. We’re also in a time where you can do more at home easily, given the access to the tools to create a podcast.”

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local industry

true as I’ve wanted my own radio show ever since watching Pump Up the Volume in middle school. The opportunity to connect with interesting, thoughtful, and inspiring people from all walks of life makes all the work worthwhile—along with the hope that some tidbit might make an impact on a listener. In fact, I’ve loved hosting The Great Reset so

our guests have offered feedback that they appreciate the podcast format as a freer, looser form of sharing their thoughts and often comment how easy it was or how much they enjoyed the conversation. More than once, potential guests have asked, “We aren’t doing video, too, right?” because audio alone is much less intimidating—for both guests and hosts alike. Yet, as several podcasters commented, hosts feel like the lucky ones for the insights, laughs, and ideas that stem from these conversations. As Calloway says, “Every time we interview a guest, they bring up something we hadn’t thought of that will have to be managed or changed due to the pandemic, and it’s all of those little and big things we all have to consider that make it a reminder that we are in this life together. Systemic change begins with us.” Because at the end of the day, podcasts at their core hope to inspire change, whether listeners learn a new skill or hobby, contemplate a new concept, or just shift their perspective ever so slightly.

“Asheville is a creative hub at this end of the state, and I would argue in the Southeast. ” much that I launched The Creative Hub Studios Podcast with my business partner, where we talk about all things branding and creativity as a way to connect with each other and with other creative entrepreneurs, and we will soon be opening a podcast recording studio in our downtown event and exhibit space. Podcasting allows for communities to be built around shared interests and ideals in a low-pressure form of consumption that’s convenient for the listener. Many of

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| August 2020


Keep Listening

entrepreneur, and her podcast focuses on sharing ways of connecting with other female entrepreneurs, making the most of networking, helpful biz resources, and having fun while being in business.

MORE LOCAL PODCASTS TO PLUG INTO

mybizbestie.com/podcast/tag/ amber+hawley

enneagram and coffee

Sarajane Case’s second podcast is a series of discussions about “the beautiful and hard parts of working with the enneagram” and how understanding the enneagram can be used as a tool for self-compassion.

nappy thoughts

podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/enneagramcoffee/id1447982978

nappythoughts.com/podcast

Another new kid on the block, Aisha Adams hosts this podcast to have provocative conversations with Southerners focused on culture and politics in the South.

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my biz bestie

Amber Hawley is a therapist who serves high-powered couples and is also a serial

Described as “a horror-anthology podcast set in the shadows of an alternate Appalachia,

a place where digging too deep into the mines was just the first mistake.”

oldgodsofappalachia.com palimpsest

Another scary podcast, this bi-weekly audio drama focuses on memory, identity, and the things that haunt us. They warn that “every story is a ghost story.”

thepalimpsestpodcast.com your only option

Recently relaunched after an 18-month hiatus, this podcast features Asheville-based comedians having conversations and has racked up more than 9,000 downloads.

youronlyoption.podbean.com

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August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 49


column

Reconsidering Your Most Valuable Asset Leveraging & Building Relationships Is Integral to Your Business’ Success

K

I

ken k aplan

is managing partner and CEO of Kaplan CFO Solutions.

50

N THE 19TH CENTURY, IF YOU HAD ASKED

any company what their most valuable asset (MVA) was, the answer would have been pretty consistent: “Our equipment.” Why not? Through the first half of the 20th century, owners had more invested in their machinery than any other asset, including their people.

By the latter half of the 20th century, business dynamics had shifted. As salaries overtook equipment costs and the employees’ role changed from operator to enabler, people became the most valuable asset. Today, according to strategic business communications firm VP Legacies, “The skillset of employees accounts for 85 percent of a company’s assets.” The corporate mantra, “Our people are our most valuable asset,” has become so pervasive that few would dispute it. Count me among the few. Don’t get me wrong, a business’ employees are absolutely critical to the success of the company— assuming they are motivated and actively engaged. In most cases, they’re not. A 2017 Gallup Poll showed that only 33 percent of United States workers are engaged in their jobs. Statistics also indicate that 81

| August 2020

percent of employees would consider leaving their job for the right offer, even if they weren’t looking for a job at the moment. While employers claim that their people are their greatest asset, most employees don’t see it that way. That’s because people aren’t a company’s most valuable asset—relationships are.

Relationships Drive Every Aspect of Business One could argue that the essence of business is building relationships —with employees, suppliers, customers, and service providers. Every interaction is a relationship that directly or indirectly affects the bottom line, however you measure or define it. The quality of your relationships, or lack thereof, manifests itself on your balance sheet.


K I nt er n a l ly, t he b ond s a mon g employees and between management and employees impact everything from productivity and quality to worker tur nover a nd retraining costs. Externally, strong and positive relationships with suppliers, customers, and third-party partners like bankers and insurance professionals go a long way to determining contract terms, customer loyalty, and overall profitability.

Lessons Learned from COVID-19 For proof of just how valuable relationships are, look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic. As owners scrambled to figure out how to survive during lockdowns and quarantine, temporary closures, and employee furloughs, some fared far better than others. Consider:

plays a major role in that decision. Companies who can hold on to their workers obviously have a better shot of ramping up faster and with less expense.

Who Was Able to Modify Supplier Contracts and Retain Customers? The same dynamics are in play here; the stronger your relationships, the more likely your suppliers and customers will stick by you.

IT ALL STARTS WITH TAKING THE TIME TO UNDERSTAND NOT JUST WHAT YOUR EMPLOYEE, SUPPLIER, OR CUSTOMER IS SAYING, BUT WHAT THEY NEED.

Who Received Funding? The rollout of the CARES Act was handled poorly. With little centralized management, it was up to banks to advocate for their clients and push the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) applications through. Companies with the strongest relationships with their banks stood the best chance of getting funded early in the process. The same is true of businesses looking for bridge loans from their lenders. If you had a good working relationship with the lender, you were in a much better position than someone walking in off the street.

Whose Employees Are Returning? A March 24, 2020, survey by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce estimated that more than 57 percent of area businesses had either closed or furloughed their workers. Now that businesses are beginning to re-open, those workers are deciding whether to return to their job, if it’s still available. The relationship with their employer

Relationships Must Deliver Value in Both Directions To be sure, not all relationships are equal; those that pay dividends are always two-sided and mutually beneficial. That means you need to give as much as you get and listen as much as you speak. It all starts with taking the time to understand not just what your employee, supplier, or customer is saying, but what they need. If all this sounds like it should be coming from a chief marketing officer rather than a CFO, it’s because of a false narrative that assumes business value and personal value are diametrically opposed. A s i l lu strated by t he infographic on the next page, nothing could be further from the truth; the two are very closely linked. So how do you create and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships that can help you (and those with whom you partner) in good times and bad?

How will we rise? We can only rise together. www.cfw nc.org

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51


column

How Emotions Influence B2B Buying BUSINE SS VALUE VS PE RSONAL VALUE

48% of B2B customers say they have wanted to buy a new solution but haven’t spoken up for fear of risks

Personal value has 2x as much impact as business values

68% of buyers who see a personal value will pay a higher price for a service

74% of B2B buyers see a business’ value

Only 8.5% of buyers who see no personal value will pay a higher price for a service

But just 14% of B2B buyers perceive a real difference in B2B supplier offerings

71% of buyers who see personal

Only 31% of prospective customers think B2B brands provide a personal value

value will purchase a product

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Here are three solid suggestions:

1. Know Your Vision—and Theirs. As suggested by the infographic mentioned before, we tend to do business with people we like and trust. The strongest relationships are with those who share your vision and realize that you support theirs.

2. Communicate Honestly and Regularly. Communication is a two-way street; sending a holiday gift package once a year won’t cut it. Create a communications plan and carve out time to reach out to suppliers, key customers, and other partners on a regular basis. Don’t just talk about what you want, discuss what they need.

3. Don’t Tell… Do. When you revise your business plan or financial projections, keep your banker and insurance agent in the loop. Be aware enough to recognize when an employee is showing signs of stress and ask how you can help. To be aware is to be human.

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The Intersection of Personal and Practical Ironically, as organizations increase their use of technology— process automation, digital communications, online services, etcetera—the desire (and need) to create more meaningful connections also increase. Marketing departments now look well beyond the sales transaction and focus on intangibles like the “customer journey” and “customer lifecycle.” In manufacturing quality control is now viewed within the larger metric of the customer’s “quality of experience.” Across the C-Suite leadership is dialed in to employee engagement and sense of fulfillment. Business is becoming more human. While some dismiss the shift to a more personalized approach as too “touchy feely,” they do so at the risk of serious financial damage. As mentioned before, a company’s relationships dictate its financial future. This is where the role of the CFO is pivotal. Yes, every leadership position must consider the implications of the relationships they build, internally and externally. But it’s the CFO who must deal with the financial fallout when those partnerships are not properly cultivated and managed. Socially, we are living at a time when the need to acknowledge one’s value as a person has never been more acute. It is only natural that that expectation would carry over into business. Whether at work or at home, we are social creatures; may our business and friendships reflect that.

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53


THE OLD

NORTH

STATE [

news briefs

Whinny or Wine? currituck

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the Museum of the Albemarle, and Sanctuary Vineyards have entered into a partnership to celebrate the Corolla wild horses. These horses were left in the Outer Banks in the 1500s by Spanish explorers. They are a small, sturdy breed capable of surviving in a harsh environment where most breeds might fail. Preliminary DNA testing demonstrated today’s horses are indeed of Spanish origin. Now, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund is taking DNA samples of the horses with the intention of creating pedigree charts for breeding them on a farm in Grandy, where many of the horses are kept when they are no longer well enough to survive in the wild. The fund is helping the museum put together an exhibit and produce a video about the horses’ history. Sanctuary Vineyards, a nearby winery, is contributing to the project by producing a wine to be named after the first Spaniard to visit the Outer Banks, Pedro de Quexoia. A percentage of wine sales will then be used to support educational programming at the museum.

Nothin’ but Net morehead city

The state reopened in time for the 62nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, which proved profitable for businesses hit in recent years by two major hurricanes and one pandemic. Hundreds of visitors socially distanced 54

| August 2020

]

along the sidewalks and in the stores of Morehead City, some of which reported better sales than they’d experienced during other recent tournaments. The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is one of the nation’s largest fishing events, lasting six days, mainly to allow for adverse weather. This year’s overall winner was Pelagic Hunter II, captained by John Cruise III. His crew caught a 495.2-pound marlin, the remarkable talking point being Pelagic Hunter II was the first outboard motorboat to win the tournament in 30 years. Stealing its thunder, though, was Catch 23, captained by Michael Jordan, whose largest catch was only 442.3 pounds. Fishing crews participated in multiple categories for cash prizes from the tournament’s $3.34 million purse.

A Bird, a Plane, a… Drone charlotte

Zipline, a company based in California that claims the world’s largest autonomous drone delivery network, is making its drones available for Novant Health. The FAA has approved what it calls an “emergency drone logistics operation” for delivering PPE and medical supplies in the Charlotte area. The drones have a range of over 100 miles, but for now they will be limited, by FAA approval, to only 30 miles per trip. Drones will pick items up from a fulfillment center and deliver them to various Novant medical facilities. Zipline’s drones had been handling routine deliveries in Rwanda and Ghana, where operations were recently

scaled up to help with the COVID-19 crisis. Following successes with those endeavors, CEO Keller Rinaudo started looking for more places to put his drones in service during the pandemic. Other drones running errands for businesses to date have had ranges of only a couple miles, and Zipline is the first drone operation to be approved for Class D airspace. The partnership with Novant and Zipline is part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Integration Pilot Program.

Southern Comfort winston-salem

After 80 years of customers demanding it, Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation is now making its doughnuts available across the country. The concessions are: (1) the doughnuts in question are only minis, and (2) they’ll be sold prepackaged at Walmart instead of under a glowing “Hot Now” sign. The new offerings will be Original Glazed, Chocolate, and Apple Cinnamon doughnut holes, and Original and Blueberry mini-crullers. The seasonal flavors for the summer will be Strawberry for the bites and Lemon for the crullers. The minis are packaged to sell at just under $4 for a box of 20. To kick off the new product line, Krispy Kreme held its first ever virtual grand opening. Attractions included surprise appearances by celebrity guests, virtual games, and a chance to win free doughnuts for a year. Customers were invited to “camp out” to join the virtual ceremony and share how they were enjoying Walmart’s new offerings using #BiteSizedGlory and @krispykreme.

Cleaning Up Products greensboro & kernersville

Texwipe, a subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works based in Kernersville, announced a new line of Revolve products. The company launched in 1964 with the patent of


a low-lint cloth for removing microcontamination from computer equipment. It has since grown to supply wipes, swabs, mops, and chemicals for sanitizing cleanrooms. The company’s new line uses Repreve yarn, produced from recycled bottles by the Greensboro-based company Unifi. Established in 1971, Unifi began as a textile mill, shifted gears to weave polyester, and then launched the Repreve line to repurpose its own waste. Seeing great demand, the company soon found it advantageous to build the Repreve Bottle Processing Center and the Repreve Recycling Center. Texwipe’s new line is patent-pending, and it includes dry and wet, sterile and nonsterile wipes in a variety of sizes. Texwipe will label its Revolve packaging with the number of water bottles needed to create the contents. For example, it takes 47 bottles to make 100 TX1709 wipes.

Centers Closing statewide

WUNC reported one-third of childcare centers in the state could go out of business. This was based on responses to a national survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children conducted last March. Of 322 providers in North Carolina, 32% said they would require public assistance to remain in business for a closure lasting more than two weeks. To date, about onethird of the childcare centers in the state have remained closed since the stay-home orders, and those remaining open have typically seen a considerable reduction in enrollment, and thus income. Prior to the shutdown, advocates for early childhood education described a shortage of these centers in the state, with one-fourth of children living in childcare “deserts.” WUNC’s findings came after the North Carolina General Assembly allocated emergency aid to cover closures from March through May. Some of this was federal CARES Act funding, which provided hazard pay for childcare workers,

32

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carolina in the west

national & world news

childcare subsidies for essential workers, suspension of copayments for statefunded childcare subsidies, and one-time grants for childcare centers.

Different Greens wake forest

Jordan Allen’s plans to work at a golf course over the summer had fallen through with the shutdown, so his mother, Diane Veritas Allen, asked if he would make her a wooden raised garden planter like one she saw on Facebook. Jordan spent some time online and taught himself how to make one that turned out so well, he started selling them himself. At first, word spread to family and friends, but then Diane started advertising them on Facebook Marketplace. Jordan makes the planters in various sizes, and he will paint or stain them as customers request. The largest size retails for $130. The idea was well-timed, as springtime economic uncertainties increased interest in gardening, and the planters provide a lot of growing space for residences without private yards. Rather than a job, Jordan describes the endeavor as a fun way to make some money.

