Blog :: 11-2011

Lights in Asheville



11/30/2011 - Lights in Asheville
by Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE - Beginning Monday, Nov. 21, the city will move into Phase II of a streetlight upgrade program in which traditional bulbs will be upgraded to LED bulbs. Retrofits will take place Monday through Thursday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. with no expectations of traffic disruption.

In spring of last year, the City of Asheville successfully installed 700 lights in River District and Kenilworth neighborhoods in Phase I of the street light upgrade project. Phase II has a broader reach and will involve 2800 streetlights across West Asheville, Kenilworth and Oakley. Once completed all four phases are expected to save $650,000 annually and 2628 tons of avoided carbon which is equal to the amount of carbon absorbed from 60,000 trees.

Phase I of the four year initiative began in May 2011 and has generated $32,000 in actual savings. City Council's approval of the Green Capital Improvement Plan rounds out the triple bottom line impact of the project. The plan, adopted in the 2011-2012 budget commits all dollar savings from municipal energy efficiency projects to future energy efficiency projects

The City of Asheville is the first in the nation to implement this innovative financial model where all the energy savings pay for the streetlight investment. The lighting upgrades build further upon the successful lighting ordinance passed in 2008 which ensures all municipal streetlights adhere to "Dark Sky" standards.

For more information about these upgrades please visit the frequently asked questions page at or contact Maggie Ullman at 828.271.6141 or

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Cool green: Asheville GreenWorks' annual Environmental Excellence Awards



11/30/2011 - Cool green: Asheville GreenWorks' annual Environmental Excellence Awards
by Susan Andrew Mountain XPress

There's no shortage of green-friendly businesses in Asheville, and this year's Environmental Excellence Awards spotlight some notable examples.

Asheville GreenWorks, which presents the awards, "was green before it was cool," noted Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones during a special ceremony last month. Each year, the group recognizes local businesses, nonprofits and individuals who strive to promote a greener Asheville and Buncombe County.

Formerly known as Quality Forward, the group got its start in 1974 as a local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. Last year it provided some $557,000 worth of volunteer services, as more than 2,800 new volunteers picked up litter, planted trees, cleaned up streams and landscaped public areas, among other contributions.

Jones attended the awards ceremony at Posana Café in her role as executive director of the local YWCA, which was among the groups honored. Besides a serious commitment to recycling and a switch from disposable paper products to convenetional dishes, the nonprofit recently installed 30 solar panels on its roof. The YW also educates young people about gardening, transporting them on biodiesel-fueled buses, and it offers reduced-price memberships for people who pledge to use public transit.

"It's an ongoing commitment," noted Jones, "because you never get all the way there, do you?"

Green efforts large and small were recognized. David Gantt's law office got an award for converting its front yard on Church Street into a rose garden, thus eliminating the need for mowing. And Higgins Horticultural Services was recognized for maintaining traffic-island plantings and for donating staff time and expertise to many community landscaping projects.

Navitat Canopy Adventures in Barnardsville was honored for its extensive green practices, including using trees cut on-site to build its zip-line platforms, and encouraging customers to embrace environmental advocacy. Accepting the award for Navitat, Ken Stamps said the company is committed to leaving no scar on the forest site it's leasing for 25 years. "When we leave, you won't know that we've been there," he promised. In the meantime, Navitat has embarked on a program to remove invasive plants and reintroduce native species, and its welcome center incorporates parts of an old cattle barn on the property. Even the bark mulch on the pathways was chipped on-site, he noted.

The experts at FLS Energy were recognized for installing solar panels throughout the community (including at the YWCA), and for the company's ambitious commitment to recycling wastes generated during installation, keeping as much material as possible out of the landfill. In both energy generation and materials decay, the company tries to hold the line on carbon emissions, Marketing Manager Joanna Baker explained, citing a "triple-bottom-line philosophy: people, planet, profit."

Joe and Annie Ritota of Annie's Naturally Bakery said they aimed for the smallest possible carbon footprint when their business expanded; 40 employees now operate a commercial bakery that began in the couple's home in Sylva. In renovating the former Square D facility in Asheville, they added solar panels, reclaimed many building materials and used low- and no-VOC paints -- "an expensive endeavor for us," noted Joe, "but we just didn't want to deal with toxic chemicals off-gassing in a natural and organic bakery." Annie's is now preparing for the next step: full organic certification using locally milled North Carolina-grown wheat from Carolina Ground, which is gearing up to link farmers, millers and bakers by providing a viable market for local organic grains.

