Capital at Play September 2021

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fe atured capitalist Sideways Farm & Brewing

fe atured capitalist Rise Over Run Wine

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

The Annual Alcohol Edition

Volume XI - Edition IX complimentary edition

capitalatplay.com

of our

Eye

How Apple Picking Became the Region’s Most Beloved Fall Pastime

September 2021


Easy Mouthwatering Recipes from Professional Chefs and Home Cooks

in-store and online at ingles-markets. E E R F e l b a l com Avai 2

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August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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Editor’s Thoughts

W

hen I was a little girl, on

specia l days, my mom would take my hand and pull me into our downtown

feed and seed store. The

memories of that place are visceral: creaking wooden floors; the warmth of a heat lamp and the muffled

chirrup of ducklings and chicks beneath its glow; bins nearly overflowing with smooth, dry beans and the husky shuffle of their weight beneath my hands. We knew the proprietors, who met us with hearty, drawlladen greetings, and they didn’t mind when I ignored the sign on the cage and lifted out a cartoon-cute rabbit to run its soft fur along the curve of my cheek. This feed and seed store was an icon of my childhood. We were lucky enough to grow up with a gaggle of farm animals and garden beds bursting with fresh

Photo by Nathan Rivers Chesky

produce, and therefore frequented the downtown mainstay. When it closed a few years ago, pushed out by changing times and rising rents, my nostalgic heart broke a little, and it sent me in search of the feeling that store stirred. Marla Hardee Milling found it in farm stores and feed and seeds across the region. In multi-generational institutions and modern interpretations, you can still find supplies and fellowship, whether you’re a rooted farmer or backyard gardener. I don’t have much experience post-childhood (it’s been a long time since I gathered an egg or pulled a carrot straight from the earth), but I like to think that’s what farming and agriculture are all about. That’s certainly what this issue, our second annual Agriculture Edition, is about: coming together to make the most of these fertile lands, and growing and making things that are as good for us as they taste. You'll find this shimmer of generous geniality in the story of the Perkins of Looking Glass Creamery (p. __), and an appreciation for nature even defines our deep dive on the history and current representation of the lumber industry in WNC (p. __). Whether you're a gardener yourself or just enjoy the stuff that's grown there, I hope this issue helps you appreciate the hard work and many hearts that go into the region's agriculture industry.

Till next month,

Emily Glaser

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Your Guide To The Region’s Finest Properties $3.675 M

$3.650 M

SHERWOOD HEIGHTS 51 Robinhood Road

LAKE LURE 1883 Buffalo Shoals Road

Laura Livaudais | 828.712.5445 Laura@IJBProperties.com

Damian Hall | 864.561.7942 Damian@IJBProperties.com

$1.950 M

SUNSET MOUNTAIN 101 Crestwood Road Laura Livaudais | 828.712.5445 Betsy Gudger | 828.279.5789

$1.300 M

GROVE PARK 69 Edwin Place Laura Livaudais | 828.712.5445 Laura@IJBProperties.com

$1.875 M

ARDMION PARK 181 Ardmion Park #4

Betsy Gudger | 828.279.5789 Betsy@IJBProperties.com

$795 K

Janet Blake | 828.450.5359 Janet@IJBProperties.com

LAKE SANTEETLAH

269 Pine Ridge Road Christian Diepholz | 828.290.8483 Christian@IJBProperties.com

$2.433 M

SOUTHCLIFF 565 Southcliff Parkway

Jonathan Hunter | 828.606.4160 Mike Zboyovski II | 828.337.7600

$1.499 M

BUTLER MOUNTAIN ESTATES

165 Pinkerton Corner Ellen Browne McGuire | 828.551.7027 Laura Browne Livaudais | 828.712.5445

$675 K

$1.450 M

DUNWYCK

64 Peniel Road Kim Gentry Justus | 828.301.3330 Kim@IvesterJacksonBlackstream.com

$499 K

RED OAK PLANTATION 33 Big Sky Drive

CAMPBELL WOODS 54 Buttercup Place

BONITO OCASO IN CORWELL FARMS

Oleg Romashchuk | 828.215.0576 Oleg@IJProperties.com

Cami Silver | 828.775.9780 Cami@IJBProperties.com

Janet Blake | 828.450.5389 Janet@IJBProperties.com

Sold

$325 K

CANTON 714 Queentown Road

$2.500 M

Under Contract

BILTMORE PARK 1806 Ellicott Lane

FLAT TOP MOUNTAIN 630 Flat Top Mountain Road

Miriam McKinney | 828.777.7924 Miriam@IJBProperties.com

Britt Allen | 828.450.8166 Miriam McKinney | 828.777.7924

10 Verano Court

Under Contract

LAKEVIEW PARK 616 Windsor Road

Laura Livaudais | 828.712.5445 Laura@IJBProperties.com

2021 | capitalatplay.com IvesterJacksonBlackStream.com | 18 S. Pack Square, Asheville August | 828.367.9001

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Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

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Evan Anderson, Mary Catherine McAnnally Scott, Emily Glaser,

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Ali Cantwell

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. Ineveryeditionweproßlethosewhotaketherisk,thosewhosharethatrisk,andthose 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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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 ßnancially sust advertisers who ßnd value in exposure alongside our unique conten and to the readers who follow it. This magazine is printed with soy based ink on recycled paper. Please recycle. Copyright © 2021, 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 6, Asheville NC 68 8AO Capital at Play is protected through Trademark Registration in the United States. The content found within this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of Capital At Play, LLC. and its companies. Capital At Play, LLC. and its employees are not liable for any advertising or editorial content found in Capital at Play. The articles, photography, and illustrations found in Capital at Play August not be reproduced or used in any fashion without express written consent by Capital At Play, LLC.

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August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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LU X URY, C ONV EN IENCE A N D T H E M AG I C O F S I M P L E L I V I NG . Nestled in one of the most desirable areas in WNC, The Cottages at Avery’s Creek offers you the simplicity of a Lock & Go community with the convenience of in-town living. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Asheville mountains, yet minutes away from your favorite shopping, dinning and entertainment. Starting in the low $400’s. Visit our website to schedule a tour and see a model home amarxcommunities.com | Listing Agent: 828.538.4701 8

| August 2021

Community exclusively marketed by


THIS PAGE: BUN INTENDED GOES BRICK-AND-MORTAR AT THE NEW S&W MARKET, photo by Tim Robison cover image: THE S&W MARKET, photo by Tim Robison

Featured vol. xi

ed. viii

40

IF YOU BUILD IT

How Jennifer and Andy Perkins Made Looking Glass Creamery an Agritourism Destination

August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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C ontents August

6 6A

12 All in the Family insight

The Next Generation Turns Multigenerational Family Farmland into a New Business

Regulars briefs

20 Lumbering On local industry

14 32 52

Carolina in the West The Old North State National & World

columns

36

50

Conservation Easements by Angela Shepherd

The Mystery of SEO Debunked by Heather Johnson

events

56

Events Across Western North Carolina, Online & In Person

one last thing

20 Sell the Farm

leisure & libation

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Rising from the Ashes


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Beefalo, part buffalo and part domestic cattle, are the cornerstone of Packa's Place, photo courtesy Packa's Place

All in the Family The Next Generation Turns Multigenerational Family Farmland into a New Business

Many farms in the mountains have a multigenerational story. None are quite like that of Packa’s Place. It begins with the matriarch for which the farm is named, Patricia Pope (“Packa” to family members). Packa joined a long line of Horse Shoe farmers when she married Bert Pope, and the two followed in the footsteps of his forebears when they began farming beefalo in 1981. At that time, beefalo—which are three-eighths American Buffalo and five-eighths domestic cattle—were a newly recognized species of cattle. The meat of beefalo is lauded as better than beef: It’s lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol, but it’s higher in protein. It’s also more sustainable than traditional beef and requires 40 percent less cost. Plus, beefalo meat is undeniably tasty, receiving the “Best Steak” award multiple times at the American Royal Steak Competition. The Popes found success in these curly haired cattle. “They were founding members of the American Beefalo Association

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and throughout the years won numerous best in show and grand champion blue ribbons for these animals at state fairs all over the nation,” says their granddaughter, Steelie Runion. “At points, they had herds that numbered up to 600 head of cattle.” But the farm was never a full-time job for the Popes. Packa retired after a full career at BASF, and Bert, who passed in [YEAR], was [INSERT CAREER]. That didn’t stop them from raising beefalo and family on the sprawling acreage that had been in their family since the 1700s. By 2020, Packa was well into her 80s, but the widow still maintained a herd of 25 beefalo, selling their USDA-approved meat under her business, Blue Ridge Beefalo, to eateries like Barley’s Taproom in Asheville. While the family still considered the 33-acre farm a kind of homeplace, they were sprawled across the county and country. The couple’s only son, Steve Pope, was a professional baseball scout for the Seattle Mariners and then the LA Dodgers. His daughter, Steelie Runion, was a [local] florist and designer


for weddings, and her husband, Sam Runion, played professional baseball. When COVID-19 arrived last spring, it hit this extended family particularly hard. They turned to Packa’s Place. “Although we were technically forced into the changes, they were exactly what we needed in order to find our fit in this 33-acre working farm that was being run alone by my 85 year old grandmother,” Steelie remembers. The Runions, who both lost their jobs in the spring of 2020, sought the farm, at first, for its release from the stressors of those early-COVID days of quarantine and lockdowns. “We started spending a lot of time out at the farm, learned a lot about the daily ins-and-outs of farm life, and ultimately led us to planting 400 Christmas trees and changing some pastureland to a garden for pumpkins, gourds, and squash,” she explains. What began as an escape to nature began to turn into a viable way of earning a living. “We basically were trying to come up with a way to keep up with our bills and not lose an entire year of two incomes.”

“Holy cow… umm… Are we farmers?’ When it became evident that the answer was ‘yes,’ we faced the reality of, ‘How are we going to make this work?’” Following a successful pumpkin harvest and market last fall, the family decided to sustain their roadside stand with Fraser firs from Avery County. Around this time, Steve also lost his job and returned to the family farm he grew up on to help out. “After Christmas, we were all-in to farm life,” Steelie grins. “After months of spending day after day at the farm, learning about beefalo farming, planting, harvesting, fencing, etcetera, etcetera, we all kind of looked at each other and were like, “Holy cow… umm… Are we farmers?’ When it became evident that the answer was ‘yes,’ we faced the reality of, ‘How are we going to make this work?’” By that, Steelie doesn’t just mean financials or strategy, like most new entrepreneurs, but the complexities of family dynamics, too. They wanted to make sure this new version of the farm could provide for the family in a way that made

fiscal sense and offered emotional fulfillment. The farm, she says, needed to be: “Something that would not make Packa feel overwhelmed or ‘put out to pasture;’ something that maintained the integrity of the land that has been in our family for 200-plus years; something that gave Steve a maintainable and realistic job for a 60-something forced into a retirement he was not ready for; and lastly, a sustainable career for my Sam and I, two 30-somethings that have never farmed before and, up to this point, have maintained a more ‘new-age’ lifestyle and were not expecting to have to up-end our 13 year careers at the exact same time.” It’s a long list, but the plan for Packa’s Place, as they’ve officially dubbed the venture, seems to check all of the boxes. With the Runions leading the charge, the family has intentionally developed a brand and business set to stand out in the diverse WNC agritourism landscape. “We have added infrastructure to our farm that will act as Packa’s meat store, our pumpkin patch and roadside stand will be more permanent and maintain a more boutique feel, and lastly, we also plan to implement a place for those in the area to come grab an adult beverage,” Steelie explains. The on-site tasting room, set to open [WHEN], will offer local beers, ciders, and wines by the glass. Visitors will be able to stop by—possibly from the newly planned Ecusta Trail, which will run about 100 feet from the farm—to grab a drink, veggies, fresh-cut flowers, or beefalo meat (cuts include ground beef, steaks, jerky, roasts, stew meat, and soup bones), and relax beneath the shade of the farm’s big red barn. While it may be multigenerational, the story of Packa’s Place is just getting started.

August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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Conservation Easements

mark rogers in rogers cove photo courtesy SAHC

How Land Protection Benefits Farms, Farmers, and Farming

Angela Shepherd

is the communications director at Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

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Rolling landscapes with open pastures and rows of crops, framed by forest edges and scenic Blue Ridge mountain backdrops, create the picturesque settings that many imagine when thinking about the Southern Appalachians. However, rising popularity and development pressures in the region—coupled with aging generations of farmers and economic challenges for future generations to make farming a viable career path—have created a pattern of farmland loss that threatens to make these scenes nothing more than vestiges of a lost time. When I first moved here, I loved the rolling expanses of farm and pasture I found living out in a small rental surrounded by pastureland in northwestern Buncombe County. And then, one by one, I saw these beautiful scenic spaces converted, the grass and trees falling away to rooflines and manicured lawns. I thought, “I know people need places to live, but there has to be a

| August 2021

better way. We’re destroying the beauty and mountain settings that people love about this place.” So I went back to graduate school to try to make a difference in the world and found that folks were already working on solutions. I learned about conservation easements, which had just begun growing in popularity as a tool to help permanently preserve natural resources while working collaboratively with landowners. One of the programs I was most impressed with when joining the staff of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) was the Farmland Preservation program, which launched in 2005 in response to the increasing loss of farmland in areas spread around Asheville during the early 2000s. SAHC works with farmers to permanently protect farmland and agriculturally important soils with voluntary conservation easements, which can provide financial


benefits while keeping large tracts of land intact. It’s a win-win—good for farmers, good for farmland, and good for the community.

What is a Conservation Easement?

Conservation easements (CEs) help to protect land and water resources that benefit society at large. CEs are legal agreements by which landowners willingly separate and extinguish certain development rights of a piece of property. Think about the “bundle of sticks” concept in property rights; Individual rights of use—like the ability to extract minerals from below the surface of the property—can be divested from the actual ownership of the property surface. A conservation easement defines particular rights to subdivide and develop (i.e. “sticks”) which are removed from the bundle and permanently extinguished, rather than being handed to another person. An appropriate entity, such as an accredited land trust like SAHC, assumes the burden of monitoring the protected area each year in perpetuity to ensure that the terms of the conservation easement are upheld. A conservation easement can help keep a large portion of undeveloped acreage intact, while the land can continue to be used (depending on the terms of the easement), sold, or passed down through the family. Everyone derives benefits from conservation of land and water resources, while the landowner continues to own and enjoy their property.

With a conservation easement, the landowner can seek to sell off the right to subdivide and develop a tract of land while keeping the acreage intact. Why Pursue a Conservation Easement?

The concept of a conservation easements proposes a voluntary way to protect certain “conservation values” which provide a benefit to the broader community or nation as a whole—for example, sources of clean water which may eventually feed into drinking water supplies, prime soils which sustain robust agricultural production year after year, or habitat for endangered species and corridors for wildlife to move across an increasingly fragmented

landscape. In some cases, a CE project may provide a degree of financial compensation to landowners. If grant funding can be obtained for protecting particular conservation values, then a landowner could be paid for the value (or partial value) of the CE—essentially compensating them for the value of the subdivision or development rights which are being extinguished. Landowners who initiate a conservation easement often have a meaningful connection to the land; perhaps it has been passed down through the generations and they don’t want it to be developed in the future, they have a nostalgic connection to rural community life, or they have a commitment to environmental stewardship for future generations. Many families in the Southern Appalachians are familiar with the phrase “land rich but cash poor.” Unfortunately, these families may have faced the decision to sell off parts of a farm or property because they needed funds from the sale to keep a farm afloat, send the next generation to college, or even pay medical debt. With a conservation easement, the landowner can seek to sell off the right to subdivide and develop a tract of land while keeping the acreage intact. Landowners passionate about preserving land for future generations sometimes choose to fully donate a conservation easement. For Mark and Laura Rogers, protecting farmland with an agricultural conservation easement served to solidify the family’s legacy in the landscape. They realized that land farmed by generations of the Rogers family in Haywood County could be lost to fragmentation and development. Mark began reaching out to SAHC in 2006 to explore conservation options, and over the course of several years and multiple projects, they and other family members worked with SAHC to protect 620 acres in Rogers Cove. “Early on, my dad and uncle traded work on their adjoining farms which together had been my grandparents’ farm,” explains Mark. “As a result, I associated the farms as just one. As I got older, my uncle retired and started leasing his farm out to a local cattleman. This made me sharply aware that the farm could slip out of the Rogers family after five generations. The thought of a developer getting hold of it troubled me for many reasons, including the need for conservation of farmland and sentimental reasons. Laura listened to my dream of putting my grandfather’s farm back together and supported it. Eventually, participating in a conservation easement eased the financial burden of doing so. It goes without saying that conserving land that feeds us will only become more important going forward.”

August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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rogers cove photo courtesy SAHC

Just across the mountains in Buncombe County, Vanessa Campbell and Alex Brown established Full Sun Farm, calling the Big Sandy Mush community home since 1997. This year, they donated a conservation easement on 32 acres of their farm and plan to pursue a second conservation easement project with SAHC.

The benefits of agricultural conservation easements are well worth it for farmers today and for generations to come. As one landowner once said, “We all need fresh, healthy food to eat, and if we develop all the land, we won’t have anywhere to grow it.” “To us, the farm is a real home, a way to make our living, and a place of refuge and beauty,” says Vanessa. “We wanted to preserve the openness of Sandy Mush and help maintain the beauty of the valley. The farm isn’t big enough to be viable if the land gets split up, so the conservation easement will help ensure that it can be farmed in the future. Some of our soils

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are prime soils—and that’s very important. It’s good to know that future generations will be able to grow food here for a long time to come.”

So Why Doesn’t Everyone Do It?

Completing a conservation easement project can be a complex and lengthy process with stiff competition for funding. The process involves multiple steps, from initial landowner inquiries and preliminary site visits with staff to due diligence steps such as obtaining appraisals and surveys. Projects that get awarded grant funding really stand out. For example, a high percentage of agriculturally important “prime soils”—which build up through successive flooding around streams and rivers over very long periods of time—may qualify for funding from federal or state farmland conservation programs, like the US Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program or the NC Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. From Hickory Nut Gap in Fairview to Sinkhole Creek in the Highlands of Roan, from the Crabtree community of Haywood County to Sandy Mush in Buncombe County, SAHC has protected thousands of acres of productive farmland. The benefits of agricultural conservation easements are well worth it for farmers today and for generations to come. As one landowner once said, “We all need fresh, healthy food to eat, and if we develop all the land, we won’t have anywhere to grow it.”


