ASHEVILLE, N.C.–Over a few short generations, we’ve seen significant decline in the home-grown American food community. How did farm families in the past provide nearly all their food needs directly from the farm? And how can we get there again? One family in Ohio purchased 24 acres deemed “unsuitable for agriculture” in 1996, and decided to find out.
And on March 9th, 2018, Independent Farmstead authors Beth & Shawn Dougherty kick off a series of workshops in western NC about that farm, called “The Sow’s Ear”, and their experiment, called “The One Cow Revolution.”
Their appearances start with a full day workshop at Living Web Farms on March 9th, and continue throughout the weekend as part of the 25th annual Organic Growers School Spring Conference. The March 9th full-day event, entitled Smart, Savvy, Scalable Land Stewardship, is designed for the forage-based, family-scale, food producer hoping to create a secure, and productive food system on small acreage.
The Dougherty’s principle is simple: that the dairy cow is the original solar battery. Their system is built around that one pastured dairy cow, and its ability to convert a small acreage of sun on grass into food. In their case, food for ten humans, eight to twelve calves, several dozen chickens, and a couple of hogs. Over the course of their March visit to WNC, their classes will assert that sky-high land costs, lack of capital, and limited farming experience need not be obstacles for those who wish to build an abundant, fertile, independent cottage farm.
The full day workshop on March 9th details the Dougherty’s land stewardship, as a model of the small-scale, dairy-centered farm which sustained the majority of the world for centuries and can do so again, especially in Appalachia. This model of self-sufficiency transforms the farmer from a purveyor of purchased grains to an ecologist who orchestrates the farm’s resources.
Local author, food consultant and Living Web Farms staffer Meredith Leigh does not plan to miss the event. “I think there is a lot of debate about the true sustainability and circularity of the modern homestead, and the Dougherty’s are both deeply knowledgeable and supremely down to earth, in every sense of the phrase, when it comes to the important questions of that debate.” She adds that she is particularly interested to hear “about the ways The Sow’s Ear has integrated plant and animal production on marginal land.”
In addition to technical advice, the Dougherty’s will be able to share quality of life testimonies about their homesteading lifestyle, and are dedicated to discussing economy and culture. They write, “Our study is to learn…just how many of our all-American, western-world assumptions—about money, food, time, technology and pleasure—we can get in back of and evaluate for ourselves.”
“With the resurgence of the small scale farming movement in our region, this independent farmstead model of production is really idea for the geography, culture, and growing conditions in the Southern Appalachians,” says Organic Growers School Executive Director Lee Warren “The five to ten acre homestead is what we’re seeing new farmers be able to afford and cultivate. We need to take these opportunities to learn from seasoned growers so we make fewer mistakes and get to profitable farming that much faster.”
A complete list of the Dougherty’s appearances from March 9th through 11th in the Asheville area can be found below. To register for the full-day Smart, Savvy, Scalable Land Stewardship at Living Web Farms, visit www.organicgrowersschool.org. Scholarships for the March 9th event are available via www.livingwebfarms.org.
The Independent Farmstead: Smart, Savvy, & Scalable Land Stewardship
Friday, March 9, 2018 at Living Web Farms
9:30 to 4:30
In our lifetimes, we’ve seen significant decline in the home-grown American food community. How did farm families in the past provide nearly all their food needs directly from the farm? And how can we get there again? This full-day workshop, with Independent Farmstead authors Beth and Shawn Dougherty, is designed for the forage-based, family-scale food producer hoping to create a secure, productive food system on small acreage.
Sky-high land costs, lack of capital, and limited farming experience need not be obstacles for those who wish to build an abundant, fertile, independent cottage farm. The keys to success involve grass-fed ruminants and multi-species farming as cornerstones of the management plan—coupled with four-season gardening and garden-raised roots and grains for animal feed.
Milk from a moderate-production dairy cow provides the high-quality proteins for beef steers, pigs, chickens—with whey to fertilize the garden and heat up the compost pile—as well as milk, butter, cheese, and cream for home consumption. This small-scale dairy-centered farm sustained the majority of the world for centuries and can do so again, especially in Appalachia. This model of self-sufficiency transforms the farmer from a purveyor of purchased grains to an ecologist who orchestrates the farm’s resources. By using intensive grass management, captured water systems, home dairying, four-season gardening for food and forage, and whole-farm “no-waste” composting, homesteaders can grow food, fertility, and a future on most pieces of land.
The Homestead Dairy Cow (Livestock Track at OGS Conference, UNCA)
Saturday, March 10, 2018
9:00 to 10:30
Safe, wholesome raw milk is rocket fuel that powers the whole homestead. Explore selecting, buying, and caring for a cow. Also, the basics of grazing, fencing, milking, shelter, breeding, calf care, and feeding calves, pigs, poultry and garden with extra milk.
DIY Water Systems for the Homesteader (Livestock Track at OGS Conference, UNCA)
Saturday, March 10, 2018
4:00 to 5:30
Versatile, resilient water systems are essential to truly sustainable farming. We’ll review twenty years of hacks for capturing natural water sources (rainwater, ponds, streams, springs), and employing low- or no-energy-input water systems for gardens and livestock.
Beth and Shawn Dougherty have been farming together for more than thirty years, the last twenty in eastern Ohio on their home farm, The Sow’s Ear, where they and their children raise grass, dairy and beef cows, sheep, pigs, and poultry. They identify intensive grass management as the point of union between good stewardship and good food. Their ongoing goal is to rediscover the methods and means by which a small parcel of land—carefully husbanded with the application of ruminants, pigs, and poultry—can be made to gain fertility and resilience while feeding the animals and humans living on it. Beth and Shawn are the authors of The Independent Farmstead, Growing Soil, Biodiversity, and Nutrient-Dense Food with Grassfed Animals and Intensive Pasture Management, published by Chelsea Green.
Living Web Farms is an education and research organic farm located in Mills River, NC. With over 35 acres, four greenhouses, alternative energy innovation, pastured livestock, forest crops, and diverse vegetable production, Living Web is a leading demonstration site for effective organic farming in western NC. Living Web conducts year-round education in farming, homesteading, cooking, and sustainable living. All education conducted at the farm is archived online in a free video library, and all food produced at the farm is donated to charity, via seven North Carolina food banks. For more information, visit www.livingwebfarms.org.
The 25th Annual Spring Conference, for farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and sustainability seekers, is hosted by Organic Growers School (OGS), a local non-profit organization, and will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 10 & 11, 2018, at UNC-Asheville, in Asheville, North Carolina. Pre-Conference workshops will be held on March 9th.
The Spring Conference offers practical, regionally-appropriate workshops on farming, gardening, permaculture, urban growing, and rural living plus a trade show, seed exchange, silent auction, children’s program, and pre-conference, on-farm events. There are more than 70 one-and-a-half hour sessions per day in these themed tracks: Community Food, Cooking, Earthskills, Farmer Beginning, Farmers Intermediate/Advanced, Gardening, Herbs, Livestock, Mushrooms, Permaculture, Pollinators, Poultry, Soils, Sustainable Forestry, Sustainable Living, and More!
For more information and to register, go to: www.organicgrowersschool.org, or request a mailed registration form Rodney Bowling, email@example.com or (828) 680.0661. Registration forms are also available at area retail stores and Cooperative Extension offices.