In accepting his restaurant's award, Posana owner Peter Pollay cited the emphasis on organic and local menu items, noting that they compost all pre- and post-consumer food waste through another local business, Danny's Dumpster. No-VOC paint, no-formaldehyde adhesives and high recycled content in floor coverings and other materials in the dining room further bolster Posana's green credentials. "We were the first certified-green restaurant in North Carolina," Pollay reports, noting that 18 local eateries have since achieved certification by the Green Restaurant Association, "making Asheville the greenest restaurant city in North America. It's very exc iting."

Not to be outdone, co-owner Randy Talley of Green Sage Coffeehouse and Café told the crowd, "The inspiration for our restaurant was to fulfill this prophecy that Asheville is a green city. I was living in north Asheville when Progress Energy announced the oil-burning power plant they wanted to build a mile from my house," he continued, "and I felt like I had to do something that would make a difference ... to inspire people to live healthily, and to green their lives and their communities."

The newly opened Green Sage II in the Dingle Creek Crossing shopping center in south Asheville makes extensive use of recycled and reclaimed materials. Lights are low-energy LEDs, and moving the refrigeration unit outside will slash energy bills. "We even got everyone in Dingle Creek to join us in a major recycling program," Talley told Xpress.

But top honors went to Greenworks Hall of Fame member Mountain Housing Opportunities for such projects as its LEED-certified Glen Rock Depot development in the River Arts District and related educational efforts.

"Location is environmental," notes Director Scott Dedman. There are more than 40,000 jobs within a three-mile radius of downtown, he points out; adding residential units there reduces transit time -- and thus the community's carbon footprint.

And if people find the setting safe, exciting and attractive, continues Dedman, "That's how we're going to turn the environment around."

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RiverLink partners with Asheville Green Opportunities to build raingarden



11/29/2011 - RiverLink partners with Asheville Green Opportunities to build raingarden
by River Link



On Thursday, Nov. 10, RiverLink staff and volunteers trained Asheville Green Opportunities members , to build a 100 square foot rain garden for a local family. RiverLink has partnered with GO, a training program that pays young people particular from public housing to learn new job skills, training them to assist residents across the region to imp lement stormwater Best Management Practices, such as rain gardens and rain barrels at the residential scale. The family is registered in RiverLink's Water Reuse Infiltration and Conservation for the Home Program and certification.

Through hands-on workshops, site consultation, and online planning and construction manual, WaterRICH provides resources for homeowners who want to learn how to manage the water on their property in a sustainable way. The program is designed specifically to help residents understand how they can be good stewards of our natural resources- and save money. The goal? To increase infiltration of stormwater into the ground and recharge the water table, reduce the use of potable water, improve water quality in the French Broad River Watershed and reduce pressure on the existing stormwater system.

Once the program is established and metrics are collected RiverLink will seek incentives from local governments for reduced homeowner stormwater fees for certified WaterRICH homes.

RiverLink is currently seeking additional program participants -- from homeowners in Buncombe, Madison or Haywood Counties -- to become part of the WaterRICH program pilot project funded through a grant with the Pigeon River Fund. Homeowners who participate in the training and implement the the stormwater features and recommendation of WaterRICH residences may be certified as WaterRICH. Program participation can lower your summer water and sewer bill, increase property values and assist in preventing water issues in the home, and incrementally improve water quality of the French Broad River Watershed. And it can save you money.

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Asheville area Outdoors Calendar



11/28/2011 - Asheville area Outdoors Calendar
by Asheville Citizen Times


Appalachian Ski Mountain: Blowing Rock. Not yet open. Call 800-322-2373 or visit for updates.

Beech Mountain Resort: Beech Mountain. Not yet open. Call 800-438-2093. Visit

Cataloochee Ski Area: Maggie Valley. Open for skiing and snowboarding. Call 800-768-3588 or visit for rates.

Hawksnest: Tubing park on N.C. 105 South between Boone and Banner Elk. Not yet open. Call 800-822-4295. Visit

Sapphire Valley: U.S. 64 West between Brevard and Cashiers. Not yet open. Call 800-722-3956 or 800-533-8268.