Please join us in congratulating

Hunter Westbrook on his promotion to President & CEO of HomeTrust Bank.

Hunter’s leadership has been integral to HomeTrust’s transformation to a thriving regional community bank.

Headquarted in Asheville and

210729-841058269

August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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CAROLINA in the

WEST [ news briefs ]

Tired of Waiting for the Trickle-Down BUNCOMBE COUNTY Buncombe Count y is a mong ot her progressive jurisdictions trying to be responsive to citizen complaints that they’re taxing their working poor in order to give multimillion-multinationals cash and tax breaks that support their paying of $60,000+ salaries. In practice, the rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats; instead, well-off outsiders come to town to take the jobs and then demand from government an even higher rate of taxation to uphold their standard of living. Trying things the new way, Buncombe County’s director of economic development and intergovernmental relations, Tim Love, and others developed an incentives package for East Fork Pottery that would help the underprivileged more directly. The logic is similar to that behind reforms of the county’s outside agency program, which now only gives grants to nonprofits doing things the county would otherwise have to support financially. The county agreed to pay East Fork $40,000, as a match for a $300,000 state grant, but the award would be performance-based. To qualify, East Fork would have to employ and retain some of the region’s hardest to hire, whether it was from lack of education or having a criminal record. To that, East Fork’s founder Alex Matisse said

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he was surprised they only wanted him to hire low-level offenders, as his company, which does not require job applicants to submit resumes, was already employing former violent offenders.

Art for the Community JACKSON COUNTY Calliope Stage, a group of thespians, formed their dance company in 2019 when a grant proposal submitted to the provost’s office of Western Carolina University (WCU) was funded. It was written by Ashlee Wasmund, a member of the faculty of the university’s School of Stage & Screen. Most team members are, in fact, former students of WCU who share a love for the area and an interest in building community through culture. One member described the effort as a safe space where people can tell their own stories. The theater didn’t open officially until 2021, though; the team took advantage of the 2020 shutdown to lay the foundations for a strong company. Since opening, Calliope Stage has produced a podcast, hosted a summer youth camp, and collaborated with Destination Theatre on creating performances for children. They have also been working with playwrights and musicians and rehearsing for their first production, which ran the first two weeks of August. It featured 10 original performances

with ties to Western North Carolina. Through its performances, the group seeks to promote social values like inclusivity and civility.

Welcome Home MADISON COUNTY It’s quite phenomenal when a business proprietor gets a write-up in Fortune before a lot of the locals even know she’s here. Such was the case for Chef Camille Cogswell. An Asheville native, she won the 2018 James Beard Rising Star Chef Award while working as the executive pastry chef at two distinctive Michael Solomonov restaurants in Philadelphia, where her departure hardly went under the radar. While she had considered retiring in her hometown, her early arrival was forced by the coincidence of multiple events. Both Cogswell and her fiancé, Drew DiTomo, had monkey wrenches thrown in their career plans in the era of COVID-19. About the same time, Cogswell fell in love with a property for sale in Marshall that had two heirloom, wood-fired, brick ovens made by the celebrated baker and mason Alan Scott. Even though they had intended to follow separate career trajectories so tension from their different workstyles wouldn’t harm their relationship, the couple pivoted to open Walnut Family Bakery. According to Fortune, they’ll be tag-teaming the ovens until things settle down enough for DiTomo to open a trattoria.

Pay Per Outcome with Transparent Pricing BUNCOMBE COUNTY When HCA purchased Mission Hospital, one of the terms on which North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s approval was contingent was that HCA make no major cuts in the first few years of operation. Now, while HCA hasn’t zeroed out any services entirely, primary care providers beg to differ that their easing out of the system en masse is not substantial. Since the acquisition, 100


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physicians have quit working for the hospital system. Several say they felt pressure, especially after seeing that HCA had cut primary care in acquisitions elsewhere in the country. The for-profit HCA cannot run at a loss, and primary care tends to be a losing venture for hospitals. For the most part, the exiting primary care physicians have remained in the region, taking jobs with other hospitals, government-run healthcare centers, or independent direct primary care practices. The latter has potential to be the shape of things to come. Instead of paying per service, patients pay per positive outcome. Also, the practices give patients a lot more attention, averaging 10 to 14 interactions per year instead of the typical two to three times a year primary care professionals provide. Criticisms that direct primary care is like concierge services, accessible only to the rich, could be met with, “You get what you pay for.” A greater concern is how to address the

gaps in coverage in rural areas being created by the change.

Hopey’s Moves Eastward BUNCOMBE COUNTY Hopey’s, formerly Bargain Max and Amazing Savings, is going to move out of its downtown location on South French Broad Avenue and into the former AC Moore space at River Ridge Mall in East Asheville. The local, family-owned store, which specializes in discount organic foods, is vacating to make room for a coworking space and business incubator that will be run by the Hatch Innovation Hub in partnership with Venture Capital. Hopey’s stocks wholesale organic and artisan groceries and bulk goods and more recently expanded into selling beers and locally grown organic produce. Discount stores tend to profit countercyclically, so

the economic downturn that came with the COVID-19 shutdowns kept Hopey’s busy, with suppliers delivering all kinds of new inventory. Hopey’s plans on remaining open at its downtown location until about December. Its location in Black Mountain will also remain open. After a 22-year run, the Hopey’s on Sweeten Creek Road closed in 2019 when the building from which it had been operating was sold to a tenant that wanted to run its landscaping company out of it. At the time, Hopey’s gave all employees an option to transfer to either of its other stores.

Fishy Levels of Contaminants RUTHERFORD COUNTY Dr. Shea Tuberty, a professor of biology at Appalachian State University specializing in aquatic ecotoxicology, is trying to get

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regulatory agencies more concerned about levels of heavy metals in fish swimming downstream from the American Zinc plant in Forest City. Tuberty first became aware of the problem when, in 2018, he was testing the waters of the Broad River around the nearby Duke Energy plant and found the fish upstream to be more contaminated than those downstream. Tuberty says a major reason the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not responded is that they still have not set agreed-upon thresholds of toxicity. So, working with grad students, he continues to test fish, and he continues to find fish upstream from American Zinc contain 11 heavy metals in concentrations deemed toxic. While the EPA and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality have not found it necessary to publish a fishing advisory, Tuberty thinks they should at least put up signs around the contaminated waters warning fishers that they may be putting themselves and others at risk.

Ring Ring—Drake Speaking HAYWOOD COUNTY Drake Software will be opening a call center in Waynesville. The company was founded by Phil Drake of Drake Enterprises in Franklin in 1977. It has since expanded into the nation’s fourth largest professional tax preparation software company, serving over 64,000 customers and processing over 33 million tax returns a year. The call center will be open from 8AM-10PM and work with four other Drake call centers answering questions about the software. At last count, Drake, doing business as Drake Enterprises, was operating 18 highly successful business initiatives in Franklin, including Dnet email and web hosting, Balsamwest fiber; Dalton’s Christian Bookstore; the WNC Sports Center sporting goods store; and the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts. He is now branching out of Franklin due to

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incentives offered by Haywood County that are expected to reimburse between 48 and 58 percent of Drake Software’s property taxes for five years in exchange for investing well over $200,000 in the local economy and employing 40 at first but expanding to accommodate 100.

Multifaceted Sustainability BUNCOMBE COUNTY Samsel Architects, a mainstay in the Asheville architecture scene, scored a feature in Metropolis, a monthly architectural digest published out of New York. The piece lauds the firm for its awareness that each building becomes part of the local ecosystem. When Jim Samsel founded the firm in 1985, he emphasized the importance of historic preservation and energy conservation, as well as sustainable building performance. He has now been succeeded by Duncan McPherson and Nathan Bryant, who were first attracted to the firm because they share his values. McPherson not only co-founded the local Green Built Alliance, he has served on public boards and commissions that support and promote sustainable building. He finds discussions of sustainable construction often overshadow critical elements like community, aesthetics, and longevity. Other topics covered in the article include challenges of building in the mountains, working not to destabilize the terrain and ecosystems, and staying compliant with codes. While Samsel Architects have even designed a small, net-zero home, they are still eager to learn and put to use the best building concepts as they continue to evolve.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favor BUNCOMBE COUNTY The Nor th Ca rolina Depa r tment of Transportation (DOT ) has been trying to

make improvements to I-26 to the south and west of Asheville for 30 years. It is, however, wasting no time constructing a recently proposed exit along the same corridor to service Pratt & Whitney, the multibillion, multinational defense contractor that recently accepted county incentives to build a high-pressure turbine airfoil plant in a location with inadequate existing infrastructure. Construction of the new interchange was included in the terms of the incentives package awarded to Pratt & Whitney. The new exit, located between Exits 33 and 37, would connect to a road that is now under construction, which, in turn, connects to a new bridge that will be built over the French Broad River. The estimated cost of the interchange is $35 million; Biltmore Farms, a private company that also sold Pratt & Whitney 100 acres for $1, is building the new road and bridge. The DOT considers construction of the exit time-critical, as Pratt & Whitney wanted to start production at the new plant next year.

New Ways to Beautify Downtown HAYWOOD COUNTY Canton, a town historically dominated by its papermill, is undergoing a revitalization and rebranding as a tourist destination. A lot of new concerns have arisen about planning for economic expansion, particularly since the announcement of plans for a mountain biking park. This goes beyond the red C flags posted from light poles and criticized as a waste of taxpayer dollars. A new group that calls itself Canton North Carolina Merchants wants to see the downtown cleaned up and enhanced with attractive sidewalk amenities. Public art projects are also in need of restoration. The group is going to fundraise with assistance from Mike Coble. The owner of four businesses in nearby Waynesville, Coble recently launched the nonprofit Start Now to compete against the Downtown Waynesville Association,

a tax-supported business improvement district (BID). The town’s contract with the BID, formed about 40 years ago, was up for bid, and downtown merchants like Coble wanted a BID that did more than organize festivals. Coble was contacted because he had a reputation for getting things done while the BID just talked.

Those of the Culture Will Define It SWAIN COUNTY Western Carolina University (WCU) is developing a curriculum to preser ve Cherokee language, history, and culture. T wo yea rs ago, t he Eastern Ba nd of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), Cherokee Nation, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians declared the Cherokee language to be in a state of emergency. Now, the tribes have entered into a memorandum of understanding with WCU. A signing ceremony was held on the grounds of the Kituwah Mound during the Kituawah Celebr at ion . A deleg at ion f rom t he Keetoowah Band, concentrated in Oklahoma, was unable to make the ceremony but would sign later. After criticizing decades of public policy that have compromised Cherokee culture, EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed thanked WCU for making it a priority and key curriculum. Then, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin gave kudos to all leaders who had made strides in running casinos, spurring business, providing better healthcare, and eliminating poverty. That was just the buildup to the point he was going to make: Only the Cherokee can preserve their language.

Safe Children JACKSON COUNTY The Jackson Count y Commissioners approved spending $7.4 million on security upgrades for public schools. Pre-pandemic,

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the county installed measures in four of its eight public schools, but post-pandemic, it had to re-bid the unfinished portion because prices had increased over 60 percent. Now, the installation of some measures originally planned, like door buzzers and cameras, may be postponed, but one thing the commissioners want to see done at any cost is providing all schools only one point of entry, something not considered when the older schools were built. The high school, Fairview and Smokey Mountain elementary schools, and the Blue Ridge School will now be enclosed in aesthetically appealing exterior courtyards. The design challenge is to provide enough of the right kind of landscaping that the children don’t feel like they’re in a prison but everybody will feel protected against any likelihood that a gunman would wander inside unnoticed. The county is particularly cognizant of school violence because the 2018 Parkland,

Florida school shooting was followed by nine bomb threats in Jackson County Schools.

Painfully Slow WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA North Carolina joined the Federal Trade Commission and several other states in suing Frontier Communications for not delivering promised internet speeds. North Carolina is seeking up to $5,000 per account for violations of the state’s Unfair or Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Court filings claim Frontier used multiple media formats to advertise its plans, or tiers of service, as operating at speeds that were normally not available, if ever. Those plans were sold, and customers were billed, as if those speeds were actually obtainable, when in fact, plan purchasers often found themselves unable to perform internet tasks they could have done with the advertised

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level of service. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction, rescission, or reform of contracts, restitution, refunds, disgorgement of illgotten gain, and civil penalties, plus court costs and payment for other expenses of litigation. Frontier is denying the allegations. The overrepresentation of Frontier’s Digital Subscriber Line is believed to have affected about 1.3 million customers in 25 states. Between December 2015 and the time of the filing, the North Carolina Department of Justice had received over 200 complaints about Frontier’s overselling.

Automating the Police POLK COUNTY Pol k Cou nt y law en forcement ha s entered into an agreement with Flock Safety to install surveillance cameras in less-populated areas. The cameras won’t be used to get people in trouble for civil


violations, like speeding or driving with expired tags. Instead, law enforcement wants to capture information to help it solve crimes. Representatives from Flock Safety named stolen vehicle recovery and locating suspects involved in amber and silver alerts as sample applications. Flock’s cameras don’t just take photographs. They use “patented Vehicle Fingerprint technology” to maintain a searchable database that records the make and model, color, license plate details including different types of fake plates, and identifying vehicle features like roof racks and bumper stickers. While it seems invasive, the cameras are actually a response to public outcry to defund the police. Flock’s website explains, “For less than the cost of one additional officer, you can create a virtual gate around your city that captures evidence 24/7, 365.”

Six Months Later HENDERSON COUNTY Six months ago, tragic headlines were made when a 12-foot retaining wall under construction at the Hajoca distributorship on Spartanburg Highway in Hendersonville collapsed. Five workers were trapped under the wall. One managed to escape with minor injuries. Three of the four who were extracted by emergency workers were transported to medical facilities, and the other did not survive. The North Carolina Department of Labor has now fined Hajoca and Robert Crawford Masonry $30,800 each for two alleged serious violations of the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (ACT ) and Pinnacle Grading $2,800 for one alleged serious violation of the same act. Proceeds from the civil penalties collected by the Department of Labor are required by law to be turned over to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which, in turn, will see that the funds go to the state’s public schools. Instead of paying without question, all three parties took the legal option of requesting an informal conference with the state’s OSHA review commission.

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Photo by Stirling Barlow, courtesy Asheville Buncombe Adult Soccer Association (ABASA)

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Sell the

Farm Local Feed & Seed Stores Offer Supplies to Homesteaders, Farmers, & Gardeners WRITTEN BY MARLA HARDEE MILLING

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W

alking into small feed and seed shops in Western North Ca rolina evokes ma ny memories, especially for those who have been raised on farms. Visitors first notice the pungent, earthy aroma of the various animal feeds and seeds mixing with the sweet scent of hay as they enter these businesses. Big box stores, including those focused on pet products, can pack in the inventory, but they can’t compete with independent businesses in Western North Carolina that create a more personal experience when customers arrive.

Deep Roots: Candler Feed and Seed

Tony Fisher, who owns Candler Feed and Seed with his wife, Terri, emphasizes relationships when he talks about their business. They’ve worked over the years to build strong partnerships with their suppliers, but they also make it a point to get to know their customers on a first name basis. There’s definitely a “pull up a chair and set a spell” type of attitude here. Terri is a native and Tony hails from Ohio, but today they make their home about three miles from the store. Tony makes newcomers feel at ease with his friendly demeanor and quick laugh. A chihuahua sits on his lap, lavishing in the attention. Five cats have their own favorite spots around the store—some find a comfortable spot on the top of a bag of feed, while others are more social as they rub up against the legs of those who walk in. Some customers will make extra stops at the store just to spend time with the cats. Near the center, a big white bunny sits in a spacious cage. The huge bags of feed take center stage here, but there’s also a smattering of hardware around the back of the store—shovels, rakes, and such. About 15 years ago, the hardware section was much more expansive, but as Home Depot and Lowe’s opened nearby, their sales decreased in that area, and they shifted to focus more on their feed. They’re also diversifying their business. To the far left, they are creating an area of consignment items, including clothing, ceramics, and wooden slabs for custom carpentry. The front entry of the business sports a variety of wreaths and plants. Straw sits on the dock, and hay is locked in a nearby cage. The Fishers bought the business 17 years ago from a man who ran it for 19 years, and the original owners had it many years before that. Tony became associated with the business as a supplier. As he got to know the previous owner better, they tossed around the idea of a transfer of ownership for some time before bringing it to fruition. Candler Feed and Seed has long been a staple in the community and outlasted other feed and seed shops, which ultimately closed.

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“When we started, there were three feed and seed stores within four blocks,” he says. “We’re the only one still standing. You have to change to stay in this business.” He provides some specific examples of how they’ve adapted to challenges. He says in 2008, during the financial crisis, many customers got rid of their horses. Supplying horse feed had been a big part of their sales, so they shifted.

“We have four different kinds of feed that we manufacture in our own store. We do pig feed, horse and goat feed, and we manufacture bird seed that my mother established in the early 1980s." “Thank God for the chicken phase. We cater to small, backyard chicken people,” he says. Employee Dakota Eastman chimes in, “And it just keeps growing.” They also dove into dog food distribution with Black Gold about 10 years ago, and he says “those sales blew up.” Black Gold partnered with Sunshine Mills after a time, and then

those two companies went in different directions. “We stayed with Sunshine and got out of distribution,” he says. “We buy all of our pet food from Sunshine.” In addition, Candler Feed and Seed is the only dealer in North Carolina to sell Godfrey’s feed, and it is the only store in this area to sell Reedy Fork organic feed. The business continued to thrive through the pandemic. As an essential business, they were able to open every day, and they saw an increase in sales as customers doubled up on orders. But now, Tony says, “in the past six months we have had real supply chain problems. We sell a lot of bird seed, but our suppliers say there is a shortage in black oil sunflower seed. The price keeps going up every week. We were at $21 a bag, and it’s gone up $8 a bag [to $29] in the past year.” That’s the biggest increase they’ve seen of any product they sell. While the business is steady, Tony is quick to point out that they don’t have the luxury of giving charge accounts to big businesses who will come in and deplete his inventory and then pay in 30 days. “That leaves us with no seed and no money,” he says. They will, however, work out a payment plan with individual customers if someone is coming up short. “We try to help people out when we can, but we live spoon to mouth,” he says. “This is not the business to be in if your aspiration is to be rich. We have to sell things we can turn quickly.”

