sustainable agriculture

Our Local Food Community

Jason and Haruka's Carrots

One of the many bonuses about having CCCC’s Sustainable Agriculture program located in Chatham County, is the sheer amount of support, resources, and energy happening around local food. Chatham County is home to over 1000 farms, four farmer’s markets and a regional farm tour. The number of small farms is growing. A great way to look at some of these is to check out the farm tour sponsored by Chatham Center of the NC Cooperative Extension Association.  Here’s some farm profiles: 

The most energetic resource we have is our Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent, Debbie Roos, M.S. She has won numerous awards for her outstanding service to local farmers, for her work on local, organic, and sustainable initiatives throughout the region. The above link goes to her site, Growing Small Farms. It provides a wealth of information both to farmers and consumers alike. 


Cathy Jones and Debbie Roos

Debbie sponsors great Continuing Education Workshops at the County Extension Office. Click through to check out recent offerings:    

Part of the existing landscape here is the Piedmont Biofuels phenomena. There is so much to say about the folks over there, that i can’t begin to do them justice. They offer workshops, farm tours, assist with farm incubation projects to help stabilize our local foodshed, all while maintaining a primary focus on biodiesel.  Learn more about them in their own words here:

Piedmont Biofuels is an incredible resource to the community. The founder, Lyle Estill, is author of the book, Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy. This lovely piece of work chronicles Lyle’s life in this area, and what it’s like to be involved as an activist in a small community striving for sustainability and self- sufficiency. 

Doug Jones

If you want to read it, buy from here: and support another local business. The Abundance Foundation is a local non-profit whose mission champions projects involving local food, renewable energy and community. Seed saving initiatives, local currency, vermiculture, and fundraising are but a few of the activities that keep Abundance busy and integrated into the community fabric here.
Community newcomers Jason and Haruka Oatis fit right in with their incubator farm Edible Earthscape:

In just a few short years, they’ve done some great experiments growing rice and bananas, now ginger and turmeric in addition to their stunning produce. Their greens supply at least one local restaurant, Angelina’s Kitchen, and they market at North Hills Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. 

Veteran Farmers are essential to ensuring the success of the future. Our own Doug Jones was recently awarded the Farmer of the Year award at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s 24th Sustainable Agriculture Conference this past weekend. Doug is a seed saving activist and pepper breeder, and has 39 years of farming expertise to share. He is involved in seed trials for Seeds of Change. Congratulations Doug!
Speaking of activism, this post would not be complete without a shout out to RAFI-USA, the Rural Advancement Foundation International. Another non-profit active in assisting family farms in the arenas of policy, marketing, environmental and social justice. Visit them here:
Being a part of the sustainable agriculture community is a rewarding and vibrant experience. Whether you farm or are involved in biodiesel or non-profit activities, there’s a place for you to let your talents shine.
photos credits: Abundance Foundation, Edible Earthscape

Building a Local Food Community

CSA boxes

Washing Fennel for CSA


One of the best ways to get a taste of the farm is to join a farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). For a subscription fee, you get a share of the farm’s harvest once a week. Many farms have different kinds of CSA’s, like vegetables, meat and dairy, and added value products such as baked or canned foods.   

Some farms even have a work-share as part of their CSA agreement. You might like to assist with the harvest or delivery of shares to a drop off point, or help with a specific farm project that needs extra hands. Volunteers are welcome at the Land Lab at CCCC.   

This fall in Organic Crop Production we were fortunate to be able to attend a workshop with the venerable Elizabeth Henderson, co-author of  Sharing the Harvest, A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture.    

In order for a CSA to be truly equitable, the subscribers must understand that they are sharing in the inherent risks of farming. This means that at times, there may be less in their CSA box due to hail or insect damage or the like.   

Supporting local farmers means that you know where your food comes from, and how it is grown. You know it does not have melamine in it, and little likelihood of e.coli since your meat was pasture raised. You know because you have a relationship with the farmer, have visited on Farm Tour or work day and have been a loyal customer for years. You know your farmer’s agricultural practices are not eroding the land and polluting the environment. Your support of local farmers helps them to keep land in their families, and preserve it for future generations. By joining a CSA, you can be a part of that vision.   Want to find a CSA near you? Click this link for a list of CSA farms in NC’s Piedmont:

CSA Harvest List

  A lot of work goes into CSA harvest, so it’s great experience for students to get while in school. CCCC’s CSA subscribers are students and CCCC employees.   If you want to farm, starting a CSA is a great way to build community, educating people about their food and reconnecting folks to the land. 