On Cloud 4? cary

During the 2020 SAS Global Forum, which was held virtually, the company announced the release of SAS Viya 4, which should occur sometime this year. SAS Viya is a cloud-enabled, artificial intelligence (AI) engine that automates analytics for faster, more reliable corporate decision-making. COO and CTO Oliver Schabenberger said the latest version is a response to features consumers have been demanding: agility, speed, automation, intelligence, and continuity. Data preparation, machine learning, and model deployment are all automated, so users can focus on their

the old north state

areas of expertise instead of learning programming languages or keeping up with the latest theories in statistical analysis. Other advantages: Viya 4 is portable across different cloud environments, eliminating data silos; it allows data to be viewed from multiple portals simultaneously; and its customizable features are easily scalable.

Game On elon

G. Wesley Cone has been designing games as long as he can remember. During the COVID-19 shutdown, however, he decided to try to capitalize on one. HERO: The Card Game raised $8,680 from 370 backers on Kickstarter, reaching twice Cone’s $2,000 fundraising goal in only two days. Funds will be used to move the game, already looking polished and professional, into production. Cone began creating HERO a year and a half ago. He describes it as “Narnia and The Last Airbender meet steampunk.” Players assume the role of elders in the heavens who are trying to mentor a multicultural array of humans for the next crisis on a dystopian futuristic earth, bestowing on them powers to heal, enhance, recruit, or overcome. Retailing at $17 plus shipping, Cone doesn’t expect his game will reach the shelves of brick-and-mortar retailers, and he is only selling within the United States for both pragmatic and ideological reasons. Kickstarter donors were promised two digital versions, a tabletop simulator, and a print-and-play copy.

Fields of Study mount olive

This fall, the University of Mount Olive (UMO) will begin offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in agribusiness, with all courses entirely online. UMO remains the only private college or university in the state to offer a degree in the field. The August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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the old north state

program welcomes veterans and novices already working in agribusiness, as well as persons looking to strike out on a new career path. Students admitted to the program with an associate degree will be able to complete it within two years. The curriculum covers management topics directly relevant to agriculture and specific commodities. In addition to learning about business plans, marketing, financial analysis, and tax law, students can also learn about the Farm Credit system, forecasting techniques, risk management through insurance, futures, and option contracts, and international trade.

Restaurateur Relations winston-salem

When it became apparent the once-popular Mary’s Gourmet Diner would not be able to reopen after closing under COVID19 shutdown orders, the eponymous Mary Haglund set about selling the art off the restaurant’s walls. Through online auction, she posted 29 cartoon paintings made especially for her and her diner by Zap McConnell. Much to her surprise, bidding wars commenced, and in the end, Haglund made $5,000. Then, in a plot twist, Haglund gave the money to Rigo and July Velasquez of another local restaurant, La Botana. Haglund explained La Botana was her favorite local Mexican restaurant and that she was friends with the owners. While talking, she learned they hadn’t been able to make rent for the past four months, and she couldn’t resist helping out. If all goes according to plan, Michael Millan, the majority owner of Mary’s, will open Mojito Latin Soul Food where Mary’s stood.

Raising Scores mooresville

In a press release, LLR Partners of Philadelphia announced it would be investing an unspecified amount in 56

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TrueLearn. TrueLearn, launched by Dr. Joshua Courtney in 2008, helps medical students prepare for, and excel on, licensure exams. It creates online learning tools to supplement classroom lectures. And, in addition to presenting subject matter content, it has a feature, SmartBanks, that collects data and applies analytics to assess students’ test-taking behavior and provide constructive feedback. TrueLearn has programs for a variety of medical specialties and recently added products for pharmacy and allied health. Its products have been particularly helpful in compensating for shortcomings in the educational experience introduced by “remote and asynchronous” distance learning. The funds will be used to help the company expand vertically, enter new healthcare markets, and acquire strategic partners. To date, TrueLearn has been used by tens of thousands of aspiring professionals.

Just Breathe chapel hill

Renovion has raised $8.1 million in financing for the development of its lead candidate for treating chronic inflammatory lung disease, ARINA-1. The development includes the continuation of clinical tests on patients with a lung transplant, cystic fibrosis (CF), and non-CF bronchiectasis, the latter being a condition in which bronchial tubes lose their elasticity, leading to the pooling of mucus and the attraction of bacteria. When administered with an eFlow nebulizer developed by the German company PARI Pharma, ARINA-1 reduced inflammation and facilitated the removal of mucus by natural processes, with better outcomes than the traditional treatment, hypertonic saline. Renovion has secured orphan drug status for treating patients with lung transplants and CF, and it is scheduled to enter Phase 2 and Phase 3 testing in patients with lung transplants early next year. Researchers are now

viewing ARINA-1 as a good candidate for wider applications.

Meating Expectations wilkesboro

Tyson Foods closed its fresh meat plant in Wilkesboro the first week in May due to an outbreak of COVID-19. The closure was temporary, lasting only the weekend for the purpose of deep cleaning. At the time, 194 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Wilkes County, with a majority of those cases linked to the plant. The county’s health department visited the facility to administer 200 tests, 39 of which came back positive. Tyson spokespersons said the company was not going to make public the overall number of workers testing positive, but those found to be affected were ordered to stay home until CDC requirements for returning to work were met. At the time, 4,900 persons working in 115 meat and poultry plants in 19 states were known to have contracted the virus, and 20 had died. Two weeks later, the Wilkesboro plant closed again for “fogging.” At that time, 286 cases had been reported in the county, with a majority still linked to the Tyson plant. An additional 70 cases in neighboring Forsyth County were also linked to the plant.

Tasteful Heirlooms high point

June St. George is a custom, handtufted rug company launched two years ago by designer Ally-Catherine Trenary. Trenary was interested in making high-end wool rugs that would become heirlooms. After a while, the rug business was doing so well, so she decided to diversify to offer custom outdoor pillows as well. The pillows are covered in mildew-, water-, and UV-resistant fabric; the inserts are made of a lightweight, water-resistant material. Clientele design their pillows the same way they


For the Unique. For the Savvy. For the Refined. would design a rug, so the items can look like a set. Customers can select their item’s dimensions, textile, color, pattern, and monogram online. Adding a designer’s perspective on proportion and chromatics, Trenary or one of her employees will carefully go over designs submitted and likely confer with clientele, perhaps even mailing samples. Trenary studied interior design at High Point University, where she worked at the furniture markets every year and concluded she wanted to work more with textiles. After that, she studied textile design under Margaret Campbell at the University of the Arts London Central Saint Martins.

Multitasking Blood Test durham

GR AIL, a healthcare company based in Menlo Park, California, has decided to locate its first production facility outside that state in Research Triangle Park (RTP). The facility would be used as a commercial lab for processing blood samples. Specifically, the lab would run a test pioneered by GRAIL that can detect any of 50 types of cancer in a single blood draw. GR AIL contracted with Newmark Knight Frank to conduct a nationwide search for a good location and site for the operation. RTP was selected for the usual reasons: its highly-skilled workforce, a booming life sciences community, proximity to multiple institutions of higher learning, and logistical conveniences. Exactly where the lab will be built has not been disclosed; what is known is the facility has 200,000 square feet for laboratories, offices, and warehousing, and the site will accommodate scale-up. About $1 million will be invested in constructing the commercial lab, which will likely have its certificate of occupancy by early 2021.

photos by Marilynn Kay Photography

86 Running Creek Trail Arden in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove MLS#: 3594538 - $999,500

Marilyn C Wright Global Real Estate Advisor Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist Guild

10 Brooks Street Suite 130 Asheville NC 28803 828.279.3980 | Ashevillerealtormwright@gmail.com August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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Land OF

Plenty Digging into Western North Carolina’s Robust Local Food System written by gina smith

Apple seekers meandering the winding,

rustic route toward Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard would do well to leave a little slack in their schedules. There’s always the possibility of trailing a tractor puttering along for a few miles from one gravel turnoff to the next. Plus, it’s nearly impossible not to slow down and savor the luxuriant green vista of Henderson County’s mountain-hemmed apple country, its patchwork of forests and fields dotted with churches and tiny stores. Tucked along one of rural Edneyville’s countless curving lanes, carefully tended rows of apple trees neatly trace the hilly contours of the acreage Mike Stepp’s family has owned since 1964. For more than half a century, four generations of Stepps have shared their bountiful, apple-centric lifestyle with the community, welcoming visitors to the farm August through October to make lifelong memories wandering the orchards with loved ones, filling baskets with Golden

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TINY BRIDGE CSA , photo courtesy Tiny Bridge Farm

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PHOTOS L-R: Open Ridge Farm during a farm tour; Flying Cloud Farm with farmer Annie Louise; Olivette Farm at the Asheville City Market, photos cour tesy ASAP.

Delicious and Granny Smiths, snacking on handmade apple cider doughnuts, or picking bouquets of sunflowers to bring home for the kitchen table. Miles away in Fairview, Annie Louise and Isaiah Perkinson also offer Western North Carolina a generous taste of their family’s pastoral lifestyle at Flying Cloud Farm. Lush in summer with long rows of blooming larkspur, yarrow, and zinnias beckoning from the fields just before Charlotte Highway begins its serpentine ascent into the mountains, the farm invites guests to browse its picturesque roadside stand for edible and floral finds on the honor system, while also reaching into the community via tailgate markets and successful community supported agriculture and market-share programs. Agricultural business models in the region have shifted significantly in the nearly 60 years since Mike Stepp’s father purchased the Edneyville land his descendants now cultivate, and a local food system anchored by small farms has flourished in the two decades since the Perkinsons first set up a produce stand, selling their goods on the same spot where early Southern Appalachian farmers traversed the mountains on the historic Drovers Road to bring their hogs and turkeys to market. When Stepp was a boy, burley tobacco was king among North Carolina crops, but today small-scale, diversified produce and meat operations are the steady heartbeat of Western North Carolina’s unique and resilient food system, with family-owned operations like Flying Cloud and Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard leveraging their community connections and multiple sales platforms to market products directly to customers. At the center are Blue Ridge consumers who can access a surprising array of fresh, mindfully cultivated vegetables and fruit grown close to home, while tapping into and supporting the region’s farming legacy through a multitude of convenient outlets.

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Grounded in History Sarah Hart, communications coordinator for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), pinpoints two specific influences that have shaped and defined Western North Carolina’s singular food system: federal support and geography. Beginning in the 1920s, she says, burley tobacco was the region’s chief cash crop. But when the United States government ended its quota and price support system for tobacco in the early 2000s, farmers started developing markets for locally grown food as an alternative. At the same time, the modern local food movement, which had emerged in the mid-1990s, was beginning to gain traction. It was at the confluence of these developments in the 1990s that ASAP was born. The Asheville-based nonprofit, which connects farmers and consumers all over Southern Appalachia with its annual Local Food Guide, Appalachian Grown project, and myriad other programs, emerged as an effort to reverse the loss of Western North Carolina farms and to help growers move away from tobacco. “A 2018 report from ASAP’s Local Food Research Center, ‘From Tobacco to Local Food in Western North Carolina,’ looks at this shift and found that between 2002 and 2012, while tobacco disappeared almost entirely from the region, there was a 98% increase in the number of farms growing fruits and vegetables,” says Hart. The report also notes that the number of acres used for these products grew 166%, and sales of local produce nearly tripled during those ten years. Even as farmers transitioned to growing food, the region’s mountainous landscape dictated that their operations stay small. Farm sizes average 441 acres nationally and 182 acres statewide, Hart says, while farms in Southern Appalachia average just 90 acres, with more than half of them comprising fewer than 50 acres. “This means many of the farms here can’t


grow at the scale needed to serve national or global markets or grow large-scale commodity crops like corn and soybeans,” she points out. Hart notes that although the region does have some largerscale produce farms, particularly in Henderson County, and Morganton is home to the huge Case Farms’ poultry operation, when it comes to agriculture, being compact has some advantages. “Because of their smaller scale, farmers here can make changes on their farms relatively quickly. They can respond to the public’s expressed desires—for certain varieties of food, for specific growing practices, and, especially now, for how they want to connect with farmers and where they want to purchase local food,” Hart explains. Many small-scale farms sell products wholesale to local restaurants and retailers, but about 11% of Western North Carolina’s more than 10,000 farms opt to sell directly to consumers, according to the 2017 United States Census of Agriculture. The 2019 Appalachian Grown Producer Survey says the majority of farmers in the region—92%—sell some or all of their products to direct markets, while 64% sell some or entirely to wholesale. And the relationships farmers form through direct engagement with their customers at tailgate markets and farm stands and through other person-to-person sales avenues is another detail that sets our agricultural scene apart. “Farms in Western North Carolina are a visible part of our landscapes and communities,” says Hart. “Farming is not something that is happening somewhere else for the people who live here. You see it driving your kids to school or on the way to work or from the [Blue Ridge] Parkway as part of the scenery. Because farming is happening where we live and work, we see who is growing our food. We can talk to them. We can ask them questions. We can easily visit our farms.” The dominant direct-to-consumer markets for Western North Carolina growers, says Hart, are farmers markets, farm stands, and community-supported agriculture programs, or CSA’s—subscription programs where consumers pay a lump sum to a farmer at the beginning of the growing season for prepacked, regular (usually weekly) shares of the harvest. Citing data from ASAP’s Local Food Guide, which has been updated annually since it launched in 2002, the past decade has seen a 47% increase in the number of farms selling at farmers markets, an 82% increase in farms selling through farm stands, and a 47% increase in farms offering CSAs.

To Market, to Market

photo courtesy Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Of all the avenues for sourcing food directly from local farmers, tailgate markets, which have become increasingly popular in Western North Carolina in recent years, are best for socializing. Even in the age of COVID-19, when markets must control the number of shoppers and enforce social distancing measures and mask wearing, market days often August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 61


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have a festival feel. Many markets regularly showcase live performances by local musicians and community groups, and food samples have historically been a common offering, with bakers, cheesemakers, kombucha brewers, and more offering tasty bites and sips. Markets are also essential sales outlets and outreach tools for small-scale farmers and food producers, who often use them to attract new customers. ASAP’s Local Food Guide currently lists 60 farmers markets in the region, including one the organization operates—the Asheville City Market—and the state-owned WNC Farmers Market in Brevard, which opened in 1977. Just a decade ago, the guide listed only 20 markets for all of Western North

“We get a lot of young farmers through the market doing varying degrees of farming and food production and kind of feeling the waters and getting their feet wet and seeing where they want to focus their farming efforts.” Carolina. Over the last ten years, winter markets have also become a trend locally as increasingly savvy farmers work to extend the growing season using high tunnels, greenhouses, and other techniques. This year-round cycle has developed partially through innovations in farming, but also due to supply and demand as the customer base for local food grows, says ASAP farmers market program manager, Mike McCreary. McCreary also notes that in recent years, local markets have been proactive about expanding accessibility to their vendors’ products. “One of the most significant changes has been the increase in [federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP)] access at markets,” says McCreary. “Way back in 2008, when Asheville City Market opened, it was the only market in the region that accepted SNAP. Now there are quite a few, including a growing number that also offer SNAP incentives, such as Double SNAP.” Cheri Lee is now in her third season as manager of the Yancey County Farmers Market (YCFM), which has been an April through November Saturday morning fixture in downtown Burnsville for 27 years. “We’re pretty ingrained. The downtown businesses that are open during market hours, like the coffee shop, go hand in hand with the farmers market—we’re like peas and carrots,” says Lee. The YCFM features an acoustic musician each weekend and sometimes offers cooking demonstrations and other activities. 62

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T

Grow Your Own

hrough his Asheville-based nonprofit, the Utopian Seed Project, sustainable agriculture expert Chris Smith researches Southern crops, tropical perennials, and wild and native edibles with the goal of creating a hub of regionally adapted seeds to support a more resilient local food system. His book, The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration, which developed from his exhaustive experimentation with more than 75 okra varieties, won a 2020 James Beard Award. Here, Smith offers some suggestions for those who are ready to get growing.