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More

Feed and Seed Stores

in WNC

Heritage Farm Supply Locally owned, this store offers feed for almost any animal—dogs, cats, chickens, cattle, horses, goats, sheep, llamas, rabbits, and guinea pigs. Plus, dewormers and flea control, straw matting and hay, and lawn and garden supplies. » 1320 Jupiter Road, Suite B, Weaverville » heritagefarmsupplync.com

LOTUS This farm and garden supply store focuses on innovative and sustainable methods of agri, aqua, and apiculture. There are Plenty of opportunities to learn here through a range of classes (keep an eye on their website for upcoming dates/times). Topics include vermicomposting, aquaponics, and chicken classes, among others. » 455-8 N. Louisiana Avenue, Asheville » lotusfarmandgarden.com

Farmers Friend Feed, Seed & Supply LLC This store stocks a plethora of products—everything from feed for horses, chickens, cattle, and deer to birdseed, fencing, gates, buckets, grooming supplies, stable equipment, hay and bedding, fertilizer, mulch, top soil, and many other items. » 188 Whiteside Road, Rutherfordton » farmersfriendfeedandseed.com

Valley Ag Farm & Garden This family-owned feed and seed store has been in operation since 1984 and serves as a dealer for Purina Feed products. This well-stocked store carries lots more than just feed and seed—you’ll find all sorts of lawn and garden supplies, egg turners, fencing supplies, toys, and more. » 4221 Boylston Highway, Mills River » valleyagfarmandgarden.com

Another challenge is the fact that they haul about half of everything they sell. Tony spends about two and half days a week on the road. His trips take him to places like Wilkesboro, North Carolina and Dawsonville, Georgia, among others. Once back in the store, he’s eager to chat with customers and continue building the friendly rapport that has built the business into a community staple. » 1275 Smokey Park Hwy, Candler » candlerfeedandseed.com

Continuing the Family Tradition: Bryson-Hooper Farm Supply

Debbie Hooper has seen the feed and seed business evolve and change dramatically over the years. Her parents, Billy Ray and Nellie Ensley Bryson, started Bryson Farm Supply (now known as BrysonHooper Farm Supply) in 1972. Debbie’s high school sweetheart, Randy, began working at the store as a teenager. After marrying, Debbie and Randy bought the store from her retiring parents in 1995. Today, Debbie manages the business on her own, which is something she never dreamed of doing. Randy passed away three years ago from cancer; he had worked continuously at the store for 36 years. “My husband was the man that made this business. He was a big, strong man that everybody loved,” says Debbie. “Now myself and my two employees run the store just like he would want us to run it, but it is very challenging.” Stepping inside Bryson-Hooper Farm Supply, located at 1552 East Main Street in Sylva, harkens back to an earlier time when life, perhaps, wasn’t as complicated. There are two big rooms with a concrete floor and a large feed warehouse. Two cats have the run of the place, and many customers come in with their dogs with them. “We are very old fashioned,” says Debbie. “We have antiques hanging on the walls—things we’ve collected over the years. We’re not computerized. We do everything on a regular cash register. We don’t have scans or bar codes. We have price labels where people can see the price. We don’t have internet here. I have it at home, but I don’t want to be bothered with it at work.” The business offers a variety of seed (for birds, lawns, wildflowers, etc.) and a range of feed for animals. “We have four different kinds of feed that we manufacture in our own store. We do pig feed, horse and goat feed, and we manufacture bird seed that my mother established in the early 1980s. She came up with a recipe for a premium bird mix. We also have a large greenhouse, and we have our own plants and resell in the summer. We do all heirlooms—tomatoes, peppers—those kinds of things.” Debbie is the oldest of four daughters, but her sisters were never really interested in the business, although one brother-in-law, Kevin Bradley, works with her today. Her other employee is assistant



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manager Armondo Acosta. Debbie has one daughter and a nineyear-old grandson who loves coming to work with her and getting to know the customers. Will he follow a career path in the family business? It’s too soon to tell, but he is getting a good look at what it takes to run a successful store. “I’m a third-generation business store owner,” says Debbie, as she explains that her maternal grandfather owned Ensley’s Grocery, which was a prominent grocery store in Jackson County. She says it went out of business around 1970. When she talks of challenges, online shopping and other competitors definitely enter the mix of things she has to consider. “Everybody orders from Chewy and Amazon. It’s the click of the button,” she says. “Time will tell about that. We’re going to try to hang on as long as we can. We had Tractor Supply move in about three miles or so up the road. We didn’t know how people would react to it, but we haven’t noticed a big difference.” Like Tony of Candler Feed and Seed, she is noticing a difference in the availability of product to sell. “Especially things like hardware items that come from overseas,” she says. “As far as a pricing increase, we haven’t seen that just yet.” Another worry is on the horizon: “They’re changing Highway 107,” she explains. “The road is getting ready to come through here and will take a lot of people’s property. It will affect all of us.” But instead of worrying, she focuses on the positive. “We have made a lot of wonderful, wonderful friends over the years,” she adds. “We have a large following of customers, and that’s a huge blessing.” » 1552 E Main St, Sylva » brysonfarmsupply.com

Newly Renovated: Sow True Seed

The folks at Sow True Seed successfully navigated the pandemic closures, which caused them to shut down their retail store from March 2020 to July 2021. The store, located on Haywood Street in Asheville, is now welcoming visitors once again following a renovation that included fresh paint and new displays. But even with temporarily closing their retail shop, business boomed—doubled, actually—during that time period as more people began gardening and taking a look at their food supply. “COVID bred a new crop of gardeners,” says Kari Brayman, marketing and communications manager at Sow True Seed. “A lot of folks were new customers and beginning gardeners. There was some hoarding as some people were buying huge amounts of seed they couldn’t possibly use in one year. They were worried about food availability.” Carol Koury launched the business in 2008 as an alternative to corporate seed suppliers. Sow True Seed now has nine female employees, with some additional seasonal help, and plans to move forward in the next year as an employee-owned co-op. “We have a non-hierarchical business structure,” she says. “We’re all equal and

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have an equal say.” Brayman defines the retail shop as a “garden boutique,” offering more than 500 varieties of GMO-free vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, seasonal products, such as plant starts and garlic bulbs, gift selections from local vendors, spices, greeting cards, gardening tools, compost bins for the kitchen, kids’ items, and a huge assortment of gardening books. Top-selling seeds include well-known vegetables such as lettuce, tomato, and carrots. “We’re known for having seeds adapted to the Southern region,” says Brayman, “and we’re known for some of our Southern heirloom varieties—okra, corn, beans, and heirloom tomatoes. We work with dozens of regional farmers that grow our seed out for us.” They have customers across the country, but the majority are in North Carolina and Georgia. Providing education is also part of their mission, and before COVID, they offered all sorts of gardening classes. Those will return in “Phase 2” of their reopening. Sow True Seed will also host the WNC Garlic Fest October 9 in its parking lot. The Utopian Seed Project serves as event organizer. “We’ll have classes and vendors offering everything from garlic

tea to garlic ice cream,” she says. “It’s been a long chapter. We’d love to see everybody come in and check out our renovations.”

A Not-so-Modern Twist: Villagers

The owner of Villagers on Main Street in Burnsville pauses a beat when asked if she’s running a modern-day incarnation of the oldtime feed and seed stores. The store launched in 2007 in West Asheville. Current owner Kendra Shillington bought it in 2018 and moved the business to Burnsville in April of this year. “We’re the opposite of modern,” she answers. “We’re trying to support more of the traditional ways—the village mentality of life. We have 6,000 products and [are] always changing. Villagers is a place where you can get a machete as well as your make-up.” When it comes to feed and seed, she says, “Our seeds are nonGMO and local. Our chicken and goat supplies are mostly organic, non-GMO, with no soy and no corn. It’s challenging to find that in other places.” The biggest shift she’s seen following her recent move to Yancey County is in the quantity that customers are buying. “We used to cater to urban homesteaders,” she explains. Where customers in

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Asheville would generally buy a half a pound of chicken feed, for instance, in Burnsville, customers stock up with 50-pound bags. “The scale has increased a lot,” she says. “It’s a different demographic. The people here are real homesteaders.” Shillington describes the shop as a gallery of sorts with a plethora of items created by local makers, artists, crafters, and welders. “Walking into our shop is different every time,” she says. “It’s like a scavenger hunt. It’s hard to get all of that online. We recently stocked the shop with honey—that’s not always there—and we currently have some medicine jewelry made by shamans, but we can’t consistently count on those to be there all the time.” Of course, there are items that are most always in stock—the popular Weck jars (canning jars made in Germany), apothecary supplies, herbs, garden tools, and other products. Villagers also offers a unique rental program, which temporarily provides customers with the equipment they need to extract honey and crush fruit. The original owner offered rentals of a honey extractor, and Shillington has added a fruit crusher and press. “We’re going to add ‘Granddaddy’s Goodie Getter,’ which is a nutcracker specifically for black walnuts. A lot of people like to harvest black walnuts,” she says.

The Care You Trust

Pricing of the current rental program is $25 for 48 hours’ use of the SAF Natura Honey Extractor and $35 for 48 hours’ use of the Weston Fruit Crusher + Press. “We’re also considering growing our tool-sharing program. We want to offer some unique tools—ones that don’t require a lot of maintenance,” she says. “We’re working closely with the Asheville Tool Library. Their program is something we want to mimic.” Long-range goals include evolving the business into more of a community hub that can be shared collectively through a co-op membership. She’s looking for a location that can support their growth and names possibilities: Marshall, Mars Hill, Burnsville, or Weaverville. The pandemic continues to provoke thought about how to best serve customers in the safest manner. “We’re assessing what is needed now that everything feels so different,” says Shillington. “We’re paying attention and listening to our community and discerning how we need to grow. We’ve had a lot of requests for a gathering space. We hope we can grow into a tea garden, a tea house, and greenhouse and continue to be for the community what is needed.” Villagers offered classes pre-pandemic. Those opportunities to learn are currently on hold, but the plan is to bring them back as

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soon as they can. “I own 50 acres in Burnsville and hope to evolve into an educational facility,” she says. “There are a lot of talented, knowledgeable people in this area. I know there is a role for Villagers to play. Hopefully in the next few months, that will become clear.”

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Planet Nine Private Air after it lost 3,200

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pounds of “flowers.” The flowers, otherwise

classroom. North Carolina State University

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(NCSU) will be the lead partner and work

into 44-pound duffel bags for transport to

with the University of North Carolina at

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Chapel Hill (UNC CH), Indiana University,

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Vanderbilt University, and Digital Promise.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized

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five years with $20 million in grant funding

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learning for the classroom. The end product

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nonverbal communication. Doing so, they

that if any of the cargo was in violation of

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legal limits, the authorities had destroyed

customize subsequent sessions.

the evidence.

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| August 2021

They’re All Over STATEWIDE A documentary released July 14 highlighted the state’s aquaculture industr y. The documentary, Fish Farms, was created by WRAL with sponsorship from the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation. As an added promo, WRAL also published online recipes for the featured fish. The documentary shows behind-the-scenes views of how various forms of fish and other water creatures, from the ocean to the freshwater rivers of the mountains, are farmed for sale. Animals highlighted in the video include rainbow trout, crawfish, oysters, catfish, bass, and sturgeons. Aquaculture was first promoted by the state in the 1990s, when farmers were compelled to transition away from growing tobacco. That contributed to what is now a high-volume, highly diversified industry. While not a leader in the nation, and not even a significant sector of the state’s economy, North Carolina’s aquaculture industry does $60 million in business a year, and its trout harvest is second only to Idaho’s.

The Ambience of Solid Brick WILMINGTON Molly and Brendan Curnyn first launched CheeseSmith as a food truck in 2018. Last month, they held the grand opening for their brick-and-mortar concept in Wilmington’s Cargo District. A lot of the businesses in the district operate out of shipping containers, but CheeseSmith is located in a 2,500-square-foot brick building with good cooking facilities, a dining area, office space, and central air. Renovations undertaken included painting the interior white, like all the other buildings in the district; removing the drop ceiling for a more industrial look; and redoing the floor as paved-over brick. As a special touch, the Curnyns spelled the company name out in a mosaic on the front counter. Future plans include expanding for


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outdoor dining. In the first couple of hours at the new location, the Curnyns served about 100 orders. CheeseSmith is a sandwich shop, serving unique combinations on a changing menu. They are typically served warm with melted cheese.

Lumber Lag WELDON Roseburg Forest Products accepted up to $2.09 million in performance-based incentives from the State of North Carolina’s Job Development Investment Grant program, plus more from Halifax County and the Town of Weldon, to build Roanoke Valley Lumber, a 375,000-square-foot sawmill on 200 acres. Construction is expected to begin early next year. After opening, it will produce up to 400 million board feet of lumber annually. CEO Grady Mulberry cited low interest rates, a

push for more single-family housing, and vast home remodeling correlated to the COVID-19 shutdown for the high demand his industry is now experiencing. Roseburg is the largest timberland owner in the Roanoke Valley; altogether it owns over 600,000 acres in Oregon, Virginia, and North Carolina, and it operates 14 manufacturing facilities. Its products include softwood and hardwood plywood, lumber, laminated veneer lumber, particleboard, medium-density fiberboard, thermally fused laminates, and joists. Its sustainable business model calls for replanting its harvested lands with quality timber.

Middleman Markdowns RALEIGH WR AL has launched the Hometown Carolina Store. The effort is designed t o cha n nel more cust omers t owa rd

the businesses of local proprietors and entrepreneurs while operating all across the state. The online store features an ever-changing catalog of “special insider discounts on locally curated products, services, and experiences.” Organized into eight categories, the products are as diverse as gym memberships, restaurant meals, prescription eyeglasses, and metal street signs. Discounts are deep, with many around 65 percent, and several items are offered for free. The website is also set up to deliver purchases as gifts. As an added plus, the website is affiliated with givebacks.com, which will make a donation to a charity of the shopper’s choice each time he or she makes a purchase. WRAL is an NBC-affiliated television news station, now owned by Capitol Broadcasting. It has been in business since 1956, and it has long enjoyed a strong online presence.

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Must Be Chocolate OCRACOKE A s d rone del iver ies become more commonplace, one place where they are more of a necessity than a luxury curiosity is on Ocracoke, where connection to the mainland is maintained through the good graces of ferry operators or, for the more well-off, through private air- or watercraft. In the event of another coast-shifting storm, the island could be cut off from medical supplies and other essential items. So the American drone company, Volansi, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation, recently completed two successful test deliveries from a ferry dock in Hatteras Village to Ocracoke Island and back. The drones covered a total of eight miles in 18 minutes. One delivered a survival kit, space blankets, and a chocolate muffin; the other delivered bottled water. Now, Volansi will go into scaleup mode, designing drones for longer trips with larger payloads. With locations in Concord, California, Bend, Oregon, and Mesa, Arizona, Volansi is working on providing drone solutions to commercial and federal challenges.

Oh, My Nose! RALEIGH Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a fabric with such tiny pores, it is proving impervious to mosquito stings. They were intentionally trying to develop a textile that would withstand mosquito bites, so they were working with a computational model programmed with the stinging process of Aedes Aegypti, which carry viruses humans can catch, like Zika, Dengue fever, and yellow fever. The analysis took into account details like the dimensions of the insect’s head and proboscis as well as the mechanics of the injection. A number of materials that worked with the model were then wrapped around

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a reservoir of blood and exposed to diseasefree mosquitos. The researchers used their findings to create a mosquito-proof textile, which they used to sew a form-fitting undergarment and a long-sleeved shirt. Next, a volunteer wore these items in a cage for 10 minutes with 200 “hungry” mosquitos, and the researchers found not one mosquito had managed to penetrate the fabric. It is expected the material will find use in military and civilian life.

Hey, Doc! Says Here That… WINSTON-SALEM Novant will be supplying 12 more of its medical centers with MyChart Bedside. An extension of its patient portal, MyChart Bedside gives patients access to their charts and medical records via their smartphones, so they can keep track of things while they’re stuck in a hospital bed. The app also serves as a nurse call button and provides a means for patients to email physicians or set up appointments, virtual or in-person. They can even use it to request prescription renewals. By way of preventive medicine, the app tracks doctor visits and procedures and reminds patients when it’s time for follow up. It can also serve as a noninvasive and reliable way of tracking fitness goals. Patients can even report new symptoms to their care team. And, for those moments when more television programming becomes unbearable, it even has games to while away the boring hours. The MyChart Bedside program is being expanded following a successful pilot at three Charlotte hospitals.

Distinguished Designations RALEIGH The Nor t h Ca rolina Depa r tment of Natural and Cultural Resources announced the addition of three historic districts and


eight individual properties to the National Register of Historic Places. The properties are mostly historic homes, including their grounds, along with a couple schools. Two additional properties already listed also underwent boundary redefinitions for their designations. To receive the designation, properties had to be reviewed by the North Carolina National Register Advisory Committee, nominated by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, and forwarded to the official keeper of the national register for consideration. Rehabilitated registered properties are eligible for tax credits, and it is estimated that, to date, 4,036 historic rehabilitation projects have been completed, representing an investment of over $3.2 billion. The National Register was established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to protect and preser ve properties of historic significance.

