Visits to Local Organic Farms Show Abundance of Good Produce!

Heirloom tomatoes at Jake's Farm

On Thursday, August 20, Sue Colucci, area specialized extension agent (, and I visited several organic farms in Henderson and Buncombe Counties.

Hal Oliver harvesting basil
Our first stop was to Oliver Organics in Hendersonville ( We found Hal Oliver, long time organic/biodynamic farmer, harvesting a beautiful crop of basil. His farm is small, orderly, intensive, and very diverse. The farm is not certified organic, but Hal has a well earned reputation as one of the most knowledgeable organic farmers in the region. He had a wide variety of vegetables ready to harvest for the local tailgate markets and restaurants he sells to. Lots of tomatoes, peppers, Malabar spinach, and squash were ripe and luscious looking. Hal sells his produce at the Henderson County Tailgate Market in downtown Hendersonville on Saturday mornings.

Michael Porterfield showing Sue Colucci a young squash planting

Our second visit for the day was to Gladheart Farms in Asheville( Michael Porterfield showed us around some of the big fields they are cultivating right outside of downtown Asheville. Considering that this is only their second year in operation, I was amazed at the variety of crops being produced and size of plantings! It's obvious that this farm is cared for by a group of very dedicated people with strong backs and a desire to grow an abundance of good food. They are experiencing some challenges this year, as many of us are because of the frequent rains, but I have no doubt that within a few years they will have mastered a system for producing large volumes of high-quality, organic food. Gladheart Farms is certified organic and takes pride in being good stewards and of turning land that was destined for development into a working farm. They sell direct to consumers at a roadside stand and through a CSA, but their emphasis seems to be on wholesale marketing. Their products can be found in local stores. I saw lots of peppers ready for the table, different melons nearing harvest, and lots of yummy looking pie pumpkins.

Chris Sawyer and Sue Colucci examing a corn plant
Our third and final stop of the day was to visit my old friend, Chris Sawyer at Jake's Farm ( Chris and Missy Huger have operated this farm in Candler since 1998. They are certified organic and grow without the use of animal manures. They produce a wide variety of crops year round, making use of high-tunnels, greenhouses, raised beds, and fields on over six acres. Chris and Missy are very active in their local community and have done much over the years to make people aware of where their food comes from and help local farmers be successful. They are owner/members in Carolina Organic Growers and users and strong supporters of Blue Ridge Food Ventures. They sell at tailgate markets throughout the region, to restaurants, and a variety of wholesale outlets. They also make several value-added products. They can be founda at the Asheville City Market on Saturday mornings. Right now, Jake's Farm has an abundance of heirloom tomatoes of all different varieties. From sugar-sweet Sungolds to huge, pink Brandywines. They are beautiful. There were also lots of peppers, Sun Jewel melons, basil, and freshly harvested potatoes. Yum!

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