Goodbyes and New Opportunities, Goals Achieved

February has begun and I am filled with both sadness and joy as I depart Goldsboro and the Small Farm this week. Today is my last working day, and then I will ready myself to move up to Valle Crucis, NC, to begin my own farming venture this season! It is hard to leave behind such a great group of co-workers and associates at CEFS, as well as those in the community who have made my time in Goldsboro memorable. I am also thrilled to have the opportunity to be an independent farmer, what I’ve wanted to do since I was 19 and first worked in organic agriculture.

I will be renting ½ acre this year at the Farmer Incubator and Grower (FIG) Farm in Valle Crucis, which is outside of Boone, NC, and growing mixed vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers. I love the North Carolina mountains, and was planning to move there within the next year when this opportunity came up. The FIG program is supportive of beginning farmers, providing mentorship as well as cold storage, greenhouse space, tools, and a tractor for participants’ use, so that we don’t have to make these investments in our first years. I plan to sell my produce through the Watauga County Farmers’ Market and will also have a small CSA.

Kayla is also leaving her position as an apprentice, but she will not be leaving Goldsboro! She has been hired as a full time research technician on the Small Farm for the high tunnel projects that we conduct through Dr. Gu of NC A&T. We are all so proud of her and know she will make a wonderful addition to the Small Farm team. With such a great group of people on staff, I will definitely have to return from time to time!

We have experienced some unusually cold temperatures for eastern North Carolina this month, often followed by a spell of warm weather. Our local bee club, the Beekeepers of the Neuse, built up eleven colonies of bees that were kept at the Small Farm in 2013, and a couple weeks ago, we opened the hives to find seven of the eleven hives dead! We can’t say exactly what caused this precipitous decline, but we think the weather was a contributing factor. Though this type of loss is devastating to any beekeeper, it is not very unusual- only 25% of new colonies survive their first winter.

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a cluster of bees that didn’t make it, frozen in time

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a zoomed out look at the frame

Kayla and I are both undaunted in our quest to become beekeepers, though. We are attending Bee School through the bee club, and the class is so engaging, as well as informative. I have already been studying beekeeping in principle and practice for about a year, but with each new presentation in class, I copy down every fact with awe and appreciation. I feel a spiritual reverence toward bees, and every eater (hint: that’s all of us!) should appreciate and protect them! I can’t wait to have my own colony, and yes, even with all that I have on my plate, I am hoping to start that this spring!

My other big adventure in this last month of my apprenticeship has been guest starring at Dillard Academy in the “healthy living” classes that Leslie, our FoodCorps volunteer, usually leads.  Previous lessons that I’ve done at the elementary school have been about backyard composting and the role of compost in the garden, and so this time I taught about worms and vermicompost. Using small portable worm bins, I demonstrated how worms can turn our food scraps into a rich garden fertilizer, and passed worms around the class for students to handle. It was really rewarding to see the dramatic change in attitude over a 45 minute class, with kids first shrieking and shivering at the mention of worms, and then showering love on the worms once they got to hold them, naming them and begging, “let me keep them!”

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We also had a great day of service on Martin Luther King Day at the Dillard school garden, with almost 100 people from the community of Goldsboro and FoodCorps volunteers from across North Carolina showing up to help us clean up, ready the beds for spring, and build some new infrastructure. It was a beautiful warm day, and the garden got a complete makeover! Leslie did a great job coordinating the event, which ended with a homemade southern lunch of fried chicken, sweet potatoes, collards, and biscuits for all the volunteers. Such amazing food, fellowship, and fun!

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Kayla “pricks out” small broccoli seedlings into a new tray for more room!

Snow hit eastern North Carolina this week, and in Goldsboro we got about 4 inches of snow. Most of this week was spent inside, but I wanted to share some pictures of the farm under a blanket of snow, something we don’t get to see that often in these parts! Snowy days are a great time for seeding spring crops in the greenhouse!

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When I look back on the past few months, and where I was in my life when I started this apprenticeship as compared to now, I feel so grateful for my time at CEFS and the Small Farm. It was a leap of faith to leave my comfort zone and move out to eastern North Carolina for this opportunity, and I had no idea where it would lead me afterward. Thank you to everyone! I have learned so much!

If you are interested in learning more about my next farming adventure (SOLO!), you can follow my farm’s blog at octopusgardennc.wordpress.com. If you would like to lend me support in my first season, you can donate to my crowd funding campaign on indiegogo. Your support means the world to me!

Stay tuned! New apprentices come on in March. 😉

-Caroline

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