Strange Snacking Habits OUTER BANKS Wildlife preservationists have identified a partner to help remove invasive watermilfoil from canals, marshes, and the sound of the Outer Banks. Watermilfoil grows flat and thick on top of bodies of water, and it can be difficult to control. It is viewed as a threat because it can smother entire ecosystems. Now helping park rangers with the removal are the wild horses of the Outer Banks. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund shared a video on Facebook catching one of the horses in the act. The mustangs wade into belly-deep water to graze on watermilfoil for hours on end. Most animals don’t like the growth, but it is harmless for the horses, whose diet consists of sea oats, acorns, grasses, and other vegetation. The horses have even been known to swim from island to island when food gets scarce. Somewhat of an anomaly, historians are inclined to believe the mustangs were abandoned by Spanish

explorers half a millennium ago. Watermilfoil was introduced to the United States in the 1940s as an ornamental aquarium plant, but now it is ranked among the worst of aquatic weeds in every state.

Beautiful, Green, and Safe CHAPEL HILL A residential subdivision by the name of Array will become the first 100 percent net-zero neighborhood in t he st ate. Developer Jodi Bakst of Real Estate Experts and Circular Design Construction, after citing statistics on the carbon footprint of housing, described sustainable building as “a moral imperative.” The community will consist of 12 homes on a total of 58 acres. Lots are now selling for $195,000-$225,000 pre-construction. The homes have yet to be designed, but Bakst says the architects, who are all based in Chapel Hill and already committed to the project, will meet net-zero standards with homes certified to National Green Building Standards, largely through passive solar and photovoltaics. In addition to being net-zero, the houses will conserve water and maintain indoor air quality. Open space will be sensitively protected and designed to meet National Green Building Standards and qualify for Wildlife Friendly Development certification as well. Sustainable practices will be upheld through all stages of construction.

leader in the electric vehicle supply chain.” CEO Keith Phillips explained that until 20 years ago, most of the world’s commercial lithium had been sourced from Gaston County. Now, it is mined in Australia and shipped to China for processing. Piedmont’s plans have been in the works for years, but the need for lithium has only grown since prospecting began. Piedmont’s model is to invest $840 million in mining raw spodumene and converting it to lithium and lithium compounds onsite. Phillips said the manufacture of lithium hydroxide would attract battery manufacturers and possibly even automobile companies to the area. Residents opposed to the plant spoke against blasting noise, environmental degradation, impact on the water table, and traffic. A petition is circulating.

Wrecking the Environment to Save It? GASTONIA Piedmont Lithium’s plans to expand its mining operations in Gaston County have been met with strong public pushback. In their presentation before the county commissioners, represent atives from Piedmont argued their business would create hundreds of jobs and make the county “the

August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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C #$

Mystery of SEO Debunked

The

Organically and Efficiently Grow Your Business' Website Ranking

Heather Johnson

is the principal & brand strategist at Kudzu Brands

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When it comes to marketing tactics, SEO is probably the one that has received a lot of buzz in the past few years. For many, SEO is a mystery. The term is frequently thrown around but never thoroughly explained. You get the gist of SEO, but still aren’t sure how to actually use it. And why shouldn’t you be using it? If the last two years have taught us anything, it is the importance of our digital presence. From how we shop for goods and services to how we order dinner, the need for a website and online marketing that attracts our customers is more important than ever. Moreover, we have now figured out how easy it is to operate remotely and want to continue to do so—even post pandemic. For a business, the ability to attract your customers online starts with making sure you are showing up in searches for the goods or services you provide. This is where SEO comes in. SEO is short for search engine optimization. It’s a tool that you can use to organically grow your website ranking. For example, your target customers are looking for a green | August 2021

builder in their local area. You want your website to be one of the top results when a user types in a keyword or keyword phrase such as, “green builder” or “green builder near me.” Optimizing your website language allows search engines like Google to quickly recognize your website as an excellent and reliable source. By using SEO best practices and staying up-to-date with trends, over time this will organically increase your website’s visibility on search engines and boost website traffic. For many, the idea of tackling any sort of SEO strategy can seem intimidating. You may be asking questions like, “How do I get started? How can it help me? Is it actually doing anything for my business?” But SEO doesn’t have to be hard. SEO is simply making minor modifications to your website content so that your business shows up at the top of search results online organically. If you are still scratching your head, wondering where to start practicing SEO on your website, here are a few guidelines to get you started!


Build a Good Foundation

Your website is the core of your business’ online presence. In order for your business to be found online, you need to make sure that you have set it up for success. Here are a few things to pay close attention to when you’re looking at the foundation of your web presence:

1. Is your site findable? In order for your site to show up in search results, you have to first make sure that it is able to be searched, indexed, and ranked in a search engine’s catalog. To test if your site is showing up on Google searches, do a “site:” Search for your site's home URL. If you see results, you're in the index. For example, open a tab in your search engine and type in: “site: yoururl.com.” If you see a list of results for your business, your site is being indexed. If you don’t, you may need to submit it to the Google Search Console—see 2.

2. Get on Google Search Console. While there are many search engines available to search the internet, Google tends to dominate. Make sure you sign up for Google Search Console. It is free to sign up and offers you alerts when Google sees unusual activity on your site, such as crawling problems or indications of hacking. It also provides insight into the performance, experience, and other metrics of your site.

3. Make sure your site has an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that validates your website’s identity and encrypts any information sent to the server using SSL technology. The easy way to determine if your site has an SSL certificate is to enter the URL into your search bar and take note of whether or not it has a lock icon or the information

It is important to understand what your audience is looking for and how they search for it. This analysis will help you to not only determine the keywords you need to include on your website but also gain a better understanding of your target audience. icon when it delivers the website page. If it has the lock icon, good news, you have an SSL certificate installed. If it has the information icon, you need to purchase and install an SSL

certificate onto your site. Several years ago, Google started rolling out the requirement for SSL encryption on a site as a means to optimize sites they were ranking and indexing. Now it has become mandatory for good SEO.

4. Optimize your page speed. This is important for more reasons than just SEO. Search engines use the page loading time as a source of quality on your website. Also, if your page is taking more than three seconds to load, users are more likely to leave your site before seeing it. Recent updates to the Google algorithms that rank and deliver your website in search engine results have made site speed and user experience some of the top factors when it comes to ranking and indexing your site for user queries.

5. Understand user experience. Whether you are building a new website or just inspecting your existing site, ensure that the user experience makes sense. Is your site easy to navigate? Is it easy to interact, shop, purchase, or obtain information on your site? Is the content relevant to the title of the page? Additionally, having a simple URL structure will allow search engines to easily understand the purpose of your website page by reading important keywords included in the URL text.

6. Perform keyword research. It is important to understand what your audience is looking for and how they search for it. This analysis will help you to not only determine the keywords you need to include on your website but also gain a better understanding of your target audience. What triggers them to search for your products or services? Why do they want your products and/or services? How do they want that type of information delivered to them? By answering these questions and delving deeper into who your target audience is, you will be able to identify the keywords and phrases that you want to show up for in search results. As a good exercise to help facilitate your keyword research, ask five friends to search for your business’ products or services without searching directly for your business’ name. Take note of the different words and phrases that they are using. This will help you think of the variations in keywords that you should be using on your website in order to show up in search results.

7. Ensure mobile responsiveness. For the majority of us, our lives can all be managed from our phone. In fact, almost 50 percent of internet searches are conducted by mobile devices. With this kind of traffic, search engines are prioritizing mobile responsiveness as a key benchmark for ranking. Is your site mobile friendly? Is it easy to read on a mobile device? A great way to test your site is through the Google Search Console (search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly).

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Optimize What You Have

Whether you have an existing website or you are building a new one, taking a look at your website from the search engine’s

Search engines like Google are more inclined to rank pages better when the topic is more comprehensive instead of multiple, weaker pages for each variation of a keyword. point-of-view is incredibly important. In other words, you can view the site’s architecture without any colors, pictures, or special programmed features. Here are a few things to address when you’re practicing on-site optimization:

1. Apply your keyword research. Review your existing website pages to ensure that they are using the keywords you have determined are what you want to show up for. Don’t overload the page with all the keywords as this will provide

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negative results, and most search engines may ding your website for these types of practices. Your web pages should exist to answer a user’s queries and guide them through your site to understand your business and its purpose.

2. Remove any broken links. Broken links create a negative user experience because your content is directing them to a page that no longer exists. Search engines will notice this and lower your ranking, thinking you are not a reliable source for the user.

3. Beware of thin content. An older SEO practice was to create a single page for every single iteration of your keywords. This is no longer necessary because most search engine algorithms are smart enough to recognize similar keywords and phrases. In fact, search engines like Google are more inclined to rank pages better when the topic is more comprehensive instead of multiple, weaker pages for each variation of a keyword.

4. Do not duplicate content. Having duplicated content on your website confuses the search engine about which webpage is more reliable for the user. Search engines will penalize your website ranking for this.

5. Do not “keyword stuff.” In the past, SEO practices may have told you to make sure that you use your keywords a certain


number of times in a page in order to rank higher. As mentioned earlier, Google’s algorithms have evolved so significantly that while they may look for mentions of keywords or related concepts on the page, the page itself has to add value outside of just using the keywords. If a page is going to be useful for a user, it has to be understandable and written so that it conveys the overall meaning and intent of the topic mentioned.

6. Utilize page architecture. Use titles, headers, and subheaders to your advantage by naturally incorporating important keywords. When a search engine is scanning the content on your page, it reads from top to bottom: First the title, then headers and subheaders, then the body. Using keywords in the most important parts of your pages will increase your website ranking for that specific content.

7. Get technical (just a bit). There are technical aspects to the overall backend programming of your website that can affect your SEO ranking. Image sizes are some of the biggest culprits for slow site speed or loading issues. Ensure your images are sized properly. Also make sure that when they are loaded to your site, they include descriptions and, at the very least, alt tags or a text alternative for an image. You wouldn’t think to write a meta-tag for the images on your webpage because search engines can’t see it and who will ever know? You’re correct that search engines can’t see the image, but they can certainly read it. Using keywords that are relevant to the photo will allow search engines to see that the image content is necessary.

8. Do not forget the meta. This is an easy miss! You can use an SEO plugin like Yoast to help you assign metadata to every page. This includes the page descriptions, meta keywords, and snippets that are all included when someone searches for your keywords. Additionally, things like making sure the code on the backend of your site is working effectively are important. This may not be something that you can do by yourself, so be sure to seek out a professional.

Continuous Improvement

The actual content on your website is vital to website ranking and should always be a living and ever-changing resource for your user. By continuously updating the content on your website, you are improving your SEO by creating a greater user experience and encouraging users to spend more time on your site. In this vein, here are a few things to consider when planning for content on your site.

1. Make a plan and stick to it. Creating content can often feel burdensome and tedious. However, it doesn’t have to be so ominous

and overwhelming. Create a content calendar that provides times when you will update the content on your site. For instance, if your site has a blog, that’s great! But if you are not going to add to your blog on a regular basis, what is the point of having it? Instead, commit to a timeframe that works with your schedule. If that is once a month, then commit to writing a blog once a month. Be consistent about it no matter what frequency you choose. Additionally, mark times on your calendar when you will update the pictures, review the copy and make tweaks or updates, and analyze your keywords you are showing up for. You can do this through the Google Search Console or your Google Analytics, if you have it.

2. Understand and review your website performance. Whether you are using Google Search Console or Google Analytics (highly recommended), it is important to understand and review how your website is performing on a regular basis. What pages are getting the most hits? Where are people located that are accessing your site? What source are they coming from—Google, social media, referral sources? Answering and understanding the traffic that is coming to your site can in turn help you make decisions on how to optimize the content on your site to get better results. Add this to your calendar to do at least monthly.

SEO as a Long-Term Marketing Strategy

Now that you have some knowledge to get started on SEO, let’s talk about why it’s so important. After all the coding is complete on your gorgeous new website, it doesn’t end there. Your website is designed to serve your business, but it can’t do it alone. SEO is not a “one-and-done” service like many believe it to be. Rather, it’s an ongoing duty that is not only constantly changing, but requires constant relevancy. Search engines are becoming smarter. It’s important to stay on top of the best practices and trends available. By keeping up with what is working at the time, your website ranking will organically increase in accountability and credibility. While the recommendations listed in this article are great starting points, there are still many other tactics that can be used for complete optimization. If you want to try and tackle this on your own, try taking a course on Udemy or LinkedIn Learning. If you have a larger or more complex site, it may make sense to hire an SEO professional. Again, SEO is not a quick fix. It is a long-term marketing strategy, and while that may require a bit of patience on your part, the reward is a website that is optimized for user experience and facilitates more

August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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If You

Build it How Jennifer and Andy Perkins Made Looking Glass Creamery an Agritourism Destination

WRITTEN BY MARY CATHERINE MCANNALLY SCOTT | PHOTOS BY EVAN ANDERSON August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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(L-R) Anne Aldridge, Burns Aldridge, Meherwan Irani, Douglas Ellington, Leah Wong Ashburn, and Ryan Israel , photo by Evan Anderson

T

here’s a famous scene in a famous movie where a farmer walks out into his cornfield at dusk. Through the rustle of tall green stalks, the camera pans to an idyllic farmhouse, then out again, tracking the farmer’s white t-shirt as he moseys through the crop. A disembodied whisper delivers the now oft-quoted line: If you build it, (they) will come. Jennifer and Andy Perkins have taken a series of leaps as the owners of Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview and now Columbus, North Carolina. Maybe those choices haven’t been quite as big a gamble as building a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield, but the risks have required courage and a belief that if they worked hard to produce an excellent product, success would find them. Jennifer laughs infectiously as she recounts the story of how they got started, curly hair spilling out of her cap (which doubles as a sanitary head covering, since she’s sitting in the creamery itself). “Things really do work out. You just have to step in some direction, know where you’re going, and even then, it may be different than where you get to,” she says. That first step sent the Perkinses on quite a ride. Jennifer began their journey with an unpaid internship at a goat dairy out of college. Andy left the corporate world and learned how to repair tractors from watching YouTube videos. Within their first year of cheesemaking, Williams-Sonoma tasted their cheeses and tapped them to be a preferred vendor. In 2017, the Perkinses bought the farm—literally—committing to working land, owning cattle, and running a second location.

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Jennifer and Andy Perkins’ careers have brought together the perfect combination of a mystical element of good fortune and a dogged devotion to hard work, and you can taste it in every bite.

The Cheese

The Perkinses’ cheeses, housed in neat, beautiful rows of carefully climate-controlled rooms, are as much a playground for the eyes as they are for the palate. They’re stored by category, and it’s easy to tell the new arrivals from the old guard. The new cheese, pale, buttery yellow, jumps right out at you. But the aged cheese, in every shade from gray to pale blue, rust to amber, is so enticing you’ll have to remind yourself you can’t sample it right then and there. There are separate refrigerators for each color of rind, but a particularly interesting space is the blue cheese room, where a Looking Glass team member pierces every wheel 100 times on each side with a metal spike to achieve the correct active growth and flavor. And the cheese, each with a particular name, really speaks for itself. Every slice of the Cumin-Studded Gouda tastes smooth and rich, occasionally punctuated by ker-pows of developed, rustic cumin. The Green River Blue cheese is an umami-laden adventure to discovery of flavor pairings. (It “really sings with some jam,” Erin Carpin, Looking Glass’ pickling expert, shares.) The Drover’s Road cheddar is sharp and perfect, reminding you what cheddar should actually taste like outside of the bewilderingly bright-orange squares we’ve grown accustomed to from the aisles of our groceries. Walking around the creamery, Jennifer takes inventory of a batch


currently undergoing an important reaction. It will eventually be Gouda-style cheese, but right now, it more resembles the milk it started as. Jennifer and Steve (a Looking Glass employee who’s on cheesemaking today) expertly test the mixture to see if there’s a “clean break,” which is the mark for readiness to move to the next step. (A clean break is achieved when the curd stops looking like liquid milk and starts looking more like yogurt. At this point, cheesemakers can slice under the top layer and gently lift their knife to see if the cheese splits. It’s easy to imagine if you’ve ever made a cheesecake: Going into the oven, it’s liquid; when it’s ready, you could slide a knife in at an angle, lift, and the somewhat gelatinous surface would split.) “Gouda,” Jennifer says, “is a ‘washed curd’ cheese.” All cheeses are made with a similar process, but the differences lie in things like how big or small you cut the curd, the temperature, and curd washing. A small tweak can make a huge difference in taste and texture. “For a Gouda,” says Jennifer, “after the milk has set and the curd has been cut, hot water is introduced to remove some lactose. By removing lactose, there is less food for the cultures to digest, resulting in a milder cheese.” It’s in the eating that the process really shines: Every mouthful of cheese a customer savors has been lovingly, carefully handled and selected by a team of fewer than 10 who milk the well-fed and well-loved cows, fix the farm equipment, store and clean the wheels, arrange the cheese boards, and greet you by name. This palpable love for the product, evident in every employee and every rind, began with a love for animals.

Origins

After college, spurred by her love of animals, Jennifer worked at a goat dairy, where she was introduced to cheesemaking. It proved to be the springboard for a lifelong passion. After attending college in Colorado and a short stint living in Virginia, the Perkinses were Asheville-bound. Andy, who’d gotten a graduate degree in audiology, worked for Advanced Bionics as a medical sales representative for the Southeast focusing on cochlear implants. Jennifer took a post with the Biltmore Group and proposed the idea of a farmstead cheesemaking operation on the Estate to the executive committee, but it ultimately wasn’t meant to be. While looking for her next gig, Jennifer received a newsletter from Blackberry Farm, a luxury resort hotel in Walland, Tennessee, known especially for its fine dining, producing James Beard Awardwinning hospitality and chefs, and stunning bucolic setting. In the newsletter, she saw they were opening a sheep dairy where they would make cheese. She wrote them a letter pitching herself as a candidate (she laughs out loud remembering the earnest tone of her letter: “You should hire me!”). They responded with an invitation she gleefully accepted, and she started at her new post soon after. She stayed at Blackberry for a few years, meeting and befriending then-executive chef John Fleer. (Fleer, the award-winning chef and restaurateur behind Rhubarb, the Rhu, and Benne on Eagle, has long used Looking Glass as a supplier: “When we opened up our business here, he was on board right away. He has been ever since; even throughout the pandemic, he continued to buy cheese,” Jennifer says

August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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with deep appreciation.) While she honed her cheesemaking skills at Blackberry Farm, her destiny was to open a creamery of her own. After moving to Fairview in 2008, Jennifer and Andy began construction on a creamery. They’d saved around $50,000 for the project, which they planned to build next to their house. “I drew the plans myself on a piece of paper,” Jennifer remembers. As the general contractors, they decided to keep things minimalistic. They weren’t even sure it would get off the ground, so they started small with a cheesemaking room measuring 12x24 feet and an outdoor goat house. Everything else (an aging room, a small walk-in cooler, a caramel-making room) came later, after they were sure the risk would pay off.