Sugar Mountain: Now open for skiing, snowboarding and outdoor ice skating. Call 800-SUGARMT or visit

Wolf Ridge: Mars Hill in Madison County. Not yet open. Call 800-817-4111. Visit


EARTH FARE TURKEY TROT 5K: Jus' Running hosts race starting at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day at Carrier Park, Amboy Road. $30. Visit

ASHEVILLE JINGLE BELL 5K RUN/WALK: Fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation starts at 10 a.m. Dec. 3 at the Montford Recreation Center, 34 Montford Drive. Early registration is $25, $30 on race day. The 5K walk or 1-mile fun run (un-timed) is $15, and children younger than 12 are $10. Visit http://jinglebellrunasheville.kintera. org.

NEW BALANCE GIRLS ON THE RUN 5K: Starts at 11 a.m. Dec. 10 at UNC Asheville. The event is culmination of 12-week program for girls in third-eighth grades. Entry fee is $15 for Running Buddies and community runners. Visit new-balance-girls-on-the-run-5K.

HOT CHOCOLATE 10K and KIDS HILL CLIMB: Registration now open for Isaac Dickson Elementary School race, starting at 9 a.m. Jan. 21 at the school, 125 Hill St., Asheville. Adult 10K $27.50, youth 10K (17 and younger) $20, Hill Climb (12 and younger) $12, Marshmallow Dash (6 and younger) $12.

TSALI FROSTY FOOT: Registration open for the 2012 Tsali Frosty Foot Fest 50K (31 miles), 30K (18 miles) and 8K (5 miles) Jan. 7 in the Tsali Recreation Area of Graham County on 50K is $50 until Dec. 7, $65 until Jan. 5 online, 30K is $35/$45, 8K is $25/$30. Visit


ASHEVILLE TRACK CLUB: Promotes and support the running communities of WNC by providing information, education, training, social and sporting events for runners. Visit

FOUR SEASONS RUNNING CLUB: Official running club of Hendersonville and Henderson County. For more information, call 388-3200 or email

JUS' RUNNING: Groups meet for various levels of road and trail runs and track workouts at the Jus' Running store, 523 Merrimon Ave., Asheville. Call 252-7867, e-mail or visit

DIAMOND BRAND RUNNING GROUPS: Meets at 6 p.m. every Wednesday. Runs are 3-6 miles at an 8-10 minute pace. All running levels welcome. Contact

SWAIN COUNTY TRAIL RUNNERS: Long-run group meets 8 a.m. Saturdays at the Deep Creek Trailhead parking area in Bryson City. All runs are on trails in the Smokies or Tsali Recreation Area. All distances, paces, ages welcome. Call 399-0989, 488-6769 or e-mail


ASHEVILLE AMBLERS WALKING CLUB: Club features free, monthly 5K or 10K (6.2-mile) noncompetitive walks in Asheville, Black Mountain and Hendersonville. Visit or call 687-2777.

ASHEVILLE HIKING MEET-UP GROUP: Social and hiking club made up of all ages and professions. Hikes take place Saturdays and Sundays. Free. Visit

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY: The most-visited unit of the National Park Service, stretching 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee. Call 298-0398 for road and weather conditions or visit

CAROLINA MOUNTAIN CLUB: More than 175 hikes a year. Call Stuart English at 883-2447 or visit for schedule of hikes. Hikes are free. Nonmembers should call ahead.

DIAMOND BRAND OUTDOORS: Gary Eblen leads various group walks throughout the year on the trails and in local parks. Call 209-1538.

GIRLS-ONLY HIKE CLUB: Women-only hike the third Saturday of each month. Registration is required. Call 209-1503 or e-mail Kate Shirey at

NANTAHALA HIKING CLUB: A hiking/trail maintenance club based in the Franklin-Highlands area. For a schedule of guided hikes, call Kay Coriell at 369-6820 or visit

PISGAH HIKERS: Five different hiking groups meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in Brevard. Hikes range 3-12 miles. Visit

SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS HIGHLANDS CONSERVANCY: Nonprofit working to conserve the clean water, unique plant and animal habitat, local farmland and recreational treasures of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Visit

SWANNANOA VALLEY MUSEUM: Hosts various hikes, camps and community events throughout the year. At 223 W. State St., Black Mountain. Call 669-9566 for information and to register for events. Programs and activities are available by appointment year-round.


