On the weekend of November 16-18th, the North Carolina Chapter traveled to the mountains to learn about Western North Carolina Agriculture! Over the course of the weekend, Brothers toured a total of 6 farms: Brother Starnes, Chancellor Wilson, and Chronicler Worleyʼs family farms, Warren Wilson College farm, the North Carolina Mountain Research Station, and Snow Creek Christmas Trees Farm.
The first tour on Friday, November 16th was at our very own Brother Starnes family farm. This farm is located in Granite Falls, a town in Caldwell County, NC. This is a farm that has been in the Starnes family for many generations. Originally, the farm focused on flue cured tobacco, produce, and beef cattle. Today, the operation still has beef cattle, but has switched the tobacco and produce for small grain production. The North Carolina Chapter had the opportunity to see the farms harvest equipment and grain storage areas. The group also got the opportunity to mingle with the cattle herd on the property. The cattle were a mixed Simmental and Angus breed, as well as some Hereford genetics. This was a beautiful farming operation, and all of the Brothers that attended learned a lot about the average family farm in Caldwell County.
The next farm tour was at Warren Wilson College Farm. This farm is a charming operation located along the Swannanoa River that focuses on economically and environmentally sustainable practices. The student ran operation with pastured pork, lamb, chicken, and grass-finished beef is a quarter of a million dollar meat business. The farm also manages their pastures on a multi year rotation, allowing them to alternate crops with legume/grass mixed pastures. The grain fed to the livestock is also grown on the farm. After finishing this tour, the group traveled to Buncombe County to rest up for the next day.
On Saturday, November 17th, the Brothers had the opportunity to tour Chronicler Worleyʼs family farm. This farm focuses on corn and beef cattle production. The entire operation is a little over 400 acres. There is about 70 head of angus cattle, some of which are shown at competitions and fairs. The Brothers of the North Carolina toured a large portion of the property on the back of a truck or riding on a hayride behind a tractor. Some of the brothers were able to interact with one of the cows which had quite a bit of experience being shown at competitions.
Then, the group traveled to the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC. This was one of 18 Research Stations in North Carolina. This station is over 400 acres and focuses on specialty crops, christmas trees, heirloom tomatoes, forages, beef, wheat, corn, burley tobacco, and alternative crops. This is one of the 6 research stations in North Carolina with beef cattle, and one of 2 that performs research on Christmas Trees. Brothers of the North Carolina Chapter looked at many things on the stations campus, including some of the acreage with the Christmas tree research, the head-gate used when working with cattle, the setup of the cattle research pastures, and much more. An interesting fact that was mentioned on the tour is that North Carolina is the only state where all of the research stations are not owned by the state; some of them are owned and operated by NC State University. After this amazing tour, the Brothers traveled back to Buncombe Country to recharge and discuss all that they were fortunate to see that day.
On Sunday, November 18th (the last day of our trip), Brothers of the North Carolina Chapter traveled to Mitchell County. The first stop was at Snow Creek Christmas Trees Farm. This farm has been in Johnny Wilsonʼs family for about 50 years. It is a 3rd generation operation that started out as an apple orchard. Today, it is a successful Christmas Tree operation that sells 3,000-5,000 Christmas trees each year. Christmas trees grow about 1 foot a year, which means it could take seedlings 10-12 years to be ready to harvest. It is a lot of work to grow Christmas trees well, which is what was learned as Johnny talked about fertilizing, spraying, sheering, and cutting throughout the year. One of the issues in Christmas tree production is managing the Phytophthora root rot, a fungal disease that infects the soil, making it impossible to grow any more trees in the infected area. This was a great learning experience for many of the Brothers who had never seen a Christmas Tree operation.
Afterwards, the group traveled to another part of Mitchell County: the home of our very own Chancellor Wilson. This farm was a dairy business from 1968-1996, then became a beef operation. Today, there is approximately 35 head of Charolais cattle that are mostly grass fed. A large focus on this farm is soil and water conservation efforts. During this tour, Brothers learned about efforts to clean up water systems around the pasture with practices like fencing off streams, using manure sheds, using filter cloth and gravel areas, and much more. The group also discussed the difference between conservation efforts in urban areas and agricultural systems. Also while touring the farm, Mrs. Wilson showed the group all the different food she cans, and gave every person on the tour their own canned apple butter to take home with them.
When the last tour concluded, the group loaded up and headed back to Raleigh. This weekend was a great learning experience and a great opportunity for the Brothers to bond in fellowship. Friendships were strengthened during the time in the mountains, and every Brother gained knowledge that will stay with them after their time in Alpha Zeta. A huge thank you to Brother Britt who organized the trip and made this all possible!