Make

Creme Fraiche at Home

“Creme fraiche is still the magic of milk and bacteria— almost like a very fresh cheese and amazingly delicious,” Jennifer says. “It’s similar to (but much better than) sour cream. If you have never made it, you should!

1

Stir in 1 to 1.5 t of cultured buttermilk to every cup of whole cream in a mason jar.

2

Once combined, cover with a kitchen towel (something breathable) and allow it to rest overnight at room temperature (72 to 75F).

3

The next day, put the lid on and move to the refrigerator for another 24 hour rest before using.

Its uses are innumerable, but here are a few: Use it to thicken a soup, top pastry or scones, add to scrambled eggs, or to whip with sugar or vanilla and serve alongside fresh fruit or cake.

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Eventually, Andy and Jennifer had a space to make cheese, but no milk supplier. “Here’s another example [of kismet],” says Jennifer, grinning. “Our inspector came and said, ‘You know, you really should know where your milk’s gonna come from.’ I said, ‘I don’t know where we’ll get it, but it’ll be here.’” A week or two before they got licensed, the inspector called back. “‘You won’t believe this,’ he said, ‘but there’s an Amish farmer, and it’s a long story, but he’s lost his supply chain. He has all this milk and nowhere to send it.’” Jennifer had a creamery, but no milk. “If you build it…” When they’d started cheese production, the Perkinses began setting up at local farmer’s markets. Almost immediately, Looking Glass was discovered by Williams-Sonoma and recruited as an in-house supplier. Suddenly, Looking Glass was fielding more orders than they’d ever expected, drop-shipping products all over the country from Texas to California. It wasn’t long before they faced an important choice that made the business the family operation it is today. “We weren't turning enough profit to afford hiring someone to help us with all the [WilliamsSonoma] orders and holiday shipping, but we also couldn't afford to turn down the opportunity,” Jen explains. Ultimately, Andy left his career at Advanced Bionics, along with the steady income and health insurance that accompanied it, to go all-in on Looking Glass. “That first year on our own with no safety net was very scary,” remembers Jennifer, “but we learned how to work together effectively. He is amazing,” she glows, recalling her husband’s commitment to her passion. “He left a career to come do this, and [he] is milking cows and fixing tractors and figuring out everything about farming. I don’t know a lot of people who would do that,” she says, and her easy laugh fills the room. After a few years of a fruitful partnership with Williams-Sonoma, Jennifer and Andy wanted to pivot to serve their local customer base instead. They were running short on real estate, so much of what they produced was shipped for Williams-Sonoma customers, limiting their ability to keep cheese in-house to sell locally. When they decided to part ways with Williams-Sonoma, says Jennifer, “They were really understanding, and it was very helpful for us. People would come [to the shop] because they’d seen us in their Williams-Sonoma magazine.” The decision to make themselves available to their local customers would pay off in spades. If you’ve been to a farmer’s market any time in the last five years, you know the presence of adorably packaged artisan cheese is plentiful. Markets all over the nation were so saturated with cheesemakers that Jennifer and Andy built their first store in hopes that their customers would come to them instead of the other way around. “We brought the farmer’s market to us,” Jennifer says. In 2013, they turned the enclosed area of the open-air goat housing and created the Cheese Shop that stands today. The Cheese Shop serves as both a retail location where customers can purchase their favorite products


Photo by Tim Robison

and a cozy space to enjoy a cheese board and a glass of wine. They’ve cultivated a loyal customer base who’ll come to them for all their cheese needs. Spending time in the store for even a few minutes, you’ll see locals pop in with large baskets or Tupperware containers waiting to be filled with their “usual,” which the staff can probably guess. Today, about half their business is generated from their two stores: the original Fairvew location and the second location they recently opened in Columbus.

Buying the Farm

After the initial success with the Cheese Shop, the Perkinses were ready to take things to the next level. They imagined an urban creamery—think of a downtown setting with large windows where patrons could walk by and watch the cheese getting made—and were ready to close their Fairview shop if they could find a larger, more centrally located option. They searched for the right location and came close a few times, but retro-fitting large spaces for cheesemaking proved to be both challenging and expensive. And in yet another almost comically well-timed twist of fate, the solution to their problems appeared. Enter: the Harmon Brothers. Doug and Al Harmon, who owned a Columbus, North Carolina, dairy farm and had no children of their own to pass it on to, contacted Jennifer about purchasing the property. Initially, she was hesitant. “I was like, ‘We are not running a dairy farm. That is not part of our model.’ It took a few months, really, of thinking about it, and then a year of negotiation, but then we bought the farm,” she recalls.

Once the purchase was agreed upon, Jennifer and Andy had an advantage over most people in their situation: They could train at the feet of the master, so to speak. And in their case, the masters’ feet were mere yards away. “While we were building the creamery, we bought an RV, parked it out front of their house, and were able to work, learn, and shadow them on the farm,” Jennifer says of the Harmon brothers. And the benefits didn’t stop there. The Harmons’ fully operational dairy, with mature cows ready to be milked, was a welcome alternative to what most new dairy farmers have to face: buying a cow, breeding it, and waiting for a calf and, as a result, milk to be available. In the latter model, it can take years before there’s enough yield to be meaningful; by purchasing a fully functional dairy farm, the Perkinses had access to milk immediately. “To walk into an operation that’s up and running and established, and to know that if something breaks, you’ve got someone who knows how to fix it—that’s a huge leg up,” Jennifer says. Animals are what got Jennifer interested in dairy farming to begin with, so it should come as no surprise that the cows at Looking Glass are treated like bovine royalty.

The Happiest Cows

“I love those moments with the cows when they see you and recognize you and trust you enough to allow you to walk amongst them in the field, seemingly unnoticed, as if [you’re] one of their own,” Jennifer says. Her love of animals and agriculture are what got her interested August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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in cheesemaking to begin with, so the loving care with which she speaks about her cows feels natural. “Instead of being a member of a herd where you look at the herd as a whole, each animal at a dairy farm has a history, a personality, and a family tree that you are intimately aware of,” she says. The cows at Looking Glass are handled twice a day, every day, so the small team is intimately familiar with the cows’ habits and their social dynamics: who doesn’t get along with who, which cows are friends, and in what order they come into and out of the parlor. “That relationship over years leads to the sense of a partnership and a deep appreciation for their contribution to the whole operation. It is that sense of gratitude and the reality of working together with an animal on a daily basis that is unique to dairy and part of why I was drawn to working with animals as a business,” Jennifer explains. And it’s exactly that kind of humility and appreciation that makes the operation at Looking Glass so special. There’s no whiff of mistreatment or closed-door policy when it comes to these cows: This farm is an open book, and the cows are the main characters. The 50 or so cows (30 of them are milk cows) graze over bright green, hilly swaths of grass, often walking five miles at a time up and down steep inclines, which keeps them both fit and well-fed. Jennifer has very particular ideas about how cows should be handled, and while she’s careful not to condemn the practices of her fellow dairy owners, it’s tough to imagine how anything could be better for cheesemaking than her methods. For example, she milks her cows seasonally, rather than year-round. She follows the natural cycle of life: Cows give birth in the spring, produce milk through the summer, then stop producing milk in the fall and winter. Looking Glass follows those natural rhythms, giving their cows a break when they’d naturally have one and milking them twice a day between stints of grazing during the summer. (Larger, more corporate dairies also give cows breaks, but they come at random times; “winter milk” is sold at a higher rate because it’s technically “out of season.”) From December to early March, Looking Glass doesn’t collect any milk from their cows. They store aged cheese and still have plenty for customer consumption to bridge the gap. Those sorts of choices produce exceptional milk, which is what makes Looking Glass’ exceptional cheese. “In Europe, they save their best milk to make into cheese because they view it, I think correctly, as, ‘We’re going to amplify the good things in the cheese as you reduce it down and age it longer and get the best out of it,’” she explains. Which makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Better milk reduced down makes a better product. More often than not, the commercial American attitude toward cheesemaking has been the other way around: We tend

to make cheese out of milk that has a problem, hasn’t been kept at the correct temperature, or is in some other way deemed unsuitable for bottling—almost as though cheese is the lowest rung on the ladder. At Looking Glass, it’s all about the cheese, and that means the milk that serves as the major ingredient for all their cheese products is of the finest quality.

On the Horizon

What’s next on the horizon for this group? Lots, actually. For starters, the biggest change has been adding to an already existing heaven of land, crops, and livestock. The Harmon brothers’ farm afforded the Perkinses the chance to open a more comprehensive Farm Store (as opposed to the Cheese Shop in Fairview) that features a wider array of products—like their signature caramel, which has become a hot-ticket item for the business, regularly appearing in the bar of jams, jellies, and other sweet toppings at the Biscuit Head locations across Asheville. The Farm Store is a family and dog-friendly place that allows people to really make a day of a visit there. “What people are searching for, I think, is connection to something real,” she says. And real is easy to find at Looking Glass. With acres of sprawling pastoral hills out of a Thomas Kinkade painting, Looking Glass is a “farm-to-table” experience that gives new meaning to that worn-out designation. Jennifer recently received a grant to build a farmyard next to the Farm Store in Columbus, allowing for education and even more visibility for patrons, who’ll be able to see and meet the cows who helped supply the very cheese they’re enjoying. And just up the road, Jennifer recently started renting their breathtaking hilltop vista as an event space for weddings or gatherings. The mountain views are so clear that it’s nearly panoramic; guests can see all the way into South Carolina. There are many other features and fun to be had: Looking Glass boasts a “u-pick” sunflower field in late summer, pickling lessons led by Carpin, and events featuring local musical talent. In Fairview, the cozy Cheese Shop is available for “small weddings and elopements,” and it’s easy to imagine such events taking place among the warm colors and soft seating. Cider-making is one of the things Jennifer is most excited about. Recently, they’ve become a licensed winery (“People think ‘cheese’ and then think ‘wine,’” Jennifer rightly observes) and have begun production on their own ciders. The milking off-season happens to coincide with apple season in Western North Carolina, providing a perfect opportunity for the creamery space to lend itself to cider-making. The land they acquired in the farm purchase allows Jennifer and Andy to get creative, imagining what kind of ciders they might make based

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on what kind of produce they can grow. They’ve experimented with strawberry, watermelon, and apple hard ciders, with new flavors to come depending on what’s in season.

Looking Up

“We planned to be an urban creamery, and now we have this huge farm. We have the opportunity and the luxury to make different things,” she explains. The chance to adapt to the variability of the world is one that thrills her. She rests easily in the tension between the natural rhythms of the world and the new ideas zooming to life as more doors open to them. “I love that the weather matters to what I do on most days,” she muses. “I love noticing the night sky and the way the stars move around throughout the year as I walk to the dairy barn in the early mornings.” Jennifer and Andy are kind, upbeat people who welcome the opportunity to grow and improve, and they do it with a quiet sense that excellence and integrity in their product—making it the best they can—are the most important things. New opportunities will always follow, and they’re taking their cues from the world around them. Leaving the creamery, Jennifer drives a golf cart (obediently followed by their unbelievably fast little dog, Biggie) through the grass on backwoods trails. “We really want to learn about soil management,” she says. You can practically hear the cornstalks rustling.

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Lumbering On Exploring the Deep Roots of Western North Carolina’s Timber Industry

WRITTEN BY LAUREN STEPP | PHOTOS BY EVAN ANDERSON

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Photo courtesy of EcoForesters, photo by Armin Wiese

T

he year is 1925, and life is no longer what it once was in Proctor, a community situated on the banks of Hazel Creek in the western reaches of Swain County. Since the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company came to town in 1903, the world is busier. Trains wheeze down the Southern Railway, carrying oak and walnut logs, and the sawmill buzzes with mechanical white noise. Townspeople have well-nigh doubled over the past 20 years and now crowd the newly established train depot, school, doctor’s office, and barbershop. In the blink of an eye, life has become decidedly urban for an isolated hamlet founded on the backs of small-scale farmers. This was a common narrative in the early 1900s, says Dr. Timothy Silver, a history professor at Appalachian State University and, according to a colleague, “one of the foremost authorities on the history of the Southern United States and Appalachian environment.” As Silver notes, logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries introduced inhabitants to a less rural existence. “Many communities got their first electricity, movie theaters, and drug stores courtesy of the logging companies that moved in and set up what amounted to small towns to service their workers,” he says. “Wage labor also developed out of the timber industry, with some formerly rural folk receiving their first regular paychecks—something easy to get used to and hard to give up.” As illustrated by The Hardwood Bark, a monthly publication issued to W.M. Ritter Lumber Company employees during the 1920s, places

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like Proctor thrived during the logging boom: Men were promoted, the grade school put on a “most delightful” Christmas program, and babies were born. But a keen eye will notice the collective weariness to change—to urbanization. In one photo, Mr. and Mrs. Andy Woodard stand resolutely in a lush shock of cabbage plants, the corners of their mouths downturned and their posture tired as if to say, “This is our livelihood.” Another photo depicts Mr. W.C. Bearden, a payroll specialist who mustered up enough cash to buy a new Chevy but is instead riding his “hay burner”—a horse—through town. There are also countless mentions of deaths, injuries, and unnamed sicknesses rippling through the community—evidence that logging life was just plain hard. Many men in Proctor lost their lives to felling hardwoods. Those who survived made 60 to 75 cents for 10 hours of backbrea k ing work while their wives and chi ldren watched W.M. Ritter strip cove after cove bare. When the The first logging logg i ng compa ny boom clearcut some ce a sed oper at ion in 1928, it had cut 201 million board feet of lumber from t he H a zel C r e ek watershed. The scene

85%

of WNC's mountains.


was akin to what Ron Rash describes in Serena, a New York Times bestseller following Bostonians George and Serena Pemberton as they build a logging monopoly in North Carolina. Looking upon the wasteland they have created—mountains like a “skinned hide” where “not a single live thing rose”—one logger notes, “We had to feed our families.” To which another man says, “Yes we did. What I’m wondering is how we’ll feed them once all the trees is cut and the jobs leave.” EcoForesters, an Asheville-based nonprofit dedicated to conserving and restoring Appalachian forests, is still grappling with the carnage described in Rash’s text. “When railroads came through the mountains, a massive wave of logging went through WNC that essentially clearcut 85 percent of the mountains,” says Andy Tait, the organization’s forestry director. “This so-called ‘Big Cut’ left whole mountains bare. There was no thought given to water and soil conservation, wildlife, aesthetics, forest regeneration, or biodiversity. There was extensive erosion on these bare mountainsides, which were cut right to the edges of streams.” Needless to say, these mountains have maintained a long, complicated history with the timber industry. Unsustainable methods of yesteryear devastated fragile landscapes—but also flooded isolated hollers with much-needed resources and gave way to profitable industries like furniture manufacturing and paper textiles. Today, nearly a century after the demise of Proctor’s logging boom, the timber industry looks and operates much differently. Trees are harvested with science in mind, and safeguards are in place to protect flora and fauna. But to truly understand WNC’s logging industry, you must understand its beginnings, even before W.M. Ritter came to town.

Hardwoods Ahead

The story of WNC’s timber industry begins 4,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean more than 800 years ago. By the 13th century, English forests of hardwoods and conifers—preserves of virgin timber—had been decimated, and Great Britain was starving for resources. The country’s hunger reached a crescendo in the early 1600s, when British iron factories were consuming wood at a breakneck pace and, consequently, everyday citizens were freezing in the winter chill. In 1621, pressured by the Plymouth Company’s financiers, colonists in the New World filled a vessel with clapboard and sailed it overseas. And thus, America’s logging industry was born. But according to “Logging the Great Smokies, 1880—1930,” an article written by Robert S. Lambert in 1961, it took centuries for commercial loggers to even consider wading into the feral waters of Southern Appalachia. In the last quarter of the 19th century, as the nascent country regained its footing in the wake of the Civil War, the timber industry realized its folly: The great hardwood forests of the Northeast and Great Lakes region had been exhausted. There was no choice but to push south.

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As if on cue, timber speculators flooded the mountains. In 1880, G.V. Litchfield and Company constructed a mill in Waynesville and “contracted with local suppliers for over 4,000,000 board feet of walnut, and large quantities of cherry and oak,” writes Lambert. Other companies followed suit. Unaka Timber Company of Tennessee commanded Buncombe, Mitchell, Madison, and Yancey counties; the Crosby Lumber Company from Michigan settled in Graham County, and the Foreign Hardwood Log Company of New York and the Dickson-Mason Lumber Company of Illinois bought up Swain County. The W.M. Ritter Lumber Company—the driving force in Proctor—was by far the largest operation in the region, purchasing 200,000 acres of land in North Carolina alone. For many small towns in Appalachia, logging ushered in muchneeded infrastructure, changing the day-to-day lives of mountain people, says App State’s Silver. “In the town of Black Mountain, the need for electricity to power the sawmill brought electric lights to local residents. The tiny hamlet of Pensacola got a post office and movie theater, as well as a department store, farm goods store, barbershop, and pharmacy with a soda fountain,” Silver explains. “Maybe most important, telephone service came to Murchison, Eskota, and other tiny communities situated along the Cane River.” This flurry of activity was fueled, in part, by railroad expansions. In the 1890s, for instance, the Southern Railway completed a stretch from Murphy to Asheville, and the Transylvania Railroad Company unveiled a route connecting Brevard and Hendersonville. Many lumber companies also constructed small gauge railroad tracks to help haul lumber out, some spruce loggers building rails on ridges as high as 5,000 feet. Though these railways made extraction possible, they often proved detrimental to flora and fauna, says Tait of EcoForesters. “The

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logging trains threw off sparks that lit the many cut tops and branches left scattered about on fire, which led to overly intense wildfires which further damaged the ecosystem,” he explains. “We are still trying to restore the historical fire regimes today.” However, in some steep, inaccessible areas, such infrastructure simply was not an option. In these cases, lumber companies turned to rivers to drive logs downstream. Intrepid and nimble, crew members known as river rats navigated the floating logs, using a pike pole to break up jams. Meanwhile, less experienced crew members addressed straggler logs from the banks. Of course, snaking thousands of logs down boulder-strewn ravines was unpredictable work. Many men drowned or lost limbs while using dynamite to dismantle log masses. Log flumes, or wooden troughs filled with running water, presented as a safer, man-made alternative. From the early 1900s until the Flood of 1916, Giant Lumber Company operated a 24-mile flume—the most extensive flume in North Carolina—that moved thousands of board feet of lumber each day from sawmills in the upper Reddies River watershed to North Wilkesboro. Much of the wood was sold up north, commanding a price of $16 per thousand board By 1902, High Point feet. Men working the f lume boasted more than were paid 90 cents per day and, like other workers across the region, quickly acclimated to this cash-based lifestyle. Thei r f i na ncia l prospect s only improved when, in 1908, furniture factories.