Kale and collards taste sweeter after a frost, the summer pests and diseases fall away as temperatures drop, and having a homegrown Thanksgiving is sure to impress. Here are five tips to help the first time fall gardener:

TIMING IS KEY. Plan to have mostly mature plants by your average first frost date, (Asheville’s average first frost is October 12th). Bulls Blood Beets take 55 days to harvest; therefore, sow seeds around August 18th. SOME SEEDS LIKE COOL SOIL TO GERMINATE. Spinach is a prime example. Start seeds indoors or somewhere cool and transplant outdoors once a few true leaves have formed. BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER, CABBAGE, AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS REQUIRE A VERY EARLY START (OFTEN AS EARLY AS JULY). Seek out locally grown transplants towards the end of August. EARLY COLD SNAPS ARE NOT UNCOMMON. Be prepared to cover less cold hardy crops like broccoli and beets. On a small scale, this could be a literal blanket, or purchase affordable “row cover’ for frost protection. CERTIFIED SEED GARLIC IS AVAILABLE AS EARLY AS SEPTEMBER BUT CAN BE PLANTED AS LATE AS NOVEMBER. This is one crop you don’t need to rush to plant.


TEN MILE FARM AT the River Arts District Farmers Market , photo courtesy ASAP

Although COVID-19 limitations currently restrict vendors to selling only agricultural products, during normal operation there’s a community space where nonprofits can set up, and free tables are available for children who want to sell products they’ve grown, foraged, or made themselves. For the Yancey County agricultural community, says Lee, the market offers a crucial entry point for beginning growers and producers. “We get a lot of young farmers through the market doing varying degrees of farming and food production and kind of feeling the waters and getting their feet wet and seeing where they want to focus their farming efforts,” she says. “But we also have very established farmers who still depend on the market as a prime outlet.” Olivia Sanders and Rocky Ramos, who operate Soil Shine Farm & Ferments near Burnsville, are among those young farmers using the market as a proving ground for their business. Sanders has a few years of growing experience and a degree in agroecology from Appalachian State University, and she and Ramos completed the Organic Growers School’s Farm Beginnings course before starting Soil Shine just over a year ago on rented land. They’ve since transitioned to growing on the campus of a local summer camp that pays them a small salary to maintain its existing gardens and care for its animals while also raising their own crops. In about an acre and a half of growing space, the pair cultivate a variety of vegetables using biodynamic practices,

an alternative form of agriculture that views a farm as a single, integrated organism made up of interdependent elements. “There are different things that need to be in balance to keep that organism running, like an animal-to-plant ratio. So where we now farm has cows and chickens and goats; we use all those manures in the garden, and then we feed all the extra vegetables to those same critters,” Sanders explains. “The philosophy of it is that you’re a self-contained, self-sufficient organism. It’s just kind of beyond organic.” They process their harvests into ferments, including seasonal chow-chows and kimchis, several varieties of sauerkraut, dilly beans, pickles, and more, which they sell in jars at the YCFM as well as at a few local retail outlets, such as the Just Local Market in Bakersville and Locally Good in Burnsville. Soil Shine has also begun marketing its products via two recently emerged online platforms—High Country Food Hub in Boone and the brand-new TRACTOR Market coordinated by the TRACTOR Food and Farms nonprofit food hub in Yancey County. The online sales option was a blessing earlier this season when the YCFM, which is Soil Shine’s primary sales outlet, opened weeks later than usual due to COVID-19. “We missed about a month of sales there, but honestly we made up for it with online sales in Boone because people just freaked out about grocery shortages and really bought a lot of stuff,” Sanders says. Lee says other market vendors experienced similar benefits by nimbly switching to new systems that implement online August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 63


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CSA BOX from Flying Cloud Farm, photo by Emily Glaser

components. “This year we’ve been encouraging vendors to do a lot of pre-ordering so customers can just come in and pick up and there’s no exchange of money and just less exchange of anything,” she says. “That’s actually boosted business quite a bit for individual vendors because they’re now doing preordering and curbside pickups and deliveries. They’re really branching out more in some ways because of COVID.” ASAP’s Hart saw this dynamic as a broader trend among farmers throughout Southern Appalachia. “I think in much the same way that this pandemic is accelerating shifts that were already happening in American culture—online ordering and delivery of goods, remote work—farmers will connect more with customers through social media and online ordering, either for pickup on the farm or at markets,” she says. “I don’t think we’ll see traditional farmers markets go away, but we may see more that offer an online marketplace in addition to a physical market.”

Support by Subscription One of the things KP Whaley loves about life as a farmer is driving his van to the Hendersonville Farmers Market to set up shop on Saturday mornings. Whaley, who operates Tiny Bridge Farm in Hendersonville with partner Ed Graves, says the market functions mainly as a drop point for the farm’s popular CSA. “Our CSA customers come there to pick up, and then we’ll sell any excess produce that we have,” Whaley explains. A defining aspect of the CSA model—either a bonus or a drawback, depending on your spirit of adventure in the kitchen—is that what you receive in your box for each share 64

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depends entirely on what’s ripe and available at the time. So a bumper crop of potatoes that comes in just as a hailstorm devastates tender, above-ground veggies could translate to a week of googling potato recipes for the CSA customer. In addition to produce, Western North Carolina farms offer a surprisingly broad range of products, including pasture-raised meats, fresh flowers, eggs, bread, honey, cheese—and, in the case of Tiny Bridge Farm, even locally brewed beer—through CSAs. The “community supported” arrangement gives farmers a much-needed injection of income in early spring when they need it most to buy supplies and equipment for the growing season. About 15 to 20 years ago, local farms first began adopting the CSA model, which was pioneered in the Northeast by organic farming advocate and author Eliot Coleman, says Roland McReynolds, executive director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. In recent years CSAs had begun to wane in popularity as more market options developed for local and organic foods, but COVID-19 piqued public interest in shorter supply chains. “Over the past five years, with most farms we’ve spoken to, their CSA numbers have been steadily declining, and it was harder to get people to renew from year to year. The level of uncertainty with the food supply this year, though, has gotten people back to being interested in CSAs,” says McReynolds. Tiny Bridge, which employs soil-building, organic, regenerative farming methods to produce vegetables, herbs, fruit, honey, and pastured eggs on about ¾ acre of the farm’s total three-acre homestead, saw huge growth in its CSA this spring. “This year doubled our CSA membership, so we have about 20 families now that are participating,” says Whaley. “As a CSA, we already were sort of positioned well for this because we don’t rely on restaurants, and we didn’t have grocery sales. We always worked directly with our customers, so all it did for us is actually expand what we were doing.” In addition to farming, Whaley and Graves both work fulltime jobs—Whaley is general manager at Asheville FM public radio station, and Graves is a librarian. (Only 44% of farmers in the United States report that agriculture is their primary occupation, according to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture.) So they were very intentional in selecting their marketing model. “We did a CSA and just sold to about a dozen families locally. And then we could just deliver it all at one time, and that marketing piece of it was only about an hour a week, which was nice,” Whaley explains. The Tiny Bridge CSA add-on beer share option, no doubt a big draw for many customers, is the result of a partnership with Hendersonville neighbor Southern Appalachian Brewery, where the farm offers CSA pickups on Sundays. “We were ahead of the curve when the pandemic hit,” says Whaley. “That model helped them quite a bit—we were able to give them a big check right when they needed it.” The sudden spurt of consumer interest in CSAs coincides neatly with a big change coming to Tiny Bridge: Whaley and


Graves jumped on an opportunity this spring to augment their homestead with the rental of a 10-acre parcel of flood plain that’s part of a 35-acre former tomato field being sold for residential development. In addition to exponentially expanding the farm’s capacity, the new land will help maximize Graves’ and Whaley’s regenerative farming goals. “We’ll have more land as well as the whole treeline across the creek, which provides space for other animals to exist, so the birds that are in our trees eat the voles that are in our fields,” says Whaley. “We have a philosophy of making sure we’re leaving the land better than what it was when we got it.” Flying Cloud Farm in Fairview depends entirely—and normally, almost equally—on three direct-to-customer revenue streams for its survival: a self-service farm stand, sales at two Asheville tailgate markets, and its 100 -member CSA program. But this season, with farmers market sales hampered somewhat by pandemic limitations, co-owner Annie Louise Perkinson thinks the CSA might be the farm’s biggest sales outlet. The Perkinsons launched the CSA in 2002, just three years after they started their farming operation “from scratch with a wheelbarrow and a shovel and a fork” on ½ an acre when they were both 26 years old, Annie Louise says. Over time, the couple transitioned to becoming full-time farmers, gradually renting more land from neighbors and family and adding infrastructure to produce vegetables, berries, and cut flowers grown sustainably without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. In addition to their fields of spring and summer vegetables, herbs, and berries, Flying Cloud sells cut flowers through its CSA. “We grow organically, and flowers attract a lot of beneficial insects and provide good habitat. And they’re also food for the soul,” says Annie Louise. “We’re trying to make a living farming, so we’re trying to be creative with what we grow and having things that bloom or bear throughout the year so we can have yearround cash flow, basically.” To stretch the season as far as possible, Flying Cloud cultivates sweet potatoes, winter squash, and potatoes for winter storage and has a hoop house for growing in cold weather. “We also dry flowers and make wreaths and grow greens outside at least through the end of December,” Annie Louise says. “The CSA really does help with the cash flow because so many of the expenses with farms are in the spring and summer, and then we make money in the fall.” Flying Cloud offers a traditional CSA share program with options for an extended season add-on that stretches through November and a flower share add-on. Members can choose to pick up from the farm’s regular vendor booths at the River Arts District Farmers Market and

photo courtesy Tiny Bridge Farm

A VISITOR HAVING a “goat” time at Round Mountain Creamery, photo courtesy ASAP

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ROCKY R AMOS showing off some produce, photo courtesy Soil Shine Farm & Ferments

North Asheville Tailgate Market or to drive out to the farm to collect their boxes. The farm also sells market shares, which Annie Louise likens to a prepaid phone card but for veggies— customers pay $100, $200, or $300 up front, then get a bonus 5% to spend as they wish over the course of the season at either of the farm’s market booths or its roadside stand. One operation that didn’t see its CSA program benefit from COVID-19 was Colfax Creek Farm, a grass-fed beef and pastured pork and poultry operation practicing regenerative agriculture on land that straddles Rutherford and Polk counties. “When COVID struck, we didn’t know what in the world was going on, and we had standing appointments with processors,” says Aaron Bradley, a fifth-generation Western North Carolina farmer who owns and operates Colfax Creek with his wife, Nicole. The small-scale North Carolina meat processors the Bradleys partner with to ensure humane treatment of their animals became quickly overwhelmed by demand during the early days of the pandemic. Although Bradley was able to find ways to keep working with the processors, he was unwilling to commit to offering a weekly CSA when maintaining a reliable processing schedule was out of his control. At the same time, the farm’s previously robust sales to restaurants plummeted when the local hospitality 66

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photo by Spirit of the Sun Photography (Megan Stewart)


Annie Louise’s family ties to this land are strong. Her mother was born and raised at the historic Sherrill’s Inn just down the road, which her great-grandparents bought and renovated in 1916. Annie Louise’s grandparents operated a dairy there (her grandfather was also a United States Congressman), and her parents bought the house at the end of Flying Cloud’s shady lane back in the 1970s. Her cousin, Jamie Ager, operates the neighboring Hickory Nut Gap Farm ( see Coming home to Roost, p. 78). In the 20 years since the Perkinsons opened the farm stand with an EZ-UP tent and a folding table, it’s become part of the fabric of their little rural community. “It’s always been on the honor system,” says Annie Louise. “I think people really value it. And I think the farm stand gets a very diverse customer base.”

“I think that, especially in Western North Carolina, farm stands are an important vehicle for sales.”

A PIG NAP AT Colfax Creek Farm, photo by Aaron Bradley

industry went into lockdown in mid-March. While those developments seemed dire, Bradley says, sales picked up in other areas. “The butcheries that we work with, they really kept our farm going,” says Bradley. “We’ve been able to sustain the same amount of volume through retail sales, through online sales, and through the butcheries that we work with. So it’s been a big shift from what we’ve been doing. We have less on one end, but more on the other.”

Stand Your Ground The rolling green hills and mountain panorama on the drive to the aptly named Fairview is reason enough for a CSA customer to choose Flying Cloud’s on-farm pickup option. It’s also an excellent excuse to check out Flying Cloud’s charming little roadside stand. On a recent sunny Friday afternoon, a few cars jockeyed for parking space near rows of blueberry bushes flanking one side of the open-air stand, while inside, two shoppers browsed containers of arugula and kale and eyed buckets containing tidy bouquets of pink and yellow flowers. Another claimed a pint box of freshly picked strawberries before tucking some cash inside the enclosed metal payment receptacle and toting her prize to her car.

