Against the Grain is a small-scale diversified farm located 15minutes from downtown Boone in Zionville, NC. We live on a 35 acre farm and raise a broad spectrum of certified Biodynamic and Organic 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 three main market channels, including 2 weekly farmer's markets, a 20 week vegetable CSA, and several area restaurants.
The 2019 season will be our eighth year in crop production and sixth 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 three quarters 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 involves reduced tillage methods, so we use a flail mower and silage tarps to flip our beds. We control weeds with the use of a Farmall Super-A and an International 274 cultivating tractors as well as a significant amount of hand labor/hoeing. We also have a team of draft horses that we are increasingly incorporating into our operation.
We choose to build the soil by planting cover crops, spreading compost and mulching with straw. We also add organically-approved single source inputs (alfalfa meal, bone meal, rock phosphate and lime). True to biodynamic methods, we view our farm as an organism; therefore, our focus is on building and feeding the microbial life of the soil, generating fertility on the farm and preserving sensitive ecological aspects of this 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 2019 farm plan includes 32 pigs, 4 beef, 25 goats, 900 chickens and 100 turkeys. All of the livestock (expect the turkeys) are Animal Welfare Approved.
In order to remain profitable as a small farm it is a must to work quickly and efficiently. We believe that sustainability involves more than just methods of production. Financial sustainability is essential to the success of small farms. We are committed to keeping thorough production records, and expect our apprentices/interns to participate. We are not a homestead or hobby farm, and therefore must keep the bottom line in mind. However, we also believe in the artistic, cultural and social aspects of producing nourishing food and recognize the power of the choice that we’ve made to farm.
For the sake of this description, “apprentices” will refer to full time farm crew members who live and work on the farm for a whole growing season, and “interns” will refer to part time farm crew members who live in town and commute out to the farm.
Apprenticeships/Internships generally involve learning by doing. In the process of doing the work of the farm, crew 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 apprentices and interns 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 interns 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 Ag, which hosted field days on farms in our area, and we strongly encourage interns to attend. There is also a weekly biodynamic/anthroposphical study group that is an option for interns.
It is important to understand, that apprentices will be working side-by-side with the farmers a lot of the time, especially in the beginning of the season. But as the season progresses, the farmers have tasks around the farm that are their responsibility alone. This leaves some of the time when the crew works independently. First year apprentices must be able to take direction and guidance from returning apprentices.
We are somewhat flexible with start and end times, but typically, our season gets busy around the end of February and comes to a close by the end of November.
For the 2019 season, we are able to provide housing for five apprentices. The housing includes off the grid, insulated sleep sheds and a common kitchen for cooking. The time commitment will vary through the season at 50-65 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 apprentices who would like to live on the farm, we expect a commitment for the entire season, but we have some flexibility to accommodate alternative schedules. 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 housing, eggs and meat and unlimited produce.
We would like interns who live off the farm to commit to 18-20 hours of work per week. School credit is an option, and priority is given to students who express a desire to work additional hours outside of their school internship requirements. If interns only complete enough hours to fulfill their internship credit, no cash compensation is offered. However, if there is a commitment to working during the spring and fall semesters in addition to the internship for credit, cash compensation is available, and is based on experience and commitment. We work 6 days a week, so we can accommodate a variety of schedules for interns who commute.