40


Champion Fibre Company in Canton opened as the largest pulp mill in the world. Champion helped reduce operating costs for logging companies by purchasing smaller trees and leftover pieces of wood that might not otherwise sell. Meanwhile, the rise of logging fanned the flames of another industry: furniture manufacturing. This cottage industry took off when railways expanded and Piedmont towns like Statesville and Mount Airy could import materials and export goods. Almost simultaneously, farmers migrated in droves to urban areas in search of steady, albeit meager, incomes, and loggers extracted huge swathes of virgin hardwoods. Combined, these factors afforded a tenfold uptick in North Carolina furniture production from 1890 to 1900. By 1902, High Point boasted more than 40 furniture factories and, in 1903, Waynesville opened Unagusta Furniture Manufacturing Company. Not long after, even Proctor introduced a planer mill for furniture production. In short, WNC’s timber industry lined the pockets of many, diversifying an economy that was previously rooted solely in agriculture. Of course, financial prosperity came at a cost. By 1887, less than 10 years into the region’s timber boom, a Knoxville man observed the decimation of cherry and walnut trees, noting that these trees could only be found by going “far back into the mountains,” Lambert writes. Intervention was needed, and fast.

Changing the Understory

In 1889, a wealthy New Yorker by the name of George Vanderbilt noticed something about the 300 acres he had recently purchased near the French Broad River southwest of Asheville. The land, however beautiful, was wrecked by excessive logging. At the recommendation of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Vanderbilt hired forester Gifford Pinchot—who later served as the first chief of the

United States Forest Service—to develop a land management plan for his estate, which soon expanded to some 125,000 acres. In 1895, German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck took the reins, managing Vanderbilt’s land for the next 14 years using selective cutting, fire prevention, erosion control, and other methods. He also founded the Biltmore Forest School—the first school of forestry in the United States—and graduated more than 300 skilled foresters. It is because of Schenck that Biltmore is known as the “Birth Place of Forestry” and that Richard Sanders, owner of Wildwood Consulting in Asheville, is a forester today. “I went to Warren Wilson College and Duke University, and the principles I was taught there were very similar to the principles Schenck taught at the Biltmore Estate,” he says. Wildwood is a forestry consulting firm, meaning the business works with landowners to develop forest management plans that balance goals like timber profitability, recreation potential, and even carbon sequestration. The consulting process begins with a “walk and talk” during which Sanders meets clients on their property to discuss long-term objectives and conduct fieldwork. Armed with maps and a clipboard, he notes species—maybe a stand of 100-year-old maples or young loblolly pines—and potential health risks like invasive plants, harmful pests such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, or erosion. “I’m trying to put a complicated ecosystem into a box,” he says. Once back in the office, he drafts the forest management plan, a document that defines the landowner’s goals, describes the current conditions of the forest, and outlines action items essential to achieving those goals. For some landowners, timber harvesting is on the agenda. “Maybe they’re sending their kids to college and need some income, or maybe they want to cut some trees to change the structure of the forest to promote one specific wildlife species,” says Sanders. No matter the motivation, the timber harvesting process begins with

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a “timber cruise,” or an appraisal that uses a sampling design to predict harvest volumes and estimate a sales price. “We tell clients, ‘We think if you put it on the market in this way at this time, you will generate this amount of income,’” Sanders explains. If the landowner moves forward with the sale, Wildwood maintains a fiduciary relationship during the harvest, making timely visits to ensure that only designated trees are being removed and that water quality is being protected. According to Tait, the only recommended guidelines for logging in North Carolina concern water quality. The North Carolina Forestry Best Management Practices Manual, for instance, calls for “establishing a zone or buffer of reduced or minimal disturbance alongside the edges of a stream or waterbody.” If a logger fails to follow this rule, which is rooted in the Sediment Pollution Control Act of 1973, they “can be liable if they damage water quality,” Tait says with an emphasis on “if.” As such, the best way to ensure trees are safely harvested is by hiring a reputable, licensed forester—someone whose job, as Tait describes, is to “know how the forest will regenerate and to make sure it will.” Someone like Taylor Barnette with Gilkey Lumber Company in Rutherfordton. With a degree in Forest Resource Management f r o m C l e m s o n U n i v e r s i t y, B a r net t e i s wel l-ver sed i n t he d iscipl i ne of log g i ng a nd quick to cha llenge of timberland in common misconceptions the state. about the science of f o r e s t r y. C l e a r c u t t i n g , f o r

18.14

mil. acres

ex a mple , i s a s or e s p ot Growth exceeds for many environmentalists; removals for however, it ca n act ua lly both softwoods and produce vital habitat for hardwoods by certain wildlife species. According to the North Ca rol i na Cooperat ive Extension, there are 18.14 million acres of timberland in respectively. the state, and growth exceeds removals for both softwoods and hardwoods by 50 and 120 percent, respectively. “That means there is an abundance of mature, closed-canopy forest out there,” says Barnette. To create habitat for ruffed grouse, a non-migratory species that thrives in brushlands, Barnette has observed private landowners partnering with various nonprofits to execute clearcutting. He has also witnessed the benefits of clearcutting firsthand. Six months into his job at Gilkey, Barnette was timber cruising a tract that was cleared about seven years prior. The old logging road eventually petered out, forcing him to struggle through a stretch of bramble. “I took two steps and flushed my first grouse. It definitely gets the blood pumping. It’s like stepping on a landmine with feathers,” he remembers. For the rest of the day, Barnette could hear male grouse drumming, a deep thumping sound akin to a lawnmower starting up, in a younger stand of trees. The territorial display is a way of communicating dominance but also, at least from Barnette’s perspective, a way of communicating gratitude.

50 & 120%

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Sawing Logs

Just a 20-minute drive from those woods in Black Mountain, Don Shuford is working alone. He called off his milling crew today. It is before noon, blazing and humid even though the shadows are still long, and he figured the guys would appreciate a day to recoup after the Fourth of July weekend. A slow-moving and uncharacteristically quiet morning is also a chance to mosey around the lumberyard, addressing one-off chores. “I was just sharpening my chainsaw blades,” Shuford says, wiping ink-black grease from his hands. An Asheville native—a rarity these days—Shuford established Sunrise Sawmill 33 years ago when his mother’s land was cleared for a power line right-of-way. Wanting to turn the logs into lumber, he started looking around for sawmills only to find that small, familyowned businesses were a dying breed. Old-timers had passed away, and their descendants had little interest in maintaining their grandparents’ legacy. “It used to be, years ago, that every little community in the Asheville area had a Since 2007, demand sawmill,” Shuford says, for hardwood pulpwood his voice tinged with and saw timber has nosta lgia. Hoping to revive the narrative, the then 20-something bought a sawmill and established a milling operation across the road from where he grew up in Oakley. With absolutely no experience

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whatsoever, he “learned the hard way” and has been doing it ever since. But the industry has seen significant change over the past three decades. Like other timber buyers in WNC, Sunrise now primarily deals in softwoods—roughly 60 percent of the sawmill’s production is white and yellow pine. The reason why is fairly complex. Though hardwood species like white oak, red oak, and hickory account for a large amount of timberland in North Carolina—about 1.23 million acres—national hardwood lumber production and consumption have been declining over the past 20 years. Just since 2007, demand for hardwood pulpwood and saw timber has decreased by 8 million tons and 10 million tons, respectively, according to a global provider of timber pricing. This precipitous drop is fueled by a decline in printing and writing papers. In 2017, for instance, newsprint demand had decreased by 10 percent from the year prior. North Carolina furniture manufacturers—another major buyer of hardwood lumber—have suffered dramatic losses as well. “We used to have skilled craftsmen right in the area, but they’re no longer here. Lenoir is a ghost town. Drexel Furniture and Ethan Allen are gone,” Shuford says, naming two manufacturers that once had a strong presence in these mountains. Signed in November 1999, the United States-China Bilateral World Trade Organization Agreement played a part in the decline by lowering tariffs and making furniture imports from overseas cheaper. In return, local manufacturers have struggled to compete. “Fortunately, I never hitched my cart to the furniture market,” says Shuford. Sawmills who did are now exporting hardwoods to China—a business decision Shuford refuses to get behind. “I get calls every single week from some exporter that wants me to send our raw products out, and I won’t do it. I’m not interested at any price,” he says.


Today, Shuford buys products from local suppliers—typically arborists, grading contractors, and even the Biltmore Estate— and sells dimension lumber, lumber that is cut into predetermined sizes like 2x4 and 2x6 boards, directly to consumers and retailers. On a typical workday, when the yard is awash with voices and the crunching of tires on gravel, the milling process begins when a supplier brings a truckload of logs. The logs are unloaded and then scanned for metal, since saw blades do not play well with rusted bits of fencing or nails. Shuford then uses a Biltmore stick, a tool invented by Schenck in the late 1890s, to determine board feet. From there, “the computer will crunch some numbers” and spit out a dollar value, says Shuford. After all the paper-pushing is handled, the logs are placed on a conveyor belt, fed through a machine that strips off the bark and other debris, and cut into various sizes using a circular saw. In the yard, the lumber is stacked to air dry until a customer comes along. “Here lately, we barely get it stacked before it’s gone,” says Shuford. Sunrise sells green lumber, meaning that it has not been dried in a kiln. Unlike kilndried lumber, green or air-dried lumber will slowly shrink over time. Because of this, it is not the best material for cabinetry, furniture, finished flooring, or structural supports. “You don’t want to build a house with it,” Shuford summarizes. But since air-dried lumber commands a lower price, it is often the preferred building material for chicken coops or backyard barn projects. “Everybody is searching for an alternative to the high-end prices they’re experiencing in big-box stores,” he says. “A 2x4 here is pretty simple: It comes in as a log. We saw it and put it in the yard. For comparison, a 2x4 at the Home Depot is sawed at a sawmill, sent to a grading station, kiln-dried, dressed at a planer, put on a truck, shipped god knows how many miles, picked up by a wholesaler, and taken to a retailer. It’s gone through a dozen different hands, and each one of those

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hands makes a little profit on it,” Shuford continues, blinking in the summer sun. The shadows are shorter now and the sky is muddled by cotton-white clouds. Though Shuford says he could “ramble on forever,” riffing on this article he read or that story he heard, there are other chores to get to. Lumber to stack. Customers to call. Gears to grease. A 33-year-old business to run. “We’re actually cutting some orders for ax throwing targets right now,” he smirks and shakes his head. “There are other sawmills around, but none quite like us.”

Plank by Plank

And there are no life stories quite like Phil Long’s. Though Long considers Baton Rouge, Louisiana, his hometown, he spent many years of his childhood in the jungles of western Nigeria. His parents were missionaries and, at just 10 years old, he was moved to a home with no electricity in a country still reeling from civil war. “It was tough,” he says. “But I used to go watch the African carpenters make furniture, and it just fascinated me.” With his weekly allowance, Long bought wood, nails, and hinges to make boxes. The hobby quickly evolved. Once back in the United States, Long took shop class in junior high. In his 20s, he acquired a smattering of tools and started making furniture. While climbing the ranks of corporate America for the next few decades, he perfected his craft until he decided to purchase an ailing lumber operation in Swannanoa about four years ago. “I was living in Charleston, South Carolina, at the time, and I decided all the types of wood I wanted were in this area,” he says. “This business happened to be for sale. They had just closed the doors when I bought it.” Long has since positioned Bee Tree Hardwoods as one of the largest producers of high-quality natural and live edge slabs and furniture-grade lumber in WNC. Doing so has required a complete overhaul of the company’s previous business model. About 23 years ago, Bee Tree was founded by two brothers as a firewood producer and retailer. The brothers would purchase raw material from small-scale logging operations and sell kilndried firewood. But as more and more people in the mountains moved away from wood stoves for heat, the company struggled. When Long assumed ownership, he saw the writing on the wall: either adapt or die. Today, one-off sawing, milling, and kiln-drying projects are the lifeblood of Bee Tree. The operation is part-sawmill, part-manufacturer, part-retailer, and, for many trees, the last

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stop on a years-long journey. “The biggest part of our business— where we have the most volume—is homeowners or contractors contacting us for custom flooring, paneling, decking, or stair treads. To be honest, I’ve done almost everything people have asked us to do just to get our reputation out there,” says Long, whose website features photos of walnut end tables built by his own two hands, white oak barn doors installed by luxury home builder Buchanan Construction, and a sycamore tabletop finished by a customer. Unsurprisingly, Long’s work begins with a log. Depending on the species, the log can directly go from the back of a customer’s truck to the mill to the kiln, a large chamber where air circulation, temperature, and humidity are controlled to dry the wood. However, hardwoods like cherry or walnut are a bit finicky and must air dry before being placed in the kiln. To avoid cracking the outside, the “moisture content of the core has to come down to 20 to 25 percent before we put it into the kiln,” Long explains. Most wood remains in the kiln for about three weeks, though some species demand up to five years. “When it’s ready, we can turn it into whatever the customer wants,” Long says. Whereas two of Bee Tree’s local competitors closed their doors in the past year and a half, Long is struggling to turn around products fast enough. In mid-summer, with 35,000 board feet of lumber in the kiln (roughly the equivalent of two 2,000-squarefoot homes), he is fielding a flurry of requests. A local builder wants custom stair treads. A Buncombe County restaurateur wants a commercial bartop. A homeowner wants walnut shiplap. Rather than ship roughly 50 percent of his products overseas like many lumber operations in the area, Long is thriving by peddling unique, quality products to folks 20 minutes down the road. By eschewing mass production, Long sees something that has been lost in this breathless, 130-year logging boom. More than a century ago, the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company saw nothing but dollar signs when they ripped hardwoods from the clutches of wilderness. A modern-day logger guided by science, Barnette sees a balance of profit and sustainability. Sanders, an independent consultant, sees carbon sequestration and recreational value among other landowner goals. Shuford sees milling potential. But Long, an enthusiast whose passion was planted in the jungles of Nigeria, sees what is harder to quantify—beauty. “When you look at the grains of a tree, it has developed naturally. Nobody did that,” he says. “Wood is art.”


Money Trees Lumber prices have increased more than 250 percent in the last year. Here’s why. Thank goodness the three little pigs were written into existence during the late 19th century and not during current times. Otherwise, the trio would think twice about building a house, especially one made of wood. On May 7, 2021, lumber prices peaked at $1,679.50 per thousand board feet, six times higher than the going rate in April 2020 and exponentially higher than the pre-pandemic average of $350 to $500. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, this has added more than $24,000 to the cost of the average single-family home over the last year. The cause of this spike is rooted in economics: “It’s supply and demand,” says Philip Gennett, owner of Gennett Lumber Company in Fletcher. For more than 100 years, Gennett’s family has felt the ups and downs of WNC’s timber industry. In 1901, brothers Andrew and Nat Gennett joined the likes of other prospectors by purchasing a lumber mill on the banks of the Chattooga River in Georgia and South Carolina. Business boomed and soon expanded to include 25 mills, a rail system, and a town named Gennett in Tennessee. Andrew would go on to write the book on logging life, a 2002 memoir called Sound Wormy. But never did the oldtimer experience anything like the mayhem of 2020 and 2021. “The cycle we’ve got right now is pretty extreme,” says Gennett, who primarily sells unfinished hardwood flooring. “No one expected the housing market to explode.” In the midst of COVID-19, all-time low interest rates fueled a serious surge in residential construction. Data from the US Census Bureau’s Building Permits Survey suggests a 40 percent increase in the total value of new residential building permits issued in the Asheville metro area from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021. Striving to keep pace, lumber companies revved up production. In June, British Columbia-based lumber mogul Canfor announced plans to invest $160 million in a Louisiana sawmill. In May, West Fraser Timber disclosed a $150 million sawmill expansion project in the South. But still, “there just wasn’t enough production,” says Gennett. With wood production now at a 13-year high, many experts are hopeful that prices are on the mend. Though, Gennett believes the craze will only be remedied by a dip in new residential construction. “Prices will keep going up until people slow down on the buying side,” he says. “Only then will they trend back down.”

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Some Awesome Stuff LISBON, PORTUGAL The World Architecture Festival released its list of the 15 best new buildings in the world. They include the Chinese Culture Exhibition Center by Qingdao Tenyuan Design and ECA2, which looks like a heavy metal cave or spaceship with wide views of the sky; the Majara Residence by ZAV Architects, which consists of Play-Doh colored adobe pods that, viewed from above, look like playing jacks; Nanchang Waves by the Nordic Office of Architecture, which looks like a roundette atop an outdoor spiraling

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staircase; the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet by BIG, which features a green roof of two interwoven spirals of contrasting slope; and the Dysis Church of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group that features a triangular steeple with a door aligned for solar impact sitting atop a reflecting pool on the roof. On a smaller scale, Maggie’s Centre by Heatherwick Studio features unpaired cathedral-like arches supporting a largely glass structure; the Microlibrary Warak Kayu by SHAU, on stilts, displays elegance in the simplicity of its lines; and Egaligilo, by Broissin Architests, a pavilion at Musee Tamayo, looks on the outside like puzzle

pieces with circular cutouts full of coins but on the inside is an overcast microclimate.