She notes that being open daily and located near Asheville on a route well-traveled by daytrippers heading to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock helps the stand attract a steady flow of shoppers. And the honor-system model ensures that the only labor involved is in restocking regularly from the walk-in coolers down the lane and keeping the ice supply refreshed in the stand’s displays. She does admit that upon occasion, there are people who don’t honor the honor system. “Last Sunday, all the plants were gone, all the signs, everything. But that’s rare; it doesn’t happen that often. And we also get tips because we don’t give change. I think most people pay,” says Annie Louise. Although the concept of the roadside farm stand may feel quaint and old-fashioned, it’s a viable and efficient modern outlet for marketing fresh produce and food products without the need for transport, extensive packaging, and other considerations. Of the 859 family farms listed in ASAP’s Local Food Guide (which includes WNC and parts of Upstate South Carolina, North Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, and Southwestern Virginia), 216 of them operate some form of roadside stand or farm store, and that number could be growing. “I think that, especially in Western North Carolina, farm stands are an important vehicle for sales,” says CFSA’s McReynolds. “It’s another direct-to-consumer category that folks are seeing increases in and often in tandem with online ordering. So people go and pick how many heads of lettuce or pounds of squash they want, then the farmer packs that and the customer comes out to the farm to pick it up, as opposed to having it delivered to a CSA. People are definitely adapting to models like that.” August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 67


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FARM HERITAGE TR AIL , photo courtesy Buncombe Soil and Water

Pick It Yourself In addition to selling cut flowers at farmers markets and through its farm stand, CSA, and a farm-based floral design venture, the Perkinsons allow customers the idyllic odyssey of wading through the rainbow-colored rows of blooms to choose and cut their own when the fields are producing more flowers than the farm staff can cut. “It’s a nice experience for people,” says Annie Louise. “And they tend to be a little less picky than we are. We pick only the perfect stuff, and the U-pick folks are a little less particular.” At Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard in Henderson County, Mike and Rita Stepp’s whole business model revolves around that pickyour-own experience. Mike’s parents were among the region’s agritourism pioneers when they turned their apple orchard into a U-pick operation in the late 1960s. “Any time you invite visitors onto your farm, it’s considered agritourism. We were doing it before the term was actually coined,” says Mike, who was named the 2019 Apple Farmer of the Year by the N.C. Apple Festival. Welcoming visitors daily mid-August through the end of October, Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard is a working farm of more than 100 acres, offering U-pick Concord-type grapes, sunflowers, and pumpkins in addition to its more than 20 varieties of apples. The operation, with its large apple house, barn, picnic shed, playground, and educational tour area, is impressive, even in the off-season with no cars in the parking 68

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area, no families eating picnics by the playground, no wagon rides, and no guests crowding the neat rows of trees and trellised grapevines on the sprawling acreage. But the business had humble beginnings. “My mom used to come down here with her car, and she’d put a few baskets in the trunk, and she and my grandmother would help each other,” Mike recalls from his seat next to Rita under the shady overhang of the apple house. “Then it picked up, and they built an itty-bitty, 8-by-8 shed with a tin roof, and they worked out of it for a while. Then in ‘74 we built this building, the original part of it, but now it’s about twice as big as it was then.” The business is still very much a family affair. Mike’s father, J.H. Stepp, ran it until he died in 2011 at age 91, then Mike and his sister took ownership with Mike buying out her share in 2014. Mike and Rita’s two adult daughters remain heavily involved in operations, with one employed full-time as its bookkeeper (her husband works full-time on the farm as well). The other daughter lives in Atlanta but travels up on weekends to coordinate the farm’s flower-growing efforts. Three of their grandchildren have grown up at the farm and now, as teenagers, work there, doing their homeschooling during the farm’s off months, so they can be involved with tasks such as cooking apple-cider and pumpkin doughnuts, greeting guests, and operating cash registers when the orchard is open. “We are very blessed to have family. It’s nice to have kids that want to be a part of it,” Mike says, laughing as he remembers


Rita carrying each of the grandchildren around as babies in a backpack as she led school tours. “If we didn’t have family, we might try to do something else, especially at our age. But as long as we have family here, and they enjoy being here, it’s a plus for us because we get to be around them.” The orchard began offering educational school tours for preschool through second grade in the early 2000s, with Rita, a retired teacher, coordinating the curriculum. “We’re all about education, about teaching people about apples and how they grow,” says Rita. The students get get to go on a wagon ride, wander a small corn maze (there’s also a five-acre maze open to regular visitors), pick ¼ peck of apples to take home, and participate in grade-appropriate educational activities about the crops that grow on the farm. “Not only is it beneficial for the children, but the parents come, too, and it’s surprising how much the parents learn while they’re here,” she adds. “And the parents say, ‘Oh, you’ve got an apple cannon? You’ve got a corn maze? We’re coming back!’ So it’s a good promotion for us, too, as well as education.”

photo courtesy Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard

Tour de Force Many farms are finding that hosting school field trips and offering public tours and other agritourism programs, such as U-pick, farm dinners, corn mazes, summer camps, lodging, event venue rental, and workshops, can add a valuable income stream to their businesses. More than 450 farms in ASAP’s Local Food Guide list some kind of agritourism activity, and in ASAP’s annual producer survey, farms that include agritourism components report that they account for an average 25% of their revenue. “That’s been a major form of diversification for small farms over the past few years, whether it’s a farm stay or glamping or school groups or on-farm educational opportunities,” says CFSA’s McReynolds. “Those have been really important for farms in terms of monetizing the aspects that they have and having more contact with and getting more revenue in more ways from consumers.” But he notes that with the spring’s stay-at-home orders and new social distancing requirements, many agritourism initiatives took a major hit, including the nascent efforts at Colfax Creek Farm. “2020 was kind of the year of agritourism for us at Colfax Creek,” says Bradley. “We had been

photo courtesy Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

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to North Carolina’s flourishing o t The seed that sprouted and grew into Western farm-to-table dining scene was planted in the OTMark Rosenstein when he opened the Frog & Owl Café in Highlands with a menuTOfirmly rooted in the early 1970s by chef bounty of nearby farms. In 1979 Rosenstein brought his farm-to-fork ethos to Asheville with his second venture, The Market Place restaurant. Forty-one years later, The Market Place still nurtures strong relationships with local growers to offer fresh, seasonal cuisine under the guidance of owner and executive chef William Dissen, who bought the business in 2009. And the farm-to-table philosophy Rosenstein fostered has become a cornerstone concept among WNC chefs and restaurateurs. m ge

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arugula. The chef also pairs Shoemaker’s tomatoes with fresh peaches, burrata cheese, N Another Western Nor th Carolina farmand pistachio pistou for a sweet and savory S S Much of the produce OG T FARM FLAVORS: GN E H used UTO T REDN to-table pioneer, multiple James Beard U N D E R T H E treat bursting with summertime flavors. at Copper Crown is grown at Ten Mile Farm Foundation Award nominee John Fleer in Old Fort, and almost all the mushrooms 401 N. Main St., Hendersonville nourishes deep connections with area used at the restaurant, as well as some postero-hvl.com SRwho ATS are EHthe T REfoundation DNU GNINID DINING UNDER THE STARS farmers and foragers cress, mache, and persimmons, are from of the modern Appalachian fare he offers in Morningstar Farms in Fairview. Both growers Asheville at Rhubarb and its sister bakery and canyon kitchen are highlighted in two summery dishes: café, The Rhu. In 2018 he opened Benne on roasted shiitake mushrooms with broccoli, After John Fleer spent 14 years honing his Eagle in Asheville’s historic African American blackened tofu, and chimichurri, and Hickory approach to crafting world-class cuisine from neighborhood, The Block, partnering with Nut Gap Farm pork cheek and ricotta ravioli local ingredients at Tennessee’s renowned rising superstar chef Ashleigh Shanti and with charred Ten Mile Farm scallions and Blackberry Farm resort, he moved to Western local culinary legend Hanan Shabazz to Morningstar shiitakes. North Carolina, where he opened Canyon honor Southern African American culinary Kitchen in the Lonesome Valley residential traditions with dishes that tap local farms 1011 Tunnel Road, Asheville farm community in 2009 near Cashiers. Fleer for ingredients. coppercrownavl.com left Canyon Kitchen in 2015 to focus on his Asheville businesses, and today, chef Ken FARM FLAVORS: Oxtail for the oxtail and postero Naron helms the restaurant, which boasts rice and sirloin for Benne on Eagle’s popular strollable gardens, orchards, and meadows Smashburger come from Hickor y Nut In Hendersonville New American cuisine around the renovated barn that serves as its Gap Farm in Fairview. Farm and Sparrow, grounded in the flavors of WNC products can stunning open-air dining room. an Asheville-based mill and seed project be found at Postero, where owners Stephanie dedicated to preserving American landrace and Jason Reasoner cultivate partnerships FARM FLAVORS: Naron works closely grains, is the source for the menu’s soup with several local and regional farms. with Lonesome Valley’s own farmer, Doug beans, stone-milled grits, and oatmeal, as well Lanning, and other nearby growers, including FARM FLAVORS: Chef Jason’s charcuterie as the crowder peas and black soybeans used Carringer Farms in Franklin. Savor Carringer and farmstead cheese board offers a tasty to make the restaurant's vegan burger. Farms’ lettuces and sugar snap peas in a tour of local farms and creameries with salad with South Carolina peaches, North 35 Eagle St., Asheville seasonal fruits, house-cured pork loin from Carolina pickled strawberries, and smoked benneoneagle.com Hickory Nut Gap Farm, and cheeses from feta with a feta-white balsamic vinaigrette. Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview and other Yellow squash from the Canyon Kitchen nearby producers. The exceptional heirloom copper crown garden pairs in a dish with cast-iron roasted tomatoes grown by former plant pathologist scallops, herb butter, seared fennel, and In the shady corner of a shopping center near Paul Shoemaker at Holly Spring Farm in Benton’s bacon gremolata. the Blue Ridge Parkway in East Asheville, Mills River are marinated and showcased in Copper Crown owners, Kate and Adam a dish that also includes wild-caught North 150 Lonesome Valley Road, Sapphire Bannasch work with anumber of area Carolina amberjack with lemon-thyme butter, lonesomevalley.com • farms to source the ingredients that drive horseradish creme fraiche, soft herbs, and

benne on eagle

chef Adam’s high-quality but casual New American-style dishes.

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OLIVIA SANDERS, photo courtesy Soil Shine Farm & Ferments

photo courtesy Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

YANCEY COUNTY FARMERS MARKET, photo courtesy Cheri Lee

working with a lot of different partners to offer quite a few things throughout the year. But we’re not sure we’re comfortable with doing that at this point.” He lists a series of on-farm dinners, quarterly public farm tours, a summer camp for elementary and middle school students, and school-year classes and activities for students in local agricultural education programs among the many agritourism initiatives the farm had scheduled for this year. “Some things are still in play, but we’re not nearly at the capacity we were hoping. Right now, it’s kind of a ‘wait and see what happens’ kind of thing,” he says. But planned events and initiatives aside, the Bradleys love to welcome guests to the farm to see the pastures and forests, where the Angus cattle, Berkshire hogs, and broiler chickens graze and forage freely and learn about the chemical-free, nutrient-cycling methods the farm employs to build soil health and create a balanced ecosystem. Customers who buy meat from Colfax Creek’s online shop can opt to pick up their purchase at either the Hendersonville Farmers Market or Columbus Farmers Market or head out to the farm, where social distancing is facilitated by the wide open spaces. “That’s probably our favorite thing,” says Bradley. “When people come out here for a farm tour or to pick up, they look around a little bit and start to ask questions and develop an understanding of [how our food is produced].” Tiny Bridge Farm also had to hit the pause button on its agritourism dreams for the time being. Before the pandemic, Whaley and Graves were planning to build a large barn on their property with an apartment and a brick oven for Whaley, who is a trained artisan bread baker. “We were going to be able to offer farm stays in the apartment as well as workshops and retreats for small groups,” Whaley says. “We still want to do that, and I think we’ll still move forward, but it’s just a matter of watching the financial economy and seeing when it’s time to jump into that.” Local organizations—including ASAP, the Organic Growers School, and the NC Foothills Farm Tour—offer food and agriculture enthusiasts a chance to peek behind the scenes for hands-on experiences at multiple area farms through organized annual tours that feature options to participate in workshops and family-friendly activities, observe demonstrations, pet farm animals, enjoy meals, buy products, and more. This year, most of these offerings have been postponed or are switching to virtual models, but the opportunities are still there to learn from and connect with growers and their practices. ASAP’s annual Farm Tour, originally scheduled for June, highlights a rotating variety of fruit and vegetable operations, creameries, vineyards, fiber farms, and more that are within an hour’s drive of Asheville. The organization has postponed this year’s event until farms can safely welcome large numbers of visitors. “We are hoping to reschedule in the fall, but are still waiting to see how reopening phases play out across the region,” says Hart. “In the meantime, we are working on producing several virtual farm tour experiences for kids and families this summer.” August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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About 20 farms in Rutherford and Polk counties, including Colfax Creek Farm, opened their land and buildings to visitors in June 2019 for the inaugural NC Foothills Farm Tour, but this year’s event is going virtual. “We are gathering responses now of interest from farmers and plan on promoting the Farm Tour over a couple months with each farm being highlighted for a week at a time,” explains organizer Erica Shanks, farm and community relations assistant for Polk County Agricultural Economic Development. Although the Organic Growers School’s year-long WNC Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) is primarily aimed at aspiring commercial growers, the program offers a Friend of CRAFT membership for the public that includes on-site tours of a diverse range of area farms. Scheduled once or twice monthly April through October, these tours form the core of the curriculum, providing an overview of each featured operation along with educational talks on specific topics. This year CRAFT has transitioned to online platforms to help farms maintain their COVID-19 safety protocols. “We’re trying to be flexible with the way the virtual events work and

letting the farm hosts decide what feels comfortable for them,” says OGS Executive Director Cameron Farlow. That could look like a prerecorded video of the farm tour and discussion or live Zoom events with panels of farmers. CRAFT members can also communicate directly with farmers via an active listserv and have access to the school’s online WNC Farming Handbook. For a less structured way to soak in the beauty of Blue Ridge farmland and interact with local growers and food artisans, it’s always an option to hit the trails—specifically, the Farm Heritage Trail and WNC Cheese Trail. The Farm Heritage Trail, which recently received a 2020 National Association of Counties Achievement Award, is a choose-your-own-adventure driving route offering stunning views of the small farming communities of Alexander, Leicester, Newfound, and Sandy Mush in Buncombe County. The leisurely two-hour drive showcases conserved, family-owned farms growing everything from fruit and vegetables to hemp, herbs, and even bison. Many of the farms, such as Carolina Bison and Addison Farms Vineyards, offer tours of their operations, while Sycamore Valley Farms has its own country store stocked with fresh-from-the-farm produce, meats, cheeses, honey, and other locally grown products.

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The WNC Cheese Trail, which hosts the Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest in Asheville each summer, curates a map and guide for connecting directly with local artisan producers of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk cheese, from Heritage Homestead Dairy in Ashe County to Yellow Branch Cheese and Pottery near Robbinsville. Members

engagement and communication with growers is key, says the CFSA’s McReynolds. “Consumer interest, especially in western parts of North Carolina, is very strongly focused on sustainability and not having pesticides and not purchasing from [concentrated animal feeding]-type operations,” he says. “I think farmers in that region have responded to the customers’ interests. Be willing to talk to your farmer about their practices, how they raise what they grow, and how they’re taking care of the environment.” Farmers agree. “I think meeting and knowing the people who are growing your food really changes how you interact with food,” says Whaley of Tiny Bridge Farm. “The corporate model doesn’t work perfectly, and chain disruption is something that can happen at any moment. We knew that for several decades now, which is why we’re doing what we do, and so many other farmers are doing it for the same reasons, so I encourage folks to know their farmers.”

“Be willing to talk to your farmer about their practices, how they raise what they grow, and how they’re taking care of the environment.” offer tastings and tours of their facilities during specific hours set by each farm or by appointment. However consumers decide to connect with Western North Carolina-grown products, whether through tailgate markets, online shops, CSAs, or right on the farm, direct

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Ahead of Its Time los angeles , california

Seven years ago, Arthur Kreitenberg, an orthopedic surgeon by trade, developed a machine for disinfecting planes. It started with a cart that could be pushed like beverage service down the aisle, and it had two arms that would extend over the seats to zap them with ultraviolet light. The treatment would take about ten minutes and cost about $10 per plane. He tested it on airplane seats purchased from the junkyard, and, with his son, Elliot, he traveled to about 20 trade shows to no effect. Then, as the COVID-19 crisis hit, the Kreitenbergs offered to donate their machine to Los Angeles International Airport; the airport accepted, and the story made cable television news. That attracted the attention of Honeywell, which has

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now contracted for over 100 units for global distribution by the end of July, with ramped-up production to follow. While what is now called the Honeywell UV Cabin System cannot reach down in crevices or prevent person-to-person transmission, Kreitenberg says it does eliminate germs and viruses on surfaces. Having also invented the UV disinfecting system used on balls in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Kreitenberg is setting his sights on applications for classrooms and other high-traffic settings.

