Against the Grain is a 45 acre, diversified farm located 15minutes from downtown Boone in Zionville, NC. We raise a broad spectrum of certified Biodynamic vegetables on a little under 2 acres. We also raise Animal Welfare Approved, gmo-free, pastured chicken, turkey, pork, beef and goat. We focus on four main markets: Watauga Co. Farmer’s Market (weekly farmer’s market), New Appalachia (wholesale distributor), our own meat and vegetable CSAs and the High Country CSA (multi-farm CSA).
The 2017 season will be our sixth year in crop production and fourth year in animal production at our current farm place. We are continuing to refine our crop rotation, cover crop management, harvesting and composting techniques. Our focus at Against the Grain is to nurture the soil in order to grow high quality, nutritious food for our local community.
Our vegetables are certified Biodynamic and Organic. Approximately a quarter of our beds are transplanted every season, and the remainder are direct-seeded. We plant a diversity of crops and successions in order to have produce for our markets year round. Our production system includes controlling weeds with the use of a Farmall Super-A and an International 274 cultivating tractors as well as a significant amount of hand labor. We are incorporating a team of draft horses into our operation in 2017.
We choose to build the soil by planting cover crops, spreading compost and mulching with straw. We also occasionally add organically-approved single source inputs (alfalfa meal, bone meal, rock phosphate and lime). We focus on building and feeding the microbial life of the soil, generating fertility on the farm and preserving sensitive ecological aspects of the land.
Our poultry and beef are raised on pasture, our goats are raised on browse and our pigs are raised on mixed tree/browse paddocks on our farm. Animal chores are performed two times per day in order to distribute feed and check automatic watering systems. All supplemental animal feed is gmo-free. Our 2016 farm plan includes 40 pigs, 4 beeves, 25 goats, 600-900 chickens and 100 turkeys.
In the process of doing the work of the farm, apprentices will have the opportunity to gain experience in planting techniques, soil fertility, weed control, pest management, irrigation, harvesting, marketing, equipment use/maintenance, record keeping, Biodynamic preparations and livestock management. Some tasks may seem redundant or monotonous, so it’s very important for interns to be able to maintain a positive attitude. We work in all types of weather conditions, so come prepared with a variety of appropriate attire.
It is essential for perspective aprentices to understand that farm work is very physical. We do our best to vary the tasks throughout the day, in order to prevent too much time being spent on one job; however, farm work is often repetitive by nature and very physically demanding. It is important to be realistic and honest about your past work experience and physical stamina.
We will give instructions as we go and try to explain “how” and “why” along the way. Occasionally, we will have evening discussion/films on topics including soil fertility, basic botany, and management of weeds, insects, and diseases. We also have a small farm library, to which apprentices will have full access. We are not specifically a teaching farm, but we will do our best to convey as much of our knowledge as we can reasonably, while we work. There is a CRAFT network, hosted by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, which hosts field days on farms in our area, and we strongly encourage apprentices to attend.
We are somewhat flexible with start and end times, but typically, our season gets busy around the end of March and comes to a close by the end of November.
For the 2017 season, we are able to provide housing for two (possibly three) interns. The housing includes an off the grid shed and a camper with a common area for cooking and relaxing. The time commitment will vary through the season at 45-65 hours per week. The beginning of the season is very busy and as the summer progresses there is a steadier rhythm that sets in. For interns who would like to live on the farm, we expect a commitment for the entire season. Stipend amount will be based on experience and is negotiable, but generally, we start at $600/month. After two months, a $25/month raise can be expected. Compensation also includes 1 dozen eggs per week, 1 lb sausage per week, 2 whole chickens per month, organ meats and unlimited produce.