Launch Launch OTTOBRUN, GERMANY The ma rket for new space vehicle launching companies is apparently not yet glutted. Joining the ranks of SpaceX and over 30 others is Isar Aerospace Technologies. The industry is growing with many new entrants to fill demand provided by satellite services and biotech companies interested in performing experiments in zero gravity. Isar’s mission is to launch craft with up to one megagram of payload into low-earth orbit. Isar is developing a fast and affordable launcher for use by smaller satellite companies. It was spun off from research by three engineering students at Munich Technical University. Its first customer was Airbus Defense and Space, and the company said it would announce more customers soon. Last December, Isar raised $91 million in funding, and it just recently raised another $75 million. The funds would go into continued research and development to help the company meet its scheduled inaugural test flight next year. Porsche SE

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was one of three leading investors, signaling an interest of existing vehicle manufacturers in expanding into space.

We Speak Dog ITHACA, NEW YORK Embark Veterinary has raised $75 million in venture capital. The company was launched in 2015 by Adam Boyko, a professor of biomedical sciences at Cornell University, and his brother, Ryan. From there, it grew in Cornell’s business incubator, McGovern Center, where it worked a year or so with input from the university’s students of veterinary medicine shaping its business model before going it on its own. Embark’s specialty is swabbing dogs’ mouths to collect DNA for analysis. The service not only verifies pedigrees, it can detect the hereditary diseases that may eventually afflict a dog. With worldw ide dat abases, Emba rk’s founders are further trying to gain greater insight into canine behavior, susceptibility to illness, and aging. Currently, the proprietary technology behind Embark’s Dog DNA Kit can analyze 200,000 genetic markers to identify over 350 breeds and over 200 health risks. Early work identified the canine chromosome 18 as responsible for the ice blue eyes of Siberian Huskies. By the end of the year, the Boykos expect they will have processed about a million tests.

Focusing on Core BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA E ncompa ss Hea lt h is con sider i n g “strategic alternatives” for its home health and hospice divisions. The company’s board of directors have not decided what form this will take, but it will at least involve a partial separation of those functions from the main company, whose remaining service would be inpatient rehabilitation. The reason given for separating the divisions was a shortage of skilled workers; however, company leadership

expressed confidence it was on-track with recruiting to remedy that situation. While competitive organizations are adopting the hospital-at-home model, Encompass CEO Mark Tarr is not pursuing it, as he believes, with current technology, patients are best served in a facility, whose easy access to a range of specialists and resources cannot be duplicated in a home setting. Over the past decade, Encompass has been involved in a series of divestitures. Operations shed include an outpatient rehabilitation division, a surgery center, a diagnostics division, and several acute care orthopedic hospitals. Prior to any action being taken, the company continues to operate 140 hospitals, 249 home health offices, and 94 hospices.

Lacy Vests CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS Materials scientists have discovered a polymer they expect will be able to withstand greater impact than Kevlar or steel. Tests were conducted at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a center sponsored by the United States Army at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and results were published in Nature Materials. Collaborating on the development were researchers from the California Institute of Technology and ETH Zurich. The polymer is 3D-printed in layered lattices, so it is not as heavy as materials currently used in bulletproof vests. What’s even more innovative: It is printed at the nanoscale. The process works with a material known as photoresist, which can be shaped with light. It is worked in three dimensions with a highly focused laser and hardened immediately. While the research is promising, the next step in product development will be scaleup, as scientists are currently only working with very tiny masses. Still, the work is significant in that it opens a world of possibilities in a field that had formerly been locked into using a few traditional materials.

Nothing to See Here MEXICO CITY, MEXICO Due to COVID-19, Mexican archaeologists are re-burying a discovery described as “unusual.” In 2019, the National Institute of Anthropology and History announced the unearthing of a flood-control tunnel outside Mexico City. It was unique in that it was constructed using Spanish civil engineering techniques, but it was decorated with embedded Aztec art. It is believed to have been built in the early 1600s as a replacement for Aztec flood controls, which would have been built in the 1400s. Parts of the Aztec system were destroyed with unintended consequences when the Spanish conquered the city in 1521. Mexico City, at the time of the Aztec construction, was still an island. The ruins were discovered during the construction of a bus line, but it was at a time when precious government resources had to be prioritized and plowed into pandemic interdiction. The institute is now covering the ruins with dirt, hoping the day will come when the government will have the money to afford a proper display for the system.

Italian Artisanship NEW YORK, NEW YORK Stevanato Group isn’t a household name, but it’s been making the glass vials and syringes for about 90 percent of the COVID19 vaccinations used throughout the world. Located in Italy, the company recently went public on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $672 million. By way of comparison, it is the largest initial public offering (IPO) of an Italian company on the exchange since Ferrari listed in 2015. Prior to COVID-19, the family business had staked its position as the world’s largest manufacturer of insulin pen cartridges. It was founded in 1949 by Giovanni Stevanato, whose grandson, Franco, decided to take an early retirement as chair back in February. At the time of the sale, the grandson recalled how his August 2021 | capitalatplay.com

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grandfather had run a startup company for 30 to 40 years, hardly turning any profit. Last year, unsurprisingly, was an amazing year for the company, which doubled its profits on a 23 percent increase in revenues. Proceeds of the sale will go toward expanding factories in Italy and China and building a new facility in India. The sale gave the Stevanato family fortune a $550 million boost.

Ride Like the Wind HELSINKI, FINLAND Persons living in large cities, pressed for time, have had to take a gamble on which form of transportation—taxi, tube, scooter, cycle, walking—would get them to their destination on time. MaaS Global, a Finnish startup, has now created an app to consolidate the apps for multiple modes of transportation available. One form of transportation CEO

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Sampo Hietanen does not support, however, is personal automobiles, as the purpose of the app is to make alternatives to cars more accessible. While the app, known as Whim, does support auto rentals and taxis, Hietanen said he isn’t worried, as users of his app tend to gravitate more toward lightweight, shared forms of micro-mobility. The app is currently available in a dozen large cities that have a lot of options for transportation. Users can either pay per use or purchase a “season’s ticket.” While Whim was first, Citymapper now operates in London and Moovit in Israel.

Reinventing Wool CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND New Zea la nd industries have been developing alternatives for strong wool with high capacity for export. Wool has been converted into pigments, powders,

and other particles for uses as far afield as cosmetics, personal care, and luxury items. The products were unveiled at a special event in Christchurch, where the partnership of the country’s Wool Research Organization and the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment showcased findings from its New Uses for Strong Wool initiative. The effort was a push to deconstruct the animal hair down to the cellular level or even smaller and then rebuild it into different, functional ingredients. Presenters also announced the launch of a new company, Wool Source, that will continue the research and development of the wool ingredients, which are touted as 100 percent biodegradable. The effort was an intervention in the country’s declining wool industry. The number of sheep being raised is falling as shepherds can barely sell the wool at cost.


If They Say So ST. IVES, UNITED KINGDOM We’re all tired of debating whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza. So Amanda Langard and Ken Taylor, who run Smashed Tomato Pizza, came up with a new dish. They made a pizza topped with banana, bacon, and barbecue sauce, and it is now their most popular item. They typically switch up their menu to keep it fresh, but this pizza has been so popular, it is now a permanent installation. Langard said people normally think it is “weird,” but if she can just get them to try it, they enjoy it. She said she got the idea from South Africa, where she ate bacon and banana butties as a child. However, if that combination is too much, people can settle for banana on their pizzas with Smashed Tomato’s dessert option that substitutes caramel for cheese and adds the bananas. The couple is only weeks into their new business, which they operate out of a horse trailer. They retired from Worcester when Langard came down with cancer. Now, they’re enjoying life by the sea with crazy pizza.

Rock On CHILLICOTHE, OHIO Brandon Lawson, like so many, was bored during the pandemic, in search of something to do with his hands. He always loved walking in nature, having special interest in geology. He wanted to find a way to use nature’s raw materials for creating things he would want. So he started learning about cutting and polishing stones to make jewelry. He couldn’t network or apprentice, so he started by buying a rock polisher. He already had a wet saw that he used to saw rocks down to jewelry-sized pieces. For practice, he started with rocks from his driveway. He describes his work as progressively grinding with finer and finer grit. It’s time consuming, but he enjoys it. One polished rock could take 30 minutes to six hours to complete. Each rock is an adventure. Lawson says he doesn’t view

himself as a creator so much as a collaborator with the rocks themselves. He doesn’t force a shape but lets the rock define what it will become. Once the stone is polished, he selects the form of jewelry in which it will be set—he does his own silversmithing too. Now, Rock Paper City has a lot of customers and suppliers from exciting places around the world.

What’s Left? MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA In addition to being the parent company of the Google search engine, YouTube, and the Android platform, Alphabet announced it is moving into the robotics software business. The new company will be called Intrinsic and operate under X, the name of the company’s “moonshots” division. Alphabet’s mission will be to make industrial robots less expensive, more versatile, and easier to use, so they will find wider applicability among smaller operations. Intrinsic’s CEO Wendy Tan White did not disclose any specifics about the robots. Instead, she shared that Google had been, over the years, working to give robots the ability to sense, learn, and make midcourse autocorrections. Google attempted to enter the robotics market in 2013 and 2014 but scrapped those plans, favoring software development instead. Among the software it was developing, according to White, was code for “automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.” Other ideas that have been explored under X include delivery drones, internet balloons, and self-driving vehicles.

to induce trauma in visiting human drivers. Traffic is crowded, rushed, and aggressive, with stopping taxis and parked delivery trucks, construction, and impromptu jaywalkers. That’s why sites in California and Arizona have been preferred by companies wanting to test their self-driving vehicles. Making New York an even more challenging venue is a state law requiring drivers to keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times. Mobileye had been testing vehicles in Tel Aviv, Munich, Detroit, Tokyo, and Shanghai, and the test results helped it score a permit from the Big Apple. The permit also had a special provision to allow Mobileye’s safety drivers to keep their hands off the wheel. Mobileye’s Ford Fusion sedans had, in fact, been tooling around Manhattan for six weeks before the company made a public announcement. Mobileye was founded in 1999 to develop camera vision but was purchased by Intel in 2017 for $15 billion.

Might Be Just What NYC Needs JERUSALEM, ISRAEL Mobileye is the first company to test its 100 percent self-driving cars in New York City, where the streets are frantic enough

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August & September

EVENTS

AUGUST 1 – SEPTEMBER 26

Chow Chow

See website for itinerary Various venues throughout Buncombe County See website for participating venues The festival celebrates the artisan food chain of the Southern Appalachian region. Offerings include demonstrations, cooking lessons, and meals of all sizes. » See website for individual event pricing » 843-557-4077 » exploreasheville.com/chow-chow-cu linary-festival/2021-schedule/

AUGUST 1-8

Brevard Music Center Summer Festival

See website for itinerary Brevard Music Center 349 Andante Lane, Brevard

A summer of jazz, chamber, symphony, opera, and bluegrass winds down. Acts remaining include Bruce Hornsby and the season finale with Beethoven interpreted by Garrick Ohlsson on piano. » See website for ticketing » 828-862-2105 » brevardmusic.org

AUGUST 1-28

The Sword in the Stone 7:30PM (Fri-Sun) Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre 92 Gay Street, Asheville

The informal but exceptionally talented guild of bards interpret Arthurian legend in their family-friendly world premiere. » Tickets: GA FREE, VIP (includes lawn chair rental) $6.54 » 828-254-5146 » montfordparkplayers.org

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AUGUST 2-14

Unto These Hills

8PM (Mon-Sat) Cherokee Mountainside Theatre 688 Drama Road, Cherokee

The moving outdoor drama tells the story of the Cherokee, including their expulsion leading to the Trail of Tears, their triumphant return, and life on into the present. More than six million people have seen the drama since its 1950 debut. » See website for pricing » 828-497-2111 x 205 » visitcherokeenc.com/play/attractions/ unto-these-hills-outdoor-drama/

AUGUST 5-7

94th Mountain Dance and Folk Festival

6:30-9:30PM Lipinsky Hall, UNC Asheville 300 Library Lane, Asheville

Traditional song, dance, and storytelling are presented by the Folk Heritage Committee, the same group that produces Shindig on the Green. Thursday, students get in for $6.27. » Tickets: up to $25; See website for pricing » 828-335-1263 » Folkheritage.org

AUGUST 6-7

Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair 9AM-5PM | Town Square 6 South Main Street, Burnsville

In addition to about 200 traditional crafters and contemporary artists from around the country, this year’s event also hosts food vendors and 14 musical performances. » FREE

Katherine Caldwell will show how to create cute little ornaments out of sheaves of wheat and ribbon. » FREE » 828-298-7928 » southernhighlandguild.org

AUGUST 7

WNCHA Outdoor Experiences: The Buncombe Turnpike

10AM-12:30PM Palmetto Trail, Saluda Mountains Passage Talisman Camp Trailhead, Anders Road, Zirconia Lauren May, in partnership with the Western North Carolina Historical Association, will guide a hike through the historic woodland once traversed by drovers. » Registration: $20 » 828-253-9231 » wnchistory.org

AUGUST 9

Demo at the Learning Garden: Dyeing with Fresh Indigo

10-11AM NC Cooperative Extension – Buncombe County Center 49 Mt. Carmel Road, Suite 102, Asheville

Instructors Pat Strang and Joyce Tromba will show how to use freshly cut indigo to create a rich teal. Silk scarves will be available for participants to make-and-take their own. Students will also receive an introduction to natural dyes and learn how to achieve a range of colors with just a few homegrown plants.

» 828-682-7413

» FREE

» yanceychamber.com/crafts-fair

» 828-255-5522 » buncombe.ces.ncsu.edu/events/

AUGUST 7

Wheat Weaving – Live Demo 10AM-4PM Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center 382 Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville

AUGUST 11 – SEPTEMBER 8

Alpine

6-8:30PM (Wed) | Mountain BizWorks 153 South Lexington Avenue, Asheville


This course, taught by project manager for Craft Your Commerce Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith this time, is designed for founders of businesses that have been operating at least one year. Exercises will include reevaluating the corporate mission, analyzing financials and market information, and setting shortand long-term goals. Some classes will be held online; others, live. » Registration: $375 » 828-253-2834 » mountainbizworks.org

festivities include music headlined by Dale Harwood, food trucks, a classic car show, rides, a bocce tournament, traditional food and dance, and a performance of the outdoor drama From This Day Forward. » FREE to wander » 828-879-2120 » waldensianfestival.com

AUGUST 14

Naturalist Niche: Waterfall Exploration

AUGUST 13 & 14

9AM-12PM Chimney Rock State Park 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock

See website for itinerary Downtown Main Street, Valdese

The five-mile, moderate trek visits Hickory Nut Falls, which, at 404 feet, is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Pre-registration is required and includes park admission.

2021 Historic Valdese Waldensian Festival

The event celebrates the return of the Waldensians, a proto-Protestant group, to their homeland in France after extermination orders, massacre, and exile. This year’s

» Registration: Adult $25, Youth (5-15) $15 » 828-625-9611 » chimneyrockpark.com

AUGUST 14

State-Line Sports Cards and Collectibles Show

9AM-4PM WNC Ag Center, Expo Building 765 Boylston Highway, Fletcher

While the event features sports trading cards, non-sports cards, memorabilia, and other collectibles will be traded. » Admission: Adult $5, Youth (0-12) FREE » 864-580-0564 or 828-593-0604 » wncagcenter.org

AUGUST 14-15

Vintage Guitar Show

10AM-5PM (Sat), 10AM-4PM (Sun) WNC Ag Center: Davis Event Center 765 Boylston Highway, Fletcher Vendors are prepared to buy, sell, and trade thousands of vintage, new, and used guitars and new gear. Tickets are sold online or cash-at-door.