Miracle Growing marysville, ohio

S c o t t s M i r a c l e - G r o C o m p a ny announced the launch of a $50 million venture capital fund, 1868 Ventures (named

for the year they were founded). The company, famous for its soil enrichment products, is working with Touchdown Ventures for management of the fund. The investment fund will support ideas Scotts can either buy, sell, or support with its institutional knowledge, whether from a biochemical or business angle. Ideas must be innovations for home or professional gardeners who are already demonstrating strong sales. Funds will also be reserved for ideas that could grow even more with a second round of funding. The company has particular interest in innovations in automation for greenhouse climate control, advances in plant genetics, new formulations for pesticides and fertilizer, more sustainable manufacturing and distribution processes, and advanced analytics for tracking consumers of lawn and garden products. Awards will be given to North American businesses and run around $250,000 to $2.5 million.

Making Paper atlanta , georgia

Georgia Public Broadcasting Education and the Georgia Forestry Foundation have put together a new educational game called Make That Paper: Careers

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in Forestry. The game teaches the player about working forests and job opportunities in the field. Using a digital format, it simulates professional conversations through an email inbox. The player is given an instruction sheet for roleplaying a manager in three different career tracks. The manager’s first job in each scenario is to hire an employee. Cover letters and resumes for three candidates are presented, putting the manager in the position of weighing the advantages and appropriateness of the strengths of each applicant. Other activities teach how to maintain sustainable forest ecosystems while conducting efficient timber harvests by presenting industry-related dilemmas and advice from subject-matter experts. The game will be integrated into GPB Education’s Virtual Learning Journey exploring forestry, and it will be aligned with educational attainment goals for prior grades.

The Final Mulsanne crewe, england

The last Bentley Mulsanne has rolled off the line. In a class only with RollsRoyce for luxury coaches, Bentley launched the Mulsanne line in Pebble Beach, California, in 2009. With only a

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few minor adjustments, for more speed and design refreshes, 7,300 Mulsannes were sold until the rose gold and tungsten model ended the era. The 6.75 liter, V8 edition by Mulliner was the 30th in a limited edition and built for an undisclosed buyer. Bentley reported that, during the years of production, over 700 employees invested three million hours in the Mulsanne’s production process, another one million hours creating the interiors, and another 90,000 hours polishing the vehicles. Bentley is saying its Flying Spur will be its new flagship model, but industry analysts are speculating Bentley’s Bentayga SUV has a greater chance of filling that role.

Less Demand washington, d.c.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, oil and gas production continued to break new records in the country as the number of oil and gas rigs decreased. In 2019 crude oil was produced at an average rate of 12.2 million barrels per day; natural gas, 111.5 billion cubic feet per day. Active rigs averaged 943 per month as 1,400 new wells were drilled per month, both counts among the lowest they’ve been in

national & world news

45 years. The increase in production was attributed to efficiency gains from horizontal drilling. Over the last 20 years, the average length of horizontal wells expanded from 10,000 feet to 18,000 feet; and, since 1990, the lateral wells went from 2% of United States drillings to 75%. The first part of 2020, however, is different. Reduced demand resulting from global shutdowns has caused the number of active rigs in the country to decline. This, combined with lower oil prices, is not boding well for the industry.

Silver Lining north stonington, connecticut

Michael Carroll was training on his bicycle for a street race, which was part of his senior project at Wheeler High School, when he was struck by a vehicle. Carroll recounts the driver kept repeating that they did not see him. He was making a left turn at dusk, and he had lights and reflectors on the front of his bike, but there was nothing to make him visible from the side, where the vehicle impacted. Carroll was thrown from his bike, sustaining minor injuries, and his bicycle was destroyed. Rather than dropping his senior project, he elected another line of inquiry: making side lights

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for bicycles. Carroll’s faculty advisor said his student handled the research and development independently and then proceeded to design engineering. The invention consists of a series of LED strips connected to a battery that switches on when the seat cushion is depressed. Carroll describes the development stage as arduous but says he could probably make another one in just 30 minutes. In the meantime, he wants to tinker with the concept to see if he can come up with something he wants to market.

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Reuters is optimistic the United States Treasury Department will open its books to disclose the recipients of larger loans from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). From the onset, there were complaints about lack of program oversight, confusing paperwork, computer glitches, and banks moving preferred customers to the front of the line for first-comefirst-served awards. Without disclosing a timeline, the Treasury agreed to bedspread material make public the names of all businesses receiving PPP loans of at least $150,000, as well as their addresses and the amounts received. While the high-dollar recipients collected 75% of funds disbursed, they only received 15% of the 4.7 million loans issued. The government watchdog group Public Citizen claims there was plenty of room for “waste, mismanagement, abuse, and corruption” in the structuring and administration of the program. The National Federation of Independent Business is opposed to the release, citing concerns about confidentiality.

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Well-Manicured Biz philadelphia , pennsylvania

Business has been great for Keesha Brown’s mini-nail salon on wheels. 76

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Launched in February, Last Minute Nails soon became the only nail salon open in town. A licensed cosmetologist, Brown purchased an old paratransit bus for $7,500, and she invested another $3,000 in conversions. It was painted an elegant golden bronze on the outside and hot magenta on the inside. Navy velour salon chairs replaced the old seating, and dark imitation wood flooring, floral wallpaper, and a black chandelier completed the look. Brown now takes the bus on-location to customers who must wear a mask, and she sanitizes and disinfects her tools and equipment between uses. Brown says business went up even more when recent protests spurred people to be more supportive of black-owned businesses. The greatest boost, however, came from a Facebook post shared by a neighbor of one of her clients. The photo was shared 12,000 times, generating 800 phone inquiries the first day and 1,000 the next.

Title 13 phoenix, arizona

Trevor Milton is Arizona’s newest billionaire. He’s the founder and executive chairman of Nikola Corporation, a manufacturer of zero-emission heavy trucks powered by batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells are preferable to batteries as alternatives to traditional vehicle engines because, among other things, they output more horsepower, have zero toxic emissions, don’t require lengthy charging times, have longer ranges, and weigh considerably less. Last year, Nikola received a $1.7 million grant from the United States Department of Energy for accelerating disruptive fuel cell research. Then, last month, the 38-year-old entrepreneur’s company raised $700 million in its initial public offering. Milton currently employs 350, half of whom are transplants from Detroit’s auto industry, in a research and development center just south of Sky Harbor Airport. Milton’s future plans include breaking ground

for a manufacturing facility in Coolidge and growing employment to 2,000. He is also in negotiations with Iveco to set up a truck manufacturing facility in Germany. Another project will be constructing hydrogen fueling stations throughout the United States.

Up in the Air the hague, the netherlands

The Dutch government has agreed to pay KLM, the subsidiary of Air France serving that country, a $3.8 billion bailout. The funds, to be paid in loans from a consortium of 11 banks, are expected to be sufficient for KLM to continue smooth operations into 2021, but more would be made available if necessary. The Netherlands and France have been in negotiations for months over how to divide responsibility for the airline’s losses during the COVID-19 shutdown, losses expected to impact the industry for years. As part of the deal, the Dutch government will appoint a non-voting overseer to KLM’s board to ensure Dutch subsidies are used only to benefit Dutch air travel. The aid package also requires KLM to cut costs by 15% and reduce pilot pay up to 20%. Air France has already agreed to cut its workforce by 20%, eliminating 8,000–10,000 jobs. Terms the Dutch government wanted that will likely not be part of the deal include fewer night flights, the elimination of executive bonuses, a suspension of dividend payments, and a 50% reduction of the airline’s carbon footprint by 2030.

TikTok for Business beijing, china

TikTok for Business is now available. While advertisements have been a part of TikTok for some time, they had to be negotiated through a representative with a signed inclusion order—just to run a beta ad. By way of contrast, the new TikTok for Business provides a portal so commercial content posters

can manage their own advertisements. Businesses have five choices for ads: (1) top views that open with sound and a full screen and can play for up to 60 seconds; (2) brand takeovers that display jpgs for three seconds or videos for up to five seconds; (3) in-feeds that appear in the “For You” part of the app, run up to 60 seconds, and allow viewers to like, share, follow, and more; (4) branded hashtag challenges that invite other users to make their own ads to push a product or a cause for three to six days; and (5) branded effects that, like Snapchat’s lenses, apply effects, filters, and stickers in an augmented reality field of view. Advertising packages start at $20 per day.

An Eephus Season pittsburgh, pennsylvania

At the beginning of the baseball season, the Pittsburgh Pirates organization announced layoffs in business operations. A couple dozen positions were affected by 5%-25% pay cuts or furloughs, but the exact number was not made public. Layoffs affected some department heads and were in the areas of business analytics, ticket sales, and hospitality. Fellowship and internship programs were suspended, and some executives took voluntary pay cuts. Last fall, Travis Williams was named the Pirates’ new president, and he and a new leadership team were expected to restructure the organization to help manage stadium debt, even though Forbes ranked the Pirates’ debt-to-value ratio eleventh in Major League Baseball the year before. The downsizing was induced by the suspension of the baseball season, with ticket sales alone typically accounting for 40% of the team’s revenues. Persons laid off will be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits, and they will carry their health insurance, with the organization covering employee contributions for another six months.

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AGER FAMILY (L-R) Nolin, Jamie, Cyrus, Levi, and Amy

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Coming HOME

TO

Roost

The Latest Generation of Hickory Nut Gap Farmers Carries on the Family Legacy Through Modern Ventures

written by emily gl aser photos by evan anderson

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uddy faced, apple cheeked, and constitutionally jovial, Jamie Ager is lacking only the archetypal overalls and a chewed sheath of wheat tucked between his teeth to complete the vision of the prototypical farmer. He runs his hands across the plumes and panicles of early summer grasses which dance to the swishing tune of the their own strings, plucked by a June breeze, and the gentle cluck of grazing chickens behind him. “This is ideal pasture,” Jamie says, his gesture sweeping across the acreage. He points out varietals in the sea of knee-high green—brome, ryegrass, crabgrass, yellow dock—and, as if on cue, plucks a shoot and tucks its damp tip between his lips. Despite the delicious tinge of stereotype, to paint Jamie as a mere caricature of a farmer would be a compromise of the complexities he, and his family’s ventures, embody. There’s Hickory Nut Gap Farm, the ranging Fairview valley where Ager and his wife, Amy, are now raising a fifth generation of agronomists and connecting to the community through agriculture; Hickory Nut Gap Meats, the cooperative of grass-fed focused farmers spearheaded by the Agers that grew out of their own regenerative farming efforts; and the Agers themselves, all of which represent a disarming confluence of tradition and modernity. Jamie knows the creek-studded acres of the farm as intimately as his family’s own multigenerational mythology, the two inseparably entwined, and he is driven by the same ethos as his great-grandfather, that of providing a system of sustainable and profitable capitalism for his agricultural peers—but the tools with which he achieves these goals are decked in multisyllabic trappings of the 21st century, like biodiversity, rotational grazing, and regenerative farming. It’s this deft balancing act—industriousness and innovation, old school and new science—that’s earned Jamie Ager a place as the poster child of modern, small-scale farming in Western North Carolina and beyond. In marketing campaigns for Whole Foods and segments for UNC-TV, Jamie’s Fairview twang narrates the story of Hickory Nut Gap, its bucolic pastoralness irresistible to content creators looking to capitalize on a growing interest in slow food and sustainable agriculture. But while he plays the part of the typical farmer with instinctive ease, Jamie’s business models, and the meticulous entrepreneurial acumen and compassionate humanity with which he and Amy deploy them, are anything but. 80

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JAMIE WALKS ALONG a creek on the farm.


L: James Clarke, Jamie Ager’s grandfather. R: Apple picking with the boys. Young Jamie McClure is the second from the lef t, photos cour tesy Hickor y Nut Gap

First Generation The narrative of starry-eyed and naive city dwellers seeking a simpler life and settling in the Blue Ridge is a common one these days, their accounts of hapless homesteading recorded on blogs and shared in countless farmers market booths on Saturday mornings. But long before urban ex-pats arrived en masse in our mountains to try their hand at farming, armed with online courses and a prolific web of regional resources, Jamie Ager’s ancestors, Jim and Elizabeth McClure, did it first. The newlyweds—she an artist recently returned from Giverny, where she and her classmates would watch Claude Monet paint haystacks in the fields; he a Yale seminary graduate and Presbyterian minister—drove south from Chicago on their 1916 honeymoon, and on their travels they found, fell in love with, and emigrated to Hickory Nut Gap. The long, sleek lines of their Hudson must have seemed at odds with the rugged curves of the mountains, as did the McClures themselves—well-educated and high-minded and, with the exception of some youthful gambols on Western ranches, possessing no agricultural experience—but the couple bore an intuitive, if impulsive, passion for this place: the verdant, fluorescent valley where they started their farm; Sherrills Inn where they made their home, a former respite for hog drovers fattening their pigs

on chestnut mast on their route to the Piedmont markets; and their neighbors, subsistence farmers hard hit by the resounding economic repercussions of the Reconstruction. “The post-Civil War economic doldrums hit the South till about the ‘20s,” Jamie Ager explains, his feet planted firmly in the soil his great-grandfather once tilled. The South had agricultural heritage, but the Southern Appalachians had less heritage, so subsistence farming was essentially the way of life.” With the youthful optimism born of privilege and education, Jim McClure envisioned a new path to economic prosperity for the farmers of Western North Carolina, a community in which he suddenly found and counted himself. “Because he was a minister, he could go around to churches and preach, and because he had gone to Yale, he had an education and a connection to more sophisticated money and ideas and people,” Jamie says of his great-grandfather. With these skills, Jim McClure founded the Farmers Federation in 1920, a cooperative organization that cultivated the infrastructure, markets, and resources the farmers of Western North Carolina needed to scale beyond subsistence. The Farmers Federation quickly expanded across the region, establishing new physical infrastructure for the agricultural community, like feed and seed stores and a hatchery, and resources, like an informational news-sheet and quality seeds, August 2020 | capitalatplay.com

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THE FARM STORE is tucked in among grazing fields and orchards.

that allowed farmers to transition from producing for themselves to producing for their community. Jamie explains, “I think the primary motivation for him was that you could actually create markets that would put dollars in people’s pockets and not just kind of put a ham up for the winter and survive.” With the tools to scale production, better selling prices and marketing systems, and more dependable markets, McClure helped his farming peers make a living off their land. The work of McClure and the Farmers Federation coincided with an unprecedented surge of scientific innovations in agriculture. “The USDA was trying to implement science and use these tools of modernity to help drive production and ultimately drive people to stay in business farming,” Jamie adds. The confluence of technological and scientific innovation and the fortification of complementary support systems ushered in a new era for regional farmers that Jamie refers to as the “heyday of rural America.” It was into this period of agricultural economic success that the second generation of Jamie’s ancestors stepped: Elspeth, the McClure’s daughter, met and married Jamie Clarke; like her parents before her, the newlyweds returned to Hickory Nut Gap to work on the land and for the Federation. (Jamie McClure, the McClure’s son and Elspeth’s brother, died in WWII.) Jamie Clarke, a Princeton graduate and WWII veteran, shared his father-in-law’s penchant for grandiose but implementable change; in addition to his work with the Farmers Federation, he also held appointments as the editor of the 82

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Asheville Citizen-Times, vice president of Warren Wilson College, and as a senator in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the aggregation and expansion of the industry which had proved such a boon for regional farmers and their Federation was also the instigator of their undoing; with the continued concentration of agriculture, Jamie says, cooperatives became less relevant as farmers once again struggled to pull a profit from soils dominated by an increasingly corporate agricultural system. The Farmers Federation, a vestige of McClure’s conception, merged with peer organizations in the ‘60s, and the family farms around Western North Carolina, including Hickory Nut Gap, decreased or even ceased production. (For further reading on the work of Jim McClure, consider We Plow God’s Fields: The Life of James G.K. McClure by John Ager.)