CSA’s are also a good way to get fresh organic food in to people’s hands who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Farmers can now take food stamps, and can be eligible for WIC. Some farms give subscriptions on a sliding scale, or sell to a local charity at full price who then makes shares available to the local hunger agencies.   

 In our community there are two restaurants who are rally making an effort at utilizing the bounty of local produce and meat. In Pittsboro, there is Angelina’s Kitchen, serving up local food with a greek twist:    Her gyro is the best I’ve ever had, coming from pasture raised beef and not the mystery meat stick that one usually sees in Mediterranean food places. They marinade the beef and stack it on the roasting spindle themselves. Delicious! 

Cameron Buscuit making at the Saxapahaw Grill


Then, in Saxapahaw, there’s the General Store, a gas station grill, boasting the best goat burger in town. Chef Jeff’s menu will often have both fried chicken, as well as a cassoulet. MMMmmm. Not a bad selection of vino that side of the Haw River!   

Check them out:   

By sourcing food for their restaurants locally, Angelina, Jeff and Cameron help local farmers and also show the public that good food can come from around the corner. Building a local food community one gyro, one goat burger, and one CSA box at a time.

Other Fun Courses in the Sustainable Ag Program

Andy talks about electric fencing

The Land Lab is expanding, and the Ag. Mechanization class is helping to calculate the electric fencing. In this photo, Andy McMahan shows the 7 wire fence in current use. Behind Andy is a rain barrel put together in the Farm Maintenance course.   

Andy teaches in the Biofuels curriculum. Check out this link for more info:
The new field will grow oilseed from which students can make biodiesel. The tractor at the Land Lab, as well as CCCC vehicles all run on B100 Biodiesel.
Ten percent of a farm’s land can provide enough energy to power the farm. We are striving to attain this level of self-sufficiency.
In the next photo, the Ag. Mechanization class uses the solar pathfinder to determine the amount of sunlight that will cross a given area. This assists us in determining where to place the solar energizer for the electric fence that a future class will build.


Solar pathfinder



Solar Pathfinders are indispensible when you need to figure out where to place the solar panel array to capture the most solar gain. Pathfinders can be costly, but if your project is not a DIY, the solar professionals will have one. 
The plan for this field is to cover crop this winter in crimson clover and winter rye, then plant sunflowers in the spring. We’ll have a big fall harvest and one of Andy’s biofuels classes will press the seeds to extract sunflower oil . We calculate that we’ll be able to produce 102 gallons of sunflower oil out of this field. The next crop will be either canola or soybeans, producing 127 and 48 gallons of oil respectively. 

Students in the Farm Structures class made the chicken tractor below. This structure can be moved by a group of people and placed over a block of beds and fenced off for the chickens to run. They eat bugs, weed seeds and fertilize the beds and then are moved to the next spot in the crop rotation plan. Crops must not be harvested within 120 days of applying animal manure.  

chicken tractor construction



The Ladies

A continuing education class made the brick pizza oven pictured below. It gets used by local chefs for farm tours and farm dinners.

Field Trip to Cane Creek Farm


Ossabaw Cross Pigs


Our Animal Science Class has been on a few field trips, one to the State Fair to learn about livestock, and another to Robin’s house to see her goats. No field trip has been more fun than visiting Eliza’s pigs at Cane Creek Farm.  

Even on a cold rainy day, it was great to visit an integrated sustainable farm to see what is possible. Using an innovative business model, Cane Creek merged with Braeburn Farms. This move has let them move to a healthy pasture rotation system in which they can run cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and poultry. Having this much land is a boon to the health of the animals, who eat what they glean from pasture and woods and occasionally supplemented with grain. This management system allows the farms to avoid using hormones and antibiotics. A healthy animal translates into a healthier product for the consumer. 

Although the farms boast many heritage breeds, Eliza started with Ossabaw pigs. Not only are they very cute, but also really tasty. Her pasture raised pork is sold in lots of area grocery stores, farmer’s markets and restaurants.  Cane Creek Farm’s Italian Sausage is a staple in our household. 

Farrowing Hut


When pigs go into labor, they make an elaborate nest. It is easier for them to make a bed out of hay within a small enclosure called a farrowing hut. Although pigs are social creatures, they will go off by themselves before giving birth. These huts allow them the privacy and safety they need. This door is facing south, away from prevailing winds. Inside, a small rounded plank attaches to the side to allow the piglets an area to roll away from the sow. This helps to prevent crushing them. 

piglets and sow


To learn more about Heritage Breeds, visit the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy at:
And please visit Cane Creek Farm’s website also!