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» Tickets: Saturday $10, Sunday $8 » 828-298-2197 » wncagcenter.org

AUGUST 14

PATRIOT

7PM | Diana Wortham Theatre 18 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville Black Box Dance Theatre, in partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council and the USO of North Carolina, have put together a program of dance, theater, and storytelling. The factual stories behind the production were collected and are performed as a therapeutic exercise. » Tickets: $35, military discounts available » 828-257-4530 » worthamarts.org

AUGUST 14

The Music of Queen

8PM | West Henderson High School Athletic Stadium 3600 Haywood Road, Hendersonville

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Because the availability of intimate venues remained uncertain when it was time to prepare for the current season, actors from the Flat Rock Playhouse booked a sure thing in a stadium for a one-night-only performance of favorites from the rock band Queen. » Tickets: $20-$40 » 828-693-0731 » flatrockplayhouse.org

AUGUST 19

A Simple Process to Manage Your Time and Identify Which Items to Delegate

1-2:30PM | Online | Asheville SCORE

Laura Licursi, founder of Elite Virtual Assistants, and productivity expert Lisa Crilley Mallis will share tips for becoming the master of one’s daily tasks—instead of the other way around. The prepared student will have tracked their daily activities for

a week and bring a pack of sticky notes to class. Pre-registration is required. » FREE » 828-271-4786 » asheville.score.org

AUGUST 20-21

Belgian Waffle Ride

See website for itinerary Ride Kanuga, Kanuga Conference Center 130 Kanuga Chapel Drive, Hendersonville The 104-mile bicycle race with 11,000 feet of climbing is one of the most difficult in the country. A number of easier routes, including the Wafer and another for electric bikes, may be raced for lesser fees. The event is organized by Monuments of Cycling and sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. » Registration: Waffle $225, VIP Dinner $160 » belgianwaffleride.bike/pages/ northcarolina


AUGUST 20

Downtown after 5

5-9PM North Lexington Avenue, Asheville

This month’s live entertainment includes hard-driving rock and soul by Abby Bryant & the Echoes, salsa from Picante!, and soul through the ages by Westsound. This season’s food vendors are Cecilia’s Kitchen, Gypsy Queen Cuisine, Kernel Mike’s Kettle Corn, Sunshine Sammies, and Tin Can Pizzeria. » FREE to wander » 828-251-9973 » ashevilledowntown.org

AUGUST 21

16TH Annual Franklin Area Folk Festival

10AM until Historic Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center 51 Cowee School Drive, Franklin

In addition to foot-stompin’ and vittles, exhibits will include, “everything from quilting and moonshinin’ to Civil War reenactors plus much more.” The event is co-sponsored by the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County and the venue. » FREE to wander » 828-524-6564 » franklinfolkfestival.com

AUGUST 22-25

Blue Ridge, Biltmore & Blooms Conference

See website for itinerary Renaissance Marriott Asheville 31 Woodfin Street, Asheville

Dr. Elliot Engel is a prolific writer who has spent most of his life teaching at North Carolina universities but enjoys traveling the world lecturing on literature and history. This conference, back by popular demand, will feature talks on Thomas Wolfe, the Vanderbilts, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tours and accommodations are included with registration. » Per-Person Registration: Double Occupancy $1,492, Single Occupancy $1,888

» 800-392-4434 » professorengel.com

AUGUST 24

To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate Your Business? That Is the Question 1-2PM Online Asheville SCORE

Intellectual property attorney Kelley Keller will help entrepreneurs weigh the pros and cons of different modes of incorporation. Pre-registration is required. » FREE » 828-271-4786 » asheville.score.org

AUGUST 28 & 29

Railroad Heritage Weekend

See website for available times Tweetsie Railroad | 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock

In this annual event, visitors may learn about the history behind Tweetsie’s narrowgauge line and steam locomotives and enjoy other enticements for railroad enthusiasts. Tweetsie’s Wild West attractions will run as usual. » See website for pricing » 800-526-5740 » tweetsie.com

AUGUST 30 – SEPTEMBER 2

Wooden Flutes Demo at the Moses Cone Manor

AUGUST 26-28

10AM-4PM | Moses Cone Manor Milepost 294 Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock

See website for itinerary Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort 25 International Boulevard, Mill Spring

On the manor’s front porch, woodworker and musician Lee Entrekin will share what goes into crafting Native American style flutes with different acoustical properties. His demonstrations include both woodworking and playing.

Night in the Country Carolinas Music Festival

This is an expansion of Nevada’s largest and longest-running country music festival. Country superstars like Old Dominion, Miranda Lambert, and Chris Young will headline. » Passes: $215 and up » 775-463-5114 » nightinthecountrycarolinas.org

AUGUST 27-28

LEAF Downtown

12-11PM Pack Square Park 1 Pack Square, Asheville Organizers continue to build the itinerary for this year’s comeback festival. Expect sounds and flavors of the world to take over downtown for the weekend. » FREE to wander » 828-686-8742 » theleaf.org/events/leaf-downtown/

» FREE » 828-295-2049 » southernhighlandguild.org

AUGUST 31

Meshell Ndegeocello

8PM | Diana Wortham Theatre 18 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville Ndegeocello, rebelling against the pigeonholing of recording industry executives, reimagines popular tunes with slightly edgy genre bending. » Tickets: $32.50-$37.50 » 828-257-4530 » worthamarts.org

SEPTEMBER 2-5

Oxalis

7:30PM (Thu-Sat), 3PM (Sun) Diana Wortham Theatre 18 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville

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Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective presents the world premiere of Asheville playwright Travis Lowe’s exploration of socially imposed complications of bipolar disorder. » Tickets: $18-$21

SEPTEMBER 3-5

Goombay

6-10PM (Fri), 10AM-10PM (Sat), 10AM-5PM (Sun) The Block 39 South Market Street, Asheville Now in its 40th year, the event, hosted by the YMI Cultural Center, celebrates the sounds, visual art, and flavors of African-Caribbean culture.

» 828-257-4530 » worthamarts.org

SEPTEMBER 3-6

North Carolina Apple Festival See website for itinerary Downtown Main Street, Hendersonville

The Labor Day weekend tradition celebrates all things apple (North Carolina only) and culminates in a parade paying homage to King Apple. » FREE to wander » 828-697-4557 » ncapplefestival.org

» FREE to wander » 828-257-4540 » ymiculturalcenter.org/goombay

SEPTEMBER 4-5

Mile High Kite Festival

10AM-4PM Beech Mountain Kite Field 400 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain Fly your own windblown contraption, or just sit back and enjoy the color. The Beech

Mountain Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the event, will supply kids under 13 with free kites while supplies last. » FREE » 828-387-9283 » beechmtn.com

SEPTEMBER 9

Ukulele Circle

5:30-7PM Transylvania County Library 212 South Gaston Street, Brevard This month’s second-Thursday jam theme is music from the ’90s and ’00s. Players of all ages and abilities are welcome; the library even has ukes to rent. Sheet music is distributed a month in advance, and the first half hour is dedicated to showing novices enough ropes to keep up. » FREE » 828-884-3151 x 3 » library.transylvaniacounty.org

NEW LOCATION NOW OPEN! 7SISTERSGALLERY.COM l 119 Broadway Ave, Black Mountain 72

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SEPTEMBER 9-15

Timber Framing Class See website for itinerary Ivy Creek Timber Frames Location details available with registration

Wild Abundance, a homesteading school, and Ivy Creek Timber Frames give students hands-on training in all skills needed to make a 100% wood, 16’x20’ building. » Registration: $1,000-$1,600 » 828-775-7052 » wildabundance.net/classes/timberframing-class/

SEPTEMBER 10-19

NC Mountain State Fair

See website for schedule WNC Ag Center 1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher Founded in 1994, the fair celebrates the state’s agriculture with competitions and exhibits, a host of vendors of merch and food,

and carnival rides. » Admission: Adult (13-64) $10, Infant (0-5) FREE, Other $6; Rides cost extra » 828-687-1414 » wncagcenter.org

SEPTEMBER 10-26

Autumn at Oz

11AM-4PM (Fri), 10AM-4PM (Sat, Sun) Land of Oz 2669 Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain Guests travel to the top of Beech Mountain and follow the Yellow Brick Road, perhaps even accompanied by costumed performers, on the way to the stage of one of the world’s largest Wizard of Oz festivals. Admission is aligned with performances and sold for hour blocks. » Tickets: GA $55, VIP $68, Infant (0-2) FREE » 844-307-7469 » landofoznc.com

SEPTEMBER 10-11

Black Mountain Fall Garden Sale

3-7PM (Fri), 9AM-4PM (Sat) Monte Vista Hotel | 308 West State Street, Black Mountain The Bl ack Mou nt a i n B e aut i f ic at ion Committee invites gardeners and vendors from local nurseries to a two-day, one-stop shop for home and business owners seeking to liven up their grounds. » FREE to wander » 828-669-8870 » blackmountainbeautification.org

SEPTEMBER 10-11

Mountain Song Festival

4PM (Fri), 12PM (Sat) Brevard Music Center 349 Andante Lane, Brevard

In the 15th annual, the GRAMMY-winning Steep Canyon Rangers host a diverse range

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$ of musical acts to raise funds for the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County. » Aftermarket tickets may be available » 828-243-3496 » mountainsongfestival.com

SEPTEMBER 11

French Broad River Paddle

SEPTEMBER 11

Heroes Among Us

7:30PM Diana Wortham Theatre 18 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville The Blue Ridge Orchestra will offer musical condolences a nd cat ha rsis for t hose adversely affected by 9/11 and/or COVID. Selections will come from Beethoven, Mahler, and Elgar.

9:45AM-3:30PM Amboy Road River Park 180 Amboy Road, Asheville

The Western North Carolina Historical Association and the Outdoor Recreation Studies Department of Montreat College will guide a canoe/kayak tour of the natural and cultural history of the French Broad River between Woodfin and the River Arts District. » Pre-Registration: $40

» Tickets: GA $20, Essential Worker $5 » 828-257-4530 » worthamarts.org

SEPTEMBER 16-19

MerleFest 2021

See website for lineup Wilkes Community College 1328 South Collegiate Drive, Wilkesboro The traditional tribute to Doc Watson cont i nues w it h music on 13 s t a ges. Performers include Tedeschi Trucks, Melissa Etheridge, LeAnn Rimes, Balsam Range,

» 828-253-9231 » wnchistory.org

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INVESTMENT

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Call today for a free consult! 828.505.1003 | RoostHomeManagement.com 74

| August 2021

Tommy Emmanuel, and on and on. Activities include a songwriters’ competition, jam sessions, festival shopping, and hands-on musical entertainment for kids. » See website for ticketing » 800-343-7857 » merlefest.org

SEPTEMBER 17

Downtown after 5

5-9PM North Lexington Avenue, Asheville

Downtown after 5 is a casual street festival for folks to chill out and network after a hard week’s work. In the season finale, music will be provided by the Asheville All Stars, a collection of Asheville’s best from all genres curated by Josh Blake, and the LEAF Schools & Streets Young Artist Superstars. » FREE to wander » 828-251-9973 » ashevilledowntown.org


SEPTEMBER 17

» Tickets: GA FREE, VIP (includes lawn chair rental) $6.54

7-8PM Saluda Historic Depot 32 West Main Street, Saluda

» 828-254-5146

Saluda Train Tales

This third-Fridays storytelling event recalls railroad history in Saluda, home to the steepest standard-gauge mainline in the United States. » FREE » 828-817-2876 » saludahistoricdepot.com

SEPTEMBER 17 – OCTOBER 9

Macbeth

7:30PM (Fri-Sun), intermittently Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre 92 Gay Street, Asheville The Sha kespea rea n cla ssic ex plores different ways lust for power manifests as madness in two individuals. Performances of Macbeth and Pericles, King of Tyre do not run consecutively, but are intermingled in September and October.

» montfordparkplayers.org

SEPTEMBER 18

Heritage Day

10AM-4PM Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center 382 Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville Folks from the guild celebrate Southern Appalachian tradition with music and craft demonstrations. » FREE » 828-298-7928 » southernhighlandguild.org

SEPTEMBER 18

13th Annual Flock to the Rock

10AM-3PM | Chimney Rock State Park 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock

Included with admission will be bird demos, guided hikes, kids’ activities, and a hawk watch. Event organizers promise something for birders of all levels. » Admission: Adult $17, Youth (5-15) $8, Infant FREE » 828-625-9611 » chimneyrockpark.com

SEPTEMBER 18-19

ASAP’S 2021 Farm Tour 12-5PM | 20 family farms Western North Carolina

The self-guided, family-friendly tours are hosted by working farms whose hospitality could include hands-on activities and demonstrations. Pa r ticipa nts include creameries, vineyards, vegetable and livestock farms, orchards, flower gardens, and fiber farms. » Registration: Advance $35/car, Weekend of $45 » 828-236-1282 » asapconnections.org/events/asapsfarm-tour/

mountainpaintstores.com 828-258-5385

Biltmore | Arden | North Asheville | Brevard

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$ SEPTEMBER 24-26

Nantahala Outdoor Center Guest Appreciation Festival See website for itinerary Nantahala Outdoor Center 13077 US 19, Bryson City

The NOC invites the public to enjoy live entertainment and outdoor adventure with free river shuttles. Those interested in selling used gear or other unique items, or promoting a nonprofit, must pre-register. » FREE

DuPont State Recreational Forest, Guion Farm 3045 Sky Valley Road, Hendersonville To celebrate National Public Lands Day, in the fourth annual, the Friends of DuPont Forest will host a range of activities for all age groups aligned with the theme of sharing the park. Educational topics and activities include yoga, what to do when you see a horse, mountain biking, flora and fauna, and more. Vendors are focused on outdoor gear and merch. » FREE » 828-713-2368

» 828-785-5082

» dupontforest.com

» noc.com

SEPTEMBER 24 – OCTOBER 3

Slow Food

See website for showtimes Historic Banner Elk School 185 Azalea Circle Southeast, Banner Elk Ensemble Stage enacts the story of a couple who go all day without eating so they can enjoy a wonderful anniversary dinner at a fine Greek restaurant, only to fall prey to a nosy waiter. » Admission: Adult $30.56, Youth (0-16) $14.91, Other $28.32 » 828-414-1844 » ensemblestage.com

SEPTEMBER 25

BCCWNC Autumn in the Mountains Automobile and Motorcycle Show

9AM-3:30PM Mills River Brewing Company 336 Banner Farm Road, Mills River

In the 21st annual, the local branch of the British Car Club showcases automobile and motorcycle brands from the British Isles and Europe with special emphasis on the E-type Jaguar. Proceeds support Meals on Wheels. Registration for participating vehicles runs from $15-$30. » FREE to wander

SEPTEMBER 25-26

National Alpaca Farm Days

10AM-4PM | Apple Hill Farm 400 Apple Hill Road, Banner Elk

Apple Hill Farm celebrates by offering tours all day, by reservation only. Guests are encouraged to visit the store, which sells goods made of alpaca wool. » Admission: Adult (11-54) $15, Other $3-$13 » 828-963-1662 » applehillfarmnc.com

OCTOBER 1-3

24th Annual French Broad River Festival See website for itinerary Hot Springs Resort & Spa 315 Bridge Street, Hot Springs

This family-friendly festival has lots of music and river races. Vendors are geared toward the outdoors and local crafts. The river festival normally takes place in May, but, you know. Tickets for last year’s festival will be honored. Proceeds benefit American Whitewater, the Verner Center, and the Hot Springs Community Center. » See website for pricing » frenchbroadriverfestival.com

OCTOBER 2

Farm City Day

» bccwnc.org

SEPTEMBER 25

10AM-4PM | Jackson Park 640 Glover Street, Hendersonville

10AM-2PM

The educational event, founded in 1955, is designed to acquaint urban populations

DuPont Forest Festival

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w it h r u ra l cu lt u re a nd ag r icu lt u ra l activities, traditional and modern. » FREE » 828-697-4891 » henderson.ces.ncsu.edu/farm-cityday-2021/

OCTOBER 2

Lunsford Festival

10AM-5PM Mars Hill University, Lunsford Commons College Street, Mars Hill The Bascom Lamar Lunsford Mountain Music Festival celebrates traditional music and dance. Lunsford, otherwise known as the Minstrel of the Appalachians, was an attorney, folklorist, and performing multiinstrumentalist. » FREE » 828-689-1115 » mhu.edu/event/Lunsford-festival/

OCTOBER 5 – NOVEMBER 16

Foundations Business Planning Course

6-8:30PM (Tue) | Mountain BizWorks Zoom With coach Holly Rivers, participating entrepreneurs take an aerial view of their businesses and put essential operations, finance, R&D, and marketing in perspective. They graduate with a business plan and a to-do list. The class does not meet October 26. » Registration: $375 » 828-253-2834 » mountainbizworks.org

OCTOBER 8-10

Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival

10AM-5PM The Village Green of Cashiers 160 Frank Allen Road, Cashiers Leaflookers are going to come to Cashiers to enjoy the crisp blue skies and brilliant fall foliage. So the town set up an oasis on 30 acres, where they can refuel, listen to music, and browse and shop a diversity of manmade, handmade eye candy displayed and sold by over 100 regional artisans.


» FREE to wander » 828-743-3434 » discoverjacksonnc.com

106 Sutton Ave Black Mountain, NC 828.669.0075 towncountryfurniture.net

OCTOBER 8-10

The Tryon International Film Festival Consult website for itinerary Six Tryon Theatres Consult website for details

Due to the high number of excellent submissions, only “highly crafted films of sophisticated workmanship” are selected for screening at one of six Tryon venues. There is also a virtual option. A trade show runs concurrently with this year’s festival. » Passes: TBA » 404-379-5762 » tryoninternationalfilmfestival.com

OCTOBER 9

Your First 30: The Irresistible Novel Opening

9:30AM-12:30PM | Flatiron Writers Room 5 Covington Street, Asheville Live workshops at the writers’ room have resumed. In this session, award-winning novelist Kim Wright will share how to get readers to continue reading past the first 30 pages of your amazing story. Check out the website for more workshops. » Registration: $75 » flatironwritersroom.com

OCTOBER 9-10

31st Annual Oktoberfest at Sugar Mountain 10AM-5PM Sugar Mountain Resort, Main Lodge 1009 Sugar Mountain Drive, Sugar Mountain

All things Bavaria are reproduced in the cool mountain air. This Oktoberfest is familyfriendly. Consult website for itinerary. » FREE to wander » 828-898-4521 » oktoberfest.skisugar.com

S H O P LO C A L • FA M I LY O W N E D A N D O P E R AT E D B U S I N E S S

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C$ 7 : $,

AGRICULTURAL ARITHMETIC In North Carolina, agriculture is big business. But here in the mountains, it’s a little bit smaller. Don’t get us wrong—farmers are still tilling earth and taking coins, but the patterns of agriculture here diverge from the rest of the state.

IN NORTH CAROLINA… Some

8.4 MILLION ACRES of the state’s acreage

The

ECONOMIC IMPACT of agriculture in the state is

IS FARMLAND

$92.7 BILLION

The average farm is

AGRICULTURE AND AGRIBUSINESS offer North Carolinians

182 ACRES

772,000 JOBS (17.5 percent of total jobs in NC)


IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA… According to

TWO THIRDS

71 PERCENT

LESS THAN HALF

LESS THAN $40,000

ASAP’s Annual Appalachian Grown Producer Survey,

of their network of local farmers generated

of those farmers made

of their household income from their farming business

in gross sales in 2020

In 2019, the report found that the

75 PERCENT

AVERAGE FARM SIZE

WAS 59 ACRES

of respondents are fairly new to farming

(10 years or less)

While WNC may not be home to booming agricultural business, it is home to small farms driven by passion and connection to community. Which is exactly what makes our home so special. Sources: farmflavor.com/north-carolina-agriculture/ asapconnections.org/wp-content/uploads/2020-AG-Producer-Survey-Public-Report-2.pdf asapconnections.org/wp-content/uploads/2019-AG-Producer-Survey-Public.pdf


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Call today (866) 858-2257