Next Generation While the vision of Jim McClure’s Farmers Federation and the infrastructure it built through the mid-century disbanded, the ideas that drove it continued on in his descendants, first in the Clarkes, then in their eight children—including Jamie Ager’s parents, Annie Clarke and her husband, John Ager—and then in the broods of grandchildren to come after them, like Jamie and his three brothers. “I feel like conversations I had around the dinner table shaped me and gave me the perspective that we have today that’s a more thoughtful, idealistic approach to building a better


system, as opposed to just kind of working the system the best way that you can,” Ager postulates, his eyes raised to the ceiling of a barn built by his aunts and uncles. The legacy begun by McClure 100 years ago, one of bird’s eye perspectives, trickle-down change, and implementing sustainable systems designed to benefit the whole, continued to define the extended Hickory Nut Gap family through Jamie’s formative years (as well as his dual ventures today). “There’s an ethic of leadership there that, once you are raised in it, you see the world from that viewpoint.” While his ancestors experienced and even initiated an agricultural renaissance in Western North Carolina, Jamie Ager was born into its aftermath. The dairy industry, made vibrant by technological innovations like stainless steel and refrigeration in the first half of the century, evaporated from the region, and in 1991 Jamie’s parents sold the dairy farm which, up until then, had been the most lucrative arm of their multigenerational enterprise. Through the ‘90s, when Jamie was a teen, Hickory Nut Gap Farm hitched forward with his mother at the helm, more familial hobby than profitable enterprise. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh yeah, come back and make a living on the farm.’ It was more like, ‘This is a good way to raise boys, and teach them how to work, and do all that,’” Ager laughs, his voice turning gravelly as he flexes his arm with cinematic machismo, “which was cool. And I loved it.” So when he enrolled at Warren Wilson College, it wasn’t exactly with the intent of a career on the family farm. But the school’s legacy of agriculture and early adoption of innovative concepts like environmental studies and sustainable agricultural roused Jamie’s interest; paired with the influence of cousin Annie Louise Perkinson of Flying Cloud Farm (see Land of Plenty, p. 58), who introduced him to concepts like organic farming, which she was implementing on her neighboring land, and a visit to Joel Salatin’s grass-based and regenerative Polyface Farm in Virginia, the future of farming suddenly seemed a lot brighter. At Warren Wilson, Jamie met Amy Frey, a Louisville, Kentucky, transplant whose path paralleled his own: she, too, was descended from a long line of agronomists and was pursuing environmental studies. Amy’s great-grandfather was a potato and strawberry farmer, and while her dad had memories of pulling mud-caked roots from the ground, Amy grew up largely off the land and instead developed an entrepreneurial mindset from a young age through youthful ventures like babysitting and lemonade stands. In college Amy put her entrepreneurial instincts to work and developed the college farm’s direct marketing program; she worked with the processors, customers, and school to streamline a process for selling the meats from the on-site farm’s livestock. The chops Amy earned through that process were directly applicable to the senior project she shared with Jamie, a two credit course in which they created a business plan for his family farm. They analyzed the double ledger financials his mother had been keeping and assessed what programs were and weren’t working and then added to their business plan the ideas around pasture-raised meats Jamie had learned in working with Joel Salatin. When the couple graduated from Warren Wilson in 2000, like his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents before him, Jamie and

AMY AGER

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Amy decamped to the hills of Hickory Nut Gap. Jamie moved into the Big House—Sherrills Inn—with Elspeth (“Granny” to the Agers) and Amy into the springhouse behind it, where the duo conceptualized their earliest iteration of Hickory Nut Gap’s path forward using the business plan they’d developed in school. Jamie and Amy’s approach—pasture-raised, grass-fed meats— was the first of its kind in Western North Carolina, but that also meant they were the first to establish the systems and markets to support such a venture. That first year, Amy designed brochures on a desktop in the springhouse, and Jamie distributed them to folks he knew around Asheville. “It was kind of piecemeal, ad hoc,” Jamie says, but they managed to sell some 300 chickens and 60 turkeys, plus beef cows and hogs.

“We were one of the first people ever to go to a farmers market [with meat] in the state of North Carolina. There weren’t really rules around how you did it.” It was in their second year, 2001—the same year they married—that the Agers expanded their business model into a consequential segment: farmers markets. “We were one of the first people ever to go to a farmers market [with meat] in the state of North Carolina. There weren’t really rules around how you did it, we were just like, ‘I’m bringing in a cooler, we’ll see what happens,’” Jamie remembers with a laugh. Selling their meats at farmers markets provided the Agers with the kind of brand and conceptual exposure they needed to propel Hickory Nut Gap to commercial success. “Slowly but surely, we just kept growing,” he continues. In the following years, they upgraded the infrastructure of the farm, 84

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Life after Tobacco

ust as when Jim McClure arrived in Western North Carolina with big ideas on how to improve the lot of his fellow farming man, so did Jamie’s entree to the scene coincide with a serendipitous downturn in an industry that’s notoriously difficult to prosper in, even in the best of times.

urged farmers to “get big or get out,” small farmers have been forced to commercialize or expire. The exception, regionally, was the tobacco industry: “You could make fifteen, twenty thousand dollars on ten acres of land if you worked hard. That’s real money,” Jamie notes. “And that’s gone.”

“The economics of production agriculture have always been tricky and remain so. It’s a hard business to be in. There’s weather, there’s market fluctuations, there’s so many parts of agriculture that make it a tough business to really make big money,” Jamie explains. Since Earl Butz, secretary of the United States Depar tment of Agriculture under President Nixon, famously and repeatedly

In 2004—just as the Agers were ramping up their adaptations to the modern agricultural system—President George W. Bush released the Tobacco Transition Payment Program, or the “tobacco buyout,” which deregulated United States tobacco production and provided tobacco farmers with a series of ten-year payments for tobacco that were divvied via a quota system. When the final

payments went out in 2014, small farmers needed to turn to new ventures, and the Agers were there with the answer: grassfed beef and pasture-raised pork brought up sustainably. “I would say the majority of our hog partnerships are former tobacco growers,” Jamie says. “Now they can grow corn, and they can feed that to hogs. And they can make money on their corn.” The plight—or strength—of the farmer has always been adaptability, and in pivoting to Hickory Nut Gap’s wholesale model, former tobacco farmers have found a new (and maybe even long-term) solution. •

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1834

1865–1916

Bedford Sherrill builds Sherrills Inn as a stopover for hog drovers herding pigs south en route from Asheville to the Piedmont.

Reconstruction deals a tough hand across the South, including the onceprosperous farming industry of Western North Carolina.

1918

Starry-eyed Chicagoans and honeymooners Jim and Elizabeth McClure arrive, fall in love with, and emigrate to Hickory Nut Gap and Sherrills Inn.

On April 30th, 1918, Jim McClure holds the first official meeting of the Hickory Nut Gap Farm Company (HNG).

1991

1982

1970s

The dairy farm, HNG’s primary production arm since the ‘40s, is sold, as are most small dairy farms across the region.

Following stints as the editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times and Vice President of Warren Wilson College, Jamie Clarke is elected to represent District 11 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Annie, one of the Clarke’s eight children, settles on the farm with husband John Ager to raise their four boys— Doug, Jamie, Kevin, and Eric—after marrying in 1971.

1996

2000

2001

Jamie Ager attends Warren Wilson College, where he begins studying sustainable agriculture and meets Amy Frey.

College grads Jamie and Amy return to HNG and start Spring House Meats, the earliest iteration of Hickory Nut Gap Meats, selling grass-fed chickens, turkeys, beef cows, and hogs.

Jamie and Amy marry and expand their vision for HNG’s meat production, selling at farmers markets and to regional restaurants as the local food movement begins.

2020

2017

HNG Meats now works with over 80 farmers across the Southeast.

HNG Meats develops a strategy to scale the pasture-raised and 100% grass-fed meats supply chain.

expanded farmers market distribution, converted the dairy milking parlor into their first farm store for customers to pick up orders, and undertook their first restaurant partnerships. “I remember going downtown and finally selling John Stehling, who used to run Early Girl Eatery; he started buying 30 pounds of hamburger a week, and I couldn’t believe it!” Jamie grins. When the original farm store caught fire in 2004, just months after the birth of their first son, Cyrus, the Agers decided to rebuild, essentially affirming their decision to continue in agricultural retail, which would eventually expand to include a notable agritourism effort. Theirs is a lineage prone to timely serendipity, and Hickory Nut Gap’s emergence into pasture-raised meats aligned with 86

1916

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2015 HNG Meats, dedicated to producing 100% grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork through regenerative farming across a multi-state region,

splits financially from HNG Farm. Jamie and Amy build a kitchen and butchery addition to the Farm Store, creating an in-house butcher shop.

a series of events and ideological shifts that enabled their venture to scale exponentially. In the mid-aughts, concepts like local, grass-fed, and organic began to gain traction in national conversations about food, bolstered by cultural and investigative darlings like Michael Pollan’s 2006 text The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the 2009 documentary Food, Inc.. Natural grocers like Earth Fare and Whole Foods and seasonally minded restaurants clambered to satiate the growing hunger for buzzwordy purveyors; Hickory Nut Gap was there to fill that need. When Greenlife (now Whole Foods) opened in 2005, they tapped Hickory Nut Gap to fill their meat case with locally raised, grass-fed meats. To meet the rising demand, the


1920

1930s

1940s

Jim McClure founds and leads the Farmers Federation, a co-op dedicated to providing a stable living to WNC farmers through resources and infrastructure.

The Farmers Federation grows into a successful organization with chapters throughout the region, bolstered by technological advances introduced to agriculture.

After W WII, innovations in the dairy industry, like stainless steel and refrigeration, bore a new, sustainable livelihood for local dairy farmers.

1960s

1950s

1942

The rise of corporate farming places economic hardships on small farmers, leading to the disbandment of the Farmers Federation.

Elspeth and Jamie Clarke raise eight children, as well as apples, beef cattle, and dairy cattle, on HNG Farm.

The McClures’ daughter, Elspeth, marries Jamie Clarke in Charleston and brings him back to Hickory Nut Gap, where he begins work with the Farmers Federation.

2005 Jamie meets Sam Dobson, a dairy farmer from Iredell County, who becomes the first partner farmer in the HNG aggregate model and, eventually, leads

2006

the business’ Farmer Relations. HNG begins distributing through grocery stores, launching the wholesale operations that now define the company.

HNG Farm inaugurates its agritourism efforts like the corn maze and pumpkin patch and expands others like the farm store, which was built using poplar trees from the land.

2014

2011

2008

John Ager, Jamie’s father, is elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives for District 115, a seat he maintains today.

Jamie and Amy Ager earn the NC Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award.

The descendants of Jamie and Elspeth Clarke — the Clarke, Ager, and Hamilton families—place the farm under an agricultural conservation easement, meaning the land will remain in agricultural production for perpetuity.

Agers began leasing additional farmland around southeastern Buncombe County, and they also turned to Sam Dobson, a dairy farmer from Iredell County whom Jamie had met in the North Carolina State University Ag Leadership Class. Sam became the first of the Agers’ partner producers and began raising beef cows under the Hickory Nut Gap banner and within the brand’s ethical methods, founding the small-scale aggregation model that would revolutionize their business and propel the Agers’ values onto a larger stage. “The opportunity to aggregate the supply chain, process it, and bring it to the market in Asheville was just pretty easy,” Jamie explains, his words lengthening over the phrase “pretty easy” as if anticipating disbelief—but it was kind of easy, or at

least logical. The production values, supply chain, and farmer relationships were already in place. The efforts of the Agers on the land at Hickory Nut Gap were representative of the increasingly popular and holistic farming fundamentals, and by sharing those principles with a growing contingent of regional farmers, they could actually pay them more for cattle and beef than they would receive at market. When Jamie’s family placed the Hickory Nut Gap land in an agricultural conservation easement in 2008, it allowed the Agers to truly dedicate themselves to the business they’d been building: “That was a pretty pivotal moment, because up until that we were building our business in a liquidation mindset, not knowing what his family, who actually owned the land August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 87


Re–Generation

and was in control of the land use, was going to decide to do with it,” Amy explains. “So in doing that, we could really start to invest what we were making into more of a business that was a long-term concept.” The business, already expanding exponentially, now had the bandwidth to scale boundlessly. Jamie and Amy had long been curating a brand with the mission of building community around agriculture, a dedication to sustainable and eco-conscious production, and a distinctly “friendly farmer” flair. But under this brand umbrella were two ventures on parallel but increasingly distinct paths: Hickory Nut Gap Farm itself, where the Agers carried on the legacy of the family farm and engaged with the community through events, agritourism like a corn maze and U-pick berries, and an expanded farm store with a kitchen, butchery, and deli; and the wholesale venture that had grown out of it, the product of Jamie’s networking and bringing other farmers into the fold for commercial distribution of pasture-raised meats. And so in 2015 the two operations—Hickory Nut Gap Farm and Hickory Nut Gap Meats—split financially in order to focus respectively on community cultivation through agriculture and wholesale distribution of grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork.