Let’s Talk About Food
December 5, 2009, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Sustainable Agriculture | Tags: , , ,

Zebra heirloom Tomatoes

What kind of food do you eat?  

Do you think about it at all? Do you live for food? Do you think food and nutrition is the gateway to health and well-being, or is food just fuel for your body to get things done?  

Do you care about where your food comes from? Do you know much about Biotechnology and how it is influencing our food supply?  

Are you what you eat? Are you a vegetarian? An omnivore? Do you care? If not, why not?  

Take a moment and Vote:  


In The Sustainable Agriculture Program at CCCC, there is a fascinating course, Intro to Sustainable Agriculture, that gets students talking about just these subjects. To those of us who are involved in farming, food is a  hot subject these days, and deserves the attention that the healthcare debate is receiving. Why should you care? Because we all have to eat.  

We all need to eat, and many of us don’t know where our food comes from, or what it contains. Americans are seduced by slick media and so-called food experts who sell out for fast-food. (Yes, I will own that value judgement on Padma Laksmi and the Hardee’s ad:  

If you don’t care about your food, perhaps you might consider at least supporting your local farmers who do, and are trying to make an honest living .  Supporting local and organic farmers helps to keep local small economies thriving, instead of sending all of your food dollars out-of-state .  Supporting family farms helps preserve the beauty and character of our rural landscape, protecting it from large-scale industrial models of agriculture, and strip-mall sprawl type development.  

Supporting local farmers also promotes local food security. If you buy grass-fed beef from a regional farmer, there is less risk of recalled beef since cattle are individually processed at a local level, and not mass-produced in lots. Also, you are not contributing to the crimes that the meat packing  industry are able to evade prosecution for by buying off our congress :  

Not to mention, that local food and locally produced pasture raised meat is fresher, contains more antioxidants and omega three fatty acids than its industrial counterpart.  

When you choose good food, you’re chosing better health, helping the environment, and supporting your community at the same time.  Bon Appetit!

The Land Lab
November 22, 2009, 7:19 pm
Filed under: Sustainable Agriculture | Tags: , , ,

Hillary and Cheryl talk garlic seed

There’s a lot going on in the CCCC Land Lab this Fall. It is late November here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, and we’re lucky to be able to plant some root crops this late, notably garlic. 

Hillary, the Land Lab Manager, and Cheryl, former Land Lab Manager and Instructor extraordinaire, show the finer points of selecting garlic cloves for seed. The work of planting is divided among students .

Here at CCCC, we have great opportunity to get hands on experience on a working 5 acre farm. The Land Lab serves as the outdoor classroom. The lab has applied for Organic Certification, meaning there is a lot to learn to comply with USDA regulations.  In addition to crop planning, research, , post harvest handling and marketing, students learn about soil science and the different techniques that go into bed preperation. We may till with the John Deere, use a drive behind tractor such as a BCS, or experiment with no-till methods to prepare the beds.

Today our Organic Crop production Class divides up to take turns pushing garlic into our red soil, or harvest  other root crops. Bulbing fennel, (var. fiorentino) is also gathered. Fennel is a vegetable that’s relatively easy to grow, and can be very expensive to buy retail, so all the more reason to try your hand at it. The bulb is fabulous grilled after dipping in olive oil, salt and ground black pepper. Wait till the outside is a nice light brown, to carmelize some of the sugars inside. Serve with figs and a mild white fish like trout or catfish. 

Fennel tops can be added to mixed green salads; both the tops and the bulb can be added to an exotic slaw. Watch when harvesting that you remove any swallowtail caterpillars or larvae and stick ’em on another plant. Fennel attracts great beneficial pollinators. 

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Carrots are also on the harvest list today. Yum, so sweet! are carefully harvested by loosening the adjacent soil with a heavy short digging fork, then slowly clearing away the soil from the tops,  and wiggling them free without breaking the ends. We can overwinter carrots in our region, though choosing the right variety for our soils is necessary. Danvers and Nantes do well in a clay-loam. Learn more about soil science in the course here at CCCC.


See the links area for an ATTRA publication on Organic Garlic Production, as well as a great reference resource, Farming God Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower. 

Stay tuned for more on what’s going on in Sustainable Agriculture at CCCC!