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Jamie Ager pulls his UTV into a shaded gully, where the sputtering of the engine is replaced by the rustling of the family setter, Prairie, in the brush at its tires. Jamie follows Prairie’s steps into the thicket and reaches into the mass of green, pointing out a thorny mass of multiflora rose which, in a week, will burst into fuchsia bloom. The invasive species is one of the few Jamie holds a grudge against; it can take over a pasture, smothering native blackberries and grasses, in a season. But in farming, he’s found the devilish multiflora rose’s true adversary: “We put pigs in there, and they just kill it. They wipe it out,” he says with a hint of vindictive pride. Heralded by the belted yips of interns-turned-drovers, the pigs in question come trundling down the dirt road that winds along the hillside from a pasture, the cheekily dubbed “rose garden,” where they’ve just finished feasting on multiflora rose. Every Tuesday, the herd of hogs is shepherded down the hill from the pasture to the corral, where five of the heartiest are guided off for slaughter; their meat—slabs of bacon and thick tenderloins—will be sold in Hickory Nut Gap Farm’s on-site store. The rest of the hogs are driven back to the expansive pen for another week of idyllic existence: plenty of food, water, and sleep, land to roam, and some of the best views the Blue Ridge has to offer. The story of Hickory Nut Gap’s hogs illustrates the regenerative agriculture for which Jamie is the region’s greatest advocate: humans, animals, and landscape working together in symbiosis to rehabilitate the land and increase the healthfulness—and, eventually, yield—of the farm. “What we do with the pigs, which is kind of cool from a regenerative standpoint, is we use them in the woods because they can clear the land and they kind of tear things up,” Jamie explains as he revs the engine, beckons to Prairie to join him on the bench seat, and guides the UTV uphill. “And then we plant an annual crop behind them; that way the soil has the ability to regrow. And then by the time it’s grown up big, thick, and deep, then we put the pigs back in there.” In the natural order of things, the pigs fertilize the ground with their excrement and urine, and, “over time, we’re actually building soil up [and] using pigs to do that. And we’re not in a big hurry, because we’re making money on the pigs all the time, too. So instead of bringing the bulldozers in here and clearing it all out and trying to plant, let’s just use nature’s cycles. The pigs are happier because they’re outside. We can actually rotate them around. And it’s a pretty good system for using sub-marginal productive parts of the farm in order to create more soil health so that whenever we convert that into true pasture, we’ve been working on it for a while.” It is the very archetype of regenerative farming, the motives and objectives of which are tenfold: sustainability, topsoil regeneration, biodiversity, increasing soil and water health, even curbing climate change. In using tactics like cover cropping—planting annual grasses in pastures that reinvigorate


the land—and rotational grazing—frequently moving livestock paddocks around a pasture so that the land is never overworked—regenerative farming, as the name suggests, actually enriches the land, rather than exhausts it, as other approaches to modern farming are wont to do. Like his great-grandfather before him, Jamie has chosen the land as his pulpit, and he delivers colloquial monologues on the synergy of biodiversity and regenerative agriculture: Sustainability is the product of biodiversity, a mixture of field and forest which is naturally maintained by grazing herbivores. Through rotational grazing and the natural fertilization of such, the pulsing effect on the grasses creates stronger roots and builds organic matter—essentially taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the soils via livestock. “That’s the magic that happens from an ecology standpoint with impact and grazing management and manure and urine and all the amazing parts of nature,” he finishes with a smile. Jamie’s words take on the practiced cadence of the oft-repeated, but his unpretentious delivery is as understandable to a ten-year-old on a school field trip as it is to a 30-year-old journalist. Listening to him speak of the workings and benefits of regenerative agriculture, his enthusiasm seems contagious and his methods August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 89


ROTATIONAL GRAZING Frequently moving livestock paddocks around a pasture prevents exhausting the land.

CARBON Livestocks’ natural fertilizer puts carbon back into the soil and reduces its impact on the atmosphere.

Regenerative Agriculture Jamie Ager’s pretty passionate about regenerative agriculture, and with good reason: It’s better for the land, the livestock, and the planet.

BIODIVERSITY A balance of farm and forest maintained by grazing livestock keeps nature in symbiosis.

implementable—so it’s unsurprising that he’s spread the gospel of rotational grazing and cover cropping to his agricultural peers across the Southeast. When Jamie introduces other farmers to the ideas and ideals behind regenerative agriculture, his coup d’état isn’t curbing climate change or improving our waterways—it’s profit. “The financial reward creates a lot more open-mindedness,” he grins. Farmers are, first and foremost, businesspeople, and the methods Jamie suggests are lucrative, plus they have the ability to increase the vitality of their most valuable asset: land. “Not every farmer wants to market their product. Some farmers just want to farm,” Amy adds of the benefits of a wholesale model to everyone involved. Through Hickory Nut Gap Meats, the Agers simplify the incorporation of farmers into the regenerative agriculture system by handling the logistics for them. And on the other side of the supply chain, by aggregating sustainably raised meats and distributing them through existing channels, the Agers make them more accessible to a broader range of customers, who in turn reap the benefits of grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, like increased antioxidants, vitamins, and healthy fats. But once Jamie convinces his peers to implement regenerative tactics so that they can sell under the Hickory Nut Gap moniker (and make more money doing it), they quickly buy into 90

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COVER CROPPING Planting crops that put nutrients back into the soil and into the livestock who eat them.

the grander scheme. “I remember talking to [one farmer], and he was like, ‘I’ll sell it because I can make more money selling to you guys—what do I gotta do? How’s this work?’” Jamie remembers. Now when Jamie visits that same farmer, he sees his own values reflected back: “He’s got eight pallets of cover crop seed when I’m down at his farm, and he’s preaching about regenerative farming… and he’s doing all this super progressive stuff on a regenerative level.” More and more Southeasternfarmers are being wooed by the value propositions posed by farming under the Hickory Nut Gap Meats mantle—more than 80 of them, in fact, spread across North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia. In doing so, the Agers are providing them with a viable living: “Checks went down there for like forty thousand dollars for those guys because they were custom grazing cattle with it,” Jamie says of one of the contingents of farmers he’s added to the fold. “This is real business—this is working. And so, to me, that’s a win—that’s what we want to create is agricultural models that drive that type of innovation and thought.” It’s a concept his great-grandfather would have identified with—building and bolstering innovative agricultural systems to support his peers—but the trappings are entirely of the 21st


century and far broader in scope, impacting not just local farmers but future generations, too. “I think that the notion that one of the important parts of our humanity and job here on Earth to do is to improve the lives of our fellow man,” Jamie says when asked of the impact his great-grandfather continues to have on Hickory Nut Gap Farm today. “I think that we have a responsibility to help make things better.”

Future Generations Trudging through another knee-high pasture, nimbly dodging sunbaked cow patties, Jamie points to a fence and says with pride, “Me and the boys built this fence—this was an Ager boy project!” The Ager’s three sons—Cyrus, 16; Nolin, 13; and

“Our story is that of a local farm,” Amy says, “but we’ve chosen growth and chosen to impact the movement as a whole. Levi, 10—have already been assimilated into the Hickory Nut Gap lifestyle, one that’s as connected to the land as it is to the community. Asked if his sons plan to take up the Hickory Nut Gap mantle someday, Jamie says perhaps, but he also wants to make sure they have the opportunities to explore other

THE FARM’S FUTURE

options—though he adds with a wry smile, “But, in reality, it’s a pretty good life.” It is a good life, and in some ways a simple one that—despite the sometimes negative connotations of entrepreneurial growth—the Agers haven’t lost sight of. “Our story is that of a local farm,” Amy says, “but we’ve chosen growth and chosen to impact the movement as a whole. And we’ve chosen to do that through the brand Hickory Nut Gap.” While the work they’re doing through Hickory Nut Gap Meats will continue to grow (Amy envisions an increasingly diverse product mix, like sausages, hot dogs, and deli meats, distributed in groceries from Florida to New York, online, and direct-to-home), the values with which Jamie and Amy founded their ventures back in 2000 and the family farm experience remain the same. “Hickory Nut Gap still stands for all the things that we’ve always stood for,” Amy promises, “and this farm in Fairview, and the other 600 acres that we lease in the area, are very much the home of the brand.” But perhaps most importantly, that land—the sloping, shamrock valleys, clear-watered creeks, and grass-tangled pastures, traced with the paths of drovers, with which the McClures fell in love more than a century ago—continues to be the home of the Hickory Nut Gap family.

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events

august

EVENTS As other venues continue to open and close, with on-againoff-again bookings, parks have managed to stay unbarred once they reopened (at the time of this writing, anyway). Below is only a partial list of all those wonderful natural wilderness areas in your own backyard.

National Parks pisgah national forest 12 WNC COUNTIES The park comprises over 500,000 acres and is marked by dense woodland, some of the highest mountains in the state— reaching over 6,000 feet—and waterfalls and whitewater rivers. Hundreds of miles of maintained trails wind through the park, taking in a number of famous wilderness attractions. Trailheads begin at places like the NC Arboretum, the Cradle of Forestry, and other markers along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

> fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/ recarea/?recid=48114

nantahala national forest SOUTHWESTERN NC In Cherokee, “Nantahala” means, “land of the noonday sun,” because the sun is behind the Nantahala Gorge’s steep walls the rest of the time. The park, which is actually larger than Pisgah National Forest, is best known for its whitewater sports and also has abundant trails for hiking, horseback riding, cycling, and ATVs.

> fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/ recarea/?recid=48634

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great smoky mountains national park WNC & EASTERN TENNESSEE Taking up parts of North Carolina and Tennessee, the nation’s most-visited national park is marked by ancient mountains covered in a biodiversity of both flora and fauna. It is best known for its hiking trails, which lead to destinations of geological or historic interest. Clingman’s Dome, which houses an observatory, is the park’s highest peak, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through it.

> nps.gov/grsm/index.htm carl sandburg home: national historic site FLAT ROCK While tours of the home are on hold due to COVID-19, visitors can still hike five miles of trails on the 264-acres site. It is free to walk the grounds. One of the more notable feature is the Southern Appalachian low-elevation granitic domes that are accessible through the trails. There is a virtual tour for those less inclined to leave home.

> nps.gov/carl/index.htm

State Parks

panoramas may be enjoyed from the top of the rock by anybody who wants to undertake the fantastic climb, though there is also an elevator. In normal times the park runs a strong ranger program with a lot of opportunities to get up close and personal with the native wildlife.

> chimneyrockpark.com dupont state recreational forest CEDAR MOUNTAIN DuPont is best known for its waterfalls, in which visitors may dip after a hike. The park also is home to cycling, equestrian activity, and hunting and fishing. Little nooks of rare and quiet beauty are easy enough to find.

> dupontstaterecreationalforest.com gorges state park SAPPHIRE This newly created park is the only state park west of Asheville. It started as 2,900 acres of game land and has grow n to encompass 7,500. The Jocassee Gorges, rising 2,000 feet in four miles, feature sheer and rugged cliffs with waterfalls and are considered a temperate rainforest.

> ncparks.gov/gorges-state-park/home

mount mitchell state park BURNSVILLE

grandfather mountain LINVILLE

Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. There are several short trails for hiking near the summit and many more going off into the woods to satisfy the more avid hiker.

Visitors pay at the gate and drive to attractions that include panoramic views, wildlife interpretive stations, and the Mile High Swinging Bridge. The rest of the mountain makes up Grandfather Mountain State Park. It is open only to foot traffic and features miles of rugged alpine trails, several requiring the use of cables and ladders.

> ncparks.gov/mount-mitchell-statepark/home

chimney rock state park CHIMNEY ROCK This park offers hiking, rock climbing, bird watching, and more. Scenic

> grandfather.com


Tom Dempsey

Local Industry

SylvanSport p.16

Paul Heumiller

The State of Manufacturing 2019 p.37

Dream Guitars p.16

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Leisure & Libation

Jason & Alyssa Moore

Escape Rooms in Western North Carolina p.57

Elite HRV p.14

Local Industry

Event Planners in Western North Carolina p.35

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Unique

colu m ns

Museums

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January 2019

Real Estate 2018 Review A look back on Real Estate in Western North Carolina. p.37

Volume IX - Edition II complimentary edition

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Volume IX - Edition III complimentary edition

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February 2019

March 2019

Megan Brown & Chris Allen

Veterinarians of Western North Carolina p.37

Frazier, Mercer, & Green

Waynesville Soda Jerks p.14

Well Played Board Game Café p.74

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Tours

p.74

lo c a l i n d u s t ry

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

p.57

colu m n

Investing in the Health of Employees p.70

Tracking THE Hives

James Wilkes & HiveTracks are

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p.37

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colu m ns

Environmental Stewardship in Business p.32 Building a Portfolio Life p.56

Volume IX - Edition VI

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April 2019

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cullasaja falls HIGHLANDS

> fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/

ALFIE Loans p.12

Chardin Detrich & Ira Friedrichs

Jon Jones & Jason Stewart

Smart Fellers p.72

Anthroware p.16

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Dan & Betsy Reiser

June 2019

Kelley, Melissas, & Bullman

A Black Belt in Business p.76

Craftpeak p.16

Stowaways

Wine Column: Pair Like a Pro p.52

Is The IPA Still King? p.36

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

p.33

Om Outdoors

Blooming

Wine Column: Restaurants Worth a Second Look p.72

Business Flower Farms in Western North Carolina are growing “One Seed at a Time” p.59

lo c a l i n d u s t ry

Living Well p.39 Retirement Communities in Western North Carolina

Practicing Yoga Outdoors in Western North Carolina p.57

Volume IX - Edition VII complimentary edition

July 2019

Dave Brewer

Volume IX - Edition VIII

p.37

A look at Asheville’s everevolving River Arts District

p.61

Where the Locals are

Music & Art an n ua l

EDITION

Volume IX - Edition X complimentary edition

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colu m ns

October 2019

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August 2019

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September 2019

John Taylor

O.P. Taylor’s Toy Store p.18

Larry & Cyndi Ziegler High Country Candles p.60

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

2019 s w ee t

The Wine Column: Thanksgiving Rules of the Road p.90

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Small Local Venues

p.36

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lo c a l i n d u s t ry

Our Annual Western North Carolina Alcohol Report

CBD, Marijuana, & the Workplace p.72

Asheville Improv Collective p.76

Constructive

Zone Ahead

Negotiations 101 p.34 Support Systems p.54

Hall, Hall, & Awad

A Music Man p.14

lo c a l i n d u s t ry

Alcohol Evolution

columns

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Eda Rhyne p.76

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise colu m ns

Self-Storage Facilities in Western North Carolina

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Chris Bower & Rett Murphy

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

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a nd

savory Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

These falls can be seen from U.S. Highway 64 (a.k.a the Mountain Waters Scenic Highway & Waterfall Byway), which narrows and winds through the Cullasaja River Gorge in Nantahala National Forest. The parking area is unmarked, roadside, and has room enough for only a few cars.

Todd Fowler & Jon Sarver

colu m ns

Articles of Innovation: Robbing Our Own Cradle p.28

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

> socofalls.com

tu

io

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

A trail leads to a primitive overlook of the confluence of two substantial waterfalls. Visitors are urged to stick to the main trail, as too many have not survived venturing further.

c

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

soco falls MAGGIE VALLEY

fa

it

NOVEMBER 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 11

specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5188436

u

ed

A Perfect Union

Creating LandlordTenant Agreements For Commercial Leases. p.72

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

> fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/

an

i ng

AUGUST 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 8

The highest waterfall east of the Rockies begins in North Carolina and cascades over 3.5 miles into South Carolina, dropping 1,500 feet. The Foothills Trail allows hikers to go the distance, but the U.S. Park Services gives a very stern warning about the risks of straying from that trail.

m

Nathan Masters is Seeking

Play, Fun, & Joy at SimpleShot in Woodfin

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

whitewater falls CASHIERS

l

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p.57 Auctions in Western North Carolina

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OCTOBER 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 10

Waterfalls

ua

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Bidding

> fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

> ncesf.org/holmes.html

n

in Western North Carolina

JULY 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 7

The park offers interesting geology with flora described as a mix of hardwoods, rhododendrons, flame azaleas, and mountain wildflowers. The park’s five trails are all shorter than a mile, and they’re dotted with interpretive stations to teach youth about forest management.

an

p.76

In West Asheville by Elise Olson, of On The Inside

Local Industry

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Unique

GUIDED

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

holmes educational state forest HENDERSONVILLE

-

L VE

colu m n

-

FEBRUARY 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 2

> ncforestservice.gov/headwaters

Volume IX - Edition I

Red Tree Builders p.16

APRIL 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 4

These 30-foot high falls spill cleanly into a swimming hole. They are accessed easily by a short hiking path; parking is limited.

p.74

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Brandon & Amanda Bryant

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

This park opened very recently, mainly so members of the public can learn about a working forest. Only foot traffic is allowed, so permissible activities are pretty much restricted to hiking, hunting, and fishing.

JANUARY 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 1

silver run falls CASHIERS

Progress & Change with East Fork Pottery

Made With

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Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

headwaters state forest CEDAR MOUNTAIN

Lingerie

The Wine Column: Drink Well in 2019 p.70

p.57 in Western North Carolina

Thankful

For Our Area

Nonprofits Interviews with 13 directors of 9 local nonprofits discuss how their work is real business.

p.74

Oh

WNC Christmas Tree

p.54

Christmas Tree farms are evergreen in more ways than one. p.37

Faces of Enterprise

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glen falls HIGHLANDS The falls are accessed by a two-mile trail covering a 400-foot change in elevation. Several switchbacks and four stops keep the trail’s level of difficulty low. The falls are located in the Nantahala National Forest, on the east fork of Overflow Creek in scenic Blue Valley.

> ncwaterfalls.com/glen1.htm bridal veil falls HIGHLANDS This waterfall is 40 feet wide and 120 feet high, and it spills into a sinkhole right next to U.S. 64. In fact, the old highway goes under the falls, and people can still drive or walk on it. With higher traffic levels, the main highway had to be diverted due to the volumes of ice melt in the spring.

> fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/

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events

looking glass falls BREVARD This waterfall is a clean, 60-foot vertical drop into a pool easily accessed by members of the public for swimming, sitting, and splashing. It got its name because in the winter, the spray of water behind the falls can look like a mirror.

> fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/

specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5188439

Trails the appalachian trail WESTERN NC This famous trail covers over 2,180 miles of mountainous wilderness, and it takes a good hiker half a year to complete it. The portion that cuts through WNC covers 95.7 miles, and another 224.7 miles are shared on the state line with Tennessee. Elevations run between 1,725 feet and 5,498 feet, and trail difficulty ratings run the gamut from easy to challenging.

> appalachiantrail.org/explore/exploreby-state/north-carolina

asheville’s greenways ASHEVILLE The city maintains seven top-notch greenways. The Hominy Creek Greenway is a small park for admiring rocks, flowers, and trees; there is even a small beach. The French Broad R iver Greenway starts with a wooded walk along the river, passes ball parks and a velodrome, and returns to rolling hills leading to the dog park. Less-traveled utility easements actually connect to the eastern counterpart of the greenway, largely developed with help from New Belgium. Reed Creek Greenway runs behind the trees along Broadway, leading to UNCAsheville, and abuts Glenn’s Creek Greenway. The latter runs close to the southern perimeter of UNC-Asheville, and less-known portions run all the way back to the French Broad River. 94

| August 2020

The Swannanoa Greenway was made possible by Walmart.

> ashevillenc.gov/service/enjoygreenways

blue ridge parkway WESTERN NC The 469-mile drive from northern Virginia to Cherokee offers a chance for people on the go to surround themselves with green and cruise at 45 mph. In North Carolina alone, the parkway provides access to about 70 different trails. Some of the more popular ones are the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Shut-In Trail, and Graveyard Fields Loop Trail.

> blueridgeparkway.org pinnacle park trail SYLVA The seven-mile, round-trip town trail ascends 3,000 feet to a scenic overlook. Streams, rocks, ridges, waterfalls, and overlooks abound.

> discoverjacksonnc.com/outdoors/trails/ pinnacle-park-trail

cherohala skyway WESTERN NC This 42-mile engineering feat runs over, beside, and across the mountains from Robbinsville to the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. The road provides access to Joyce K ilmer Memorial Forest, Lake Santeetlah, and Fontana Lake. The Discovery Channel named the skyway to its Top 10 Motorcycle Rides in North America.

> cherohala.com

Other Spots roan mountain CARVER’S GAP This five-mile mountain ridge is home to picturesque Catawba rhododendrons. The landscape includes forests, balds,

and scenic overlooks. A handful of trails can take hikers sky-high or just on a ramble through the meadows.

> fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/ recarea/?recid=48626

max patch MARS HILL WNC parks are not all boulders, trees, and streams. One popular spot is Max Patch, overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. Max Patch is a bald of ferns and grasses and a popular picnic area for Appalachian Trail hikers. At 4,629 feet, it offers panoramic views that take in Mount Mitchell and the Great Smoky Mountains.

> fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/ recarea/?recid=48620

cataloochee valley CATALOOCHEE A few reminders of the 1800s villagers that settled in the valley remain. Mostly, though, the field is celebrated for the elk that were reintroduced to the region in 2001, after the animal had been hunted to local extinction. Cataloochee Valley is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

> blueridgeheritage.com/destinations/ cataloochee-valley

pink beds BREVARD This popular hike and picnic spot is named for all the pink flowers in the area. The trail is an easy six miles, covering fields and bogs. Fishing, biking, and birding are common allowed activities.

> blueridgeheritage.com/destinations/ pink-beds

nantahala river bogs natural area SOUTHWESTERN NC The bogs represent an attempt to preserve the mountain wetland habitats


presents that have been reduced to 10% of their former size. The bogs in the Nantahala National Forest are one of five habitats that support bog turtles.

> blueridgeheritage.com/destinations/ nantahala-river-bogs

panthertown valley GLENVILLE This place has been referred to as a little Yosemite, with granite cliffs rising to 300 feet. The area is heavily wooded, and old logging trails lead to waterfalls and scenic overlooks. The area was purchased by the North Carolina Chapter of the Nature Conservancy to preserve rare ferns, mosses, and other ground-level forest growth. Catch-andrelease trout fishing is allowed.

> blueridgeheritage.com/destinations/

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beaver lake bird sanctuary ASHEVILLE It may feel too risky to take a guided tour, but there’s still plenty of space for a nice, quiet, socially distanced stroll among the trees, down to the lake, in search of rare and beautiful species of birds.

> emasnc.org/beaver-lake-birdsanctuary

virtual exploration If getting outdoors with a few friends still seems too daring the website High Definition Videos of Things to See and Do in the Carolinas is filming and posting videos of trails, waterfalls, favorite spots, and even winemaking in WNC.

> hdcarolina.com

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The US Forest Service has also set up live cams at Cold Mountain and Joyce Kilmer.

> fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/ specialplaces

Member FDIC Member FDIC August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 95


events

Farmers Markets WNC farmers markets continue to be essential. Some of the area’s more celebrated ones are listed below. Check their websites for the latest changes in hours, capacity, forms of payment accepted, and other responses to changing COVID19 regulations.

wnc farmers market Monday-Sunday, 8AM-5PM 570 Brevard Rd, Asheville, NC > facebook.com/WncFarmersMarket cashiers farmers market Monday-Saturday, 10AM-6PM; Sunday 11AM-4PM 78 US-64, Cashiers, NC > cashiersfarmersmarket.com west asheville tailgate market Tuesdays, 3:30-6:30PM 718 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC > westashevilletailgatemarket.com enka- candler tailgate market Tuesdays, 3:30-6:30PM 1465 Sand Hill Rd, Candler, NC > ashevillefarmstead.org/enka-candlertailgate-market weaverville tailgate market Wednesdays, 2:30-6PM 17 Merrimon Ave, Weaverville, NC > weavervillemarket.com river arts district farmers market Wednesdays, 3-6PM 289 Lyman St, Asheville, NC > radfarmersmarket.com 96

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flat rock farmers market Thursdays, 3-6PM 1790 Greenville Hwy, Hendersonville, NC > flatrockfarmersmarket.com avery county farmers market Thursday, 4-6:30PM 185 Azalea Circle, Banner Elk, NC > averycountyfarmersmarket.net smiley’s flea market Friday-Sunday, 6AM-5PM 5360 Hendersonville Rd, Fletcher, NC > smileysfleamarkets.com/fletcher east asheville tailgate market Fridays, 3-6PM 954 Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC > facebook.com/ EastAshevilleTailgateMarket north asheville tailgate market Saturdays, 8AM-12PM UNC Asheville, outside Owen Hall, University Heights, Asheville, NC > northashevilletailgatemarket.com

yancey county farmers market Saturday, 8:30AM-12:30PM 8 Town Square, Burnsville, NC > yanceycountyfarmersmarket.wordpress. com black mountain tailgate market Saturdays, 9AM-12PM 130 Montreat Rd, Black Mountain, NC > blackmountainmarket.org asap farmers market Saturdays, 9AM-12PM AB Tech, outside 16 Fernihurst Dr, Asheville, NC > asapconnections.org/find-local-food/ farmers-markets/asap-farmers-market haywood’s historic farmers market Saturdays, 9AM-12PM 250 Pigeon Rd, Waynesville, NC > waynesvillefarmersmarket.com transylvania farmers market Saturdays, 10AM-12PM Jordan & Johnson Sts, Brevard, NC > transylvaniafarmersmarket.com

watauga county farmers market Saturday, 8AM-12PM 591 Horn in the West Dr, Boone, NC > wataugacountyfarmersmarket.org hendersonville farmers market Saturdays, 8AM-1PM 650 Maple St, Hendersonville, NC > hendersonvillenc.gov/events/ hendersonville-farmers-market

If your organization has any local press releases for our briefs section or events that you would like to see here, feel free to email us at events@capitalatplay.com. Please submit your event at least six weeks in advance.


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Colton Mattress builds can be turned into an adjustable bed. Want a super-firm mattress, a super-soft mattress or something in between? Colton Mattress can create the precise firmness you desire. It sells a lot of beds made with latex, a natural material that naturally inhibits dust mites, mold and mildew. Derived from the tropical rubber tree, latex instantaneously conforms to the shape of your body, relieving pressure points for an uninterrupted sleep. Talalay latex used by Colton reduces high-pressure areas that shut off capillary blood flow and cause you to toss and turn all night. Mattresses made from Cooling Gel Memory Foam conform to the body, relieve pressure points and aid circulation. Choices range from pillowy soft to body-contouring firm. The Cooling Gel Memory Foam provides additional support and a cooler sleeping surface. Memory foam mattresses virtually eliminate motion transfer. (you won’t feel your sleep partner move). Emerson stated, “We offer a 30-day comfort guarantee because we want you to love your new mattress.” When you purchase a new mattress from Colton they will donate your old mattress to people in need if it is still sleepable. There are 25 different models to choose from at the showroom. Visit with Mike Emerson or Rick Reed and they will help you select the perfect mattress for you. Colton sells directly to the consumer, eliminating distributors and retail stores, to keep prices competitive with national brands. Colton has mattresses for every budget, prices range from $110- $5000. Colton is committed to manufacturing and selling the highest-quality mattresses and when you buy direct from the factory you save 10-50% every day. Colton builds and stocks a wide selection of mattress types and sizes.

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1

one l ast thing

Reenvisioning Community by scott austin , founding partner and community and farm

I

t has to be the future. That was the idea my wife and I dreamed of when we envisioned a thriving community centered around nature. Our vision was of a happy, bustling community of like-minded people and families who could be directly involved in the very land they lived on. Today, it has taken shape as Olivette Riverside Community & Farm, our 346-acre agri-community focused around an organic farm that offers our residents a sustainable, engaging lifestyle completely different from most any other residential development in the country. Olivette gives everyone opportunities to interact with nature by accessing our year-round, four-acre organic farm, a greenhouse, and beautiful waterways and riverfronts to see and enjoy. Our residents, families, children, and even pets regularly meet and encounter nature together. An agri-community comes from the idea of farm-totable eating, urban farming, and community supported agriculture. However, it takes these ideas further by using agriculture as the centerpiece of the entire community and its planning. Residents are naturally connected to the land and truly feel that connection as their communities take part in the sustainability of the land, the food it produces, how that is shared within the community, and events and gatherings together. At Olivette, residents enjoy the outdoors through the trails, forests, and river in their backyard. They have access to locally grown organic produce from the community’s farm through its community supported agriculture (CSA) program and events such as farm-totable suppers. Residents also share a commitment to living sustainably. The community requires geothermal heating and cooling, a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score of 55 or lower, and encourages other green building practices such as passive and active solar design. Many residents have gone beyond these energy efficiency requirements to build net-zero homes. The advantages for residents fueled our vision; we knew that many people and families were missing opportunities in their day-to-day lives to really enjoy nature, learn about it, grow their own healthier foods, and even partner with it. An agri-community like Olivette offers the opportunity to live in a more rural community and the benefits of such a lifestyle without missing any creature comforts.

98

| August 2020

“honorary

mayor” at olivette riverside

Residents have immediate, no-barrier access to cleaner, fresh, organic foods. We don’t worry as much about being able to have these foods because the dependence on more mainstream food supply systems is reduced significantly. Self-sufficiency is important to the families at Olivette, and it makes their lifestyles more fun, too. They are more empowered as families and as a community to live the lifestyle they really want and to live out their values on sustainable living, fresh foods that they help harvest at times, clean fresh air, healthier bodies as a result of their environment and outdoor exercise, and less reliance on big-box chain grocery stores. The sense of community our agri-hood offers is another of the greatest benefits of living in such a community. Residents know that their neighbors share the same values, so there is a strength here as a community that also boosts their quality of life. Having this more intentional, shared-value living present inherently at Olivette means more certainty, and that means a more peaceful mind every day, and I think an ongoing sense of being more happy. The shared values and interests of the people are what makes it real magic to live here. As an agri-community, we really are much more than an organic, year-round farm or fun place to live; we are a cohesive development of people, land, lifestyle, homes, and experiences. We want to be surrounded by nature and to take an active role in caring for the land and growing foods on it, interacting with the many things here and its natural beauty, exploring, growing, and cooking incredible fresh, clean foods. It’s our greatest vision to see more and more sustainablyfocused communities and agri-communities be created in every state, near every city, and an even greater hope to see it be a true part of the world and its future. In seeing my own family’s dream come true in bringing Olivette to life, we see our residents living their dream, too. We believe everyone should have the chance to live more sustainably and healthfully and to have easier access to clean, fresh foods, and expanding the agri-community model and integrating it into our society has the potential to, as we’ve always hoped, be the future.


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August 2020 | capitalatplay.com 99


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keep their homes clean and ready for visitors.

our Safe Showings Initiative, knowing you, like

Meanwhile, we’re educating buyers on how to

us, want to promote a healthy environment

best view homes and make sure that you and your

while your home is on the market.

loved ones feel comfortable, safe, and protected.

To learn more about our Safe Showings Initiative, call (866) 716-5892.

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| August 2020

Profile for Capital at Play Magazine

Capital at Play August 2020  

Vol 10 | Ed 8 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Featuring Local Foods - Hickory Nut Gap, Farmers Markets, and other l...

Capital at Play August 2020  

Vol 10 | Ed 8 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Featuring Local Foods - Hickory Nut Gap, Farmers Markets, and other l...

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