ASHEVILLE BICYCLE RACING CLUB: Promotes amateur bicycle racing in WNC. Members get organized training rides, coaching and financial assistance. Visit

ASHEVILLE WOMEN'S CYCLING: All-female cycling club and all-female racing team, Team Prestige Subaru. Promote recreational road and trail cycling among women. Visit

BLUE RIDGE BICYCLE CLUB: Encourages safe and responsible recreational bicycling in WNC. Weekly rides ranging from novice-advanced levels. Rides usually have a designated leaders and cyclists will not be left behind. Visit

PISGAH AREA SORBA: Chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, dedicated to improving technical off-road biking programs through advocacy for quality trail systems. Visit

TRACK CYCLING CLINICS/TRAINING: Clinics and skills practice, 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays, Carrier Park, Amboy Road, Asheville. Open to all ages. Email

BRBC TUESDAY MORNING RIDES: The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club holds rides the first Tuesday of the month starting at Fletcher Park. All other Tuesday's rides start from Liberty Bicycles,1378 Hendersonville Road. Visit


TIE ONE ON FOR CFR: Inaugural Davidson River Team Challenge fly-fishing tournament Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19-20 at Davidson River Outfitters, Pisgah Forest. $250 per two-person team. $1,500 grand prize. Call 712-6738 or visit Casting for Recovery Carolina on Facebook.

FLY-FISHING CLASSES: Rivers Edge Outfitters in Cherokee conducts free fly-fishing classes every Saturday at 10 a.m. For more, call 497-9300.

N.C. WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION: State agency regulating hunting, fishing and trapping seasons and rules. For more information, visit

FRENCH BROAD RIFLES: Meet for muzzle-loading target shooting at 9 a.m. the second Saturday of each month at the club's range in Madison County. Email

LAND O' SKY TROUT UNLIMITED: Asheville-based organization of anglers and conservationists dedicated to the protection of trout and their habitat. Visit Meetings are at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month.

LAND OF THE SKY BASSMASTERS: WNC's oldest bass club and NC BASS Federation affiliated club meets the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Bubba Q's Restaurant across from airport. Serious anglers can build friendships, camaraderie and angling knowledge. For more, call 681-0113.

PIGEON VALLEY BASSMASTERS: New members welcome. Regular meetings are at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month at Shoney's Restaurant, at Exit 44 off I-40. For more, call Patty Blanton at 712-2846.

PISGAH CHAPTER OF TROUT UNLIMITED: Hendersonville-based anglers and conservationists with members in Polk, Henderson and Transylvania counties. Visit


ASHEVILLE MASTERS SWIMMING: Organized workouts, 5:45-7:15 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at the Asheville School, and at 7:30-9 a.m. Saturdays at Warren Wilson College. Coached workouts 5:45-7:15 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday at WWC. Competitive, fitness and triathlon swimmers welcome for training, stroke work and socializing. Visit

SWIM CLINICS: All clinics are at Warren Wilson College pool in Swannanoa. Call 771-3005.


ASHEVILLE ROWING CLUB: A nonprofit athletic and social organization dedicated to promoting health, fitness and fun through rowing. For details, visit

ASHEVILLE TRIATHLON CLUB: For competitive and beginner triathletes. Club provides resources, training, racing and social opportunities. Call Greg Duff at 400-5868.

ASHEVILLE YOUTH ROWING ASSOCIATION: For ages 13-18, a youth rowing program at Lake Julian on Saturdays, Sundays and two afternoons per week. Call Jack Gartner at 230-3901 or visit

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS TRIATHLON CLUB: Hayesville-based club for those interested in running, biking and swimming competitions. Races throughout the year. For more information. call Scott Hanna at 389-6982, email or visit

GREEN RIVER ADVENTURES: Saluda-based guide for professional kayaking instruction, inflatable kayaking trips and custom adventure experiences. Call 800-335-1530 or visit

NANTAHALA OUTDOOR CENTER: Outdoor outfitter, providing whitewater rafting, paddling instruction, adventure travel, group adventure programs, festivals and events, on U.S. 19 W. in the Nantahala Gorge, west of Bryson City. Call 888-905-7238 or visit


ASHEVILLE LAWN BOWLING: Meet 2-4 p.m.W ednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting, at Carrier Park green on Amboy Road. Free instruction and the use of club bowls. Call Hans at 684-1815 or Stan at 665-7768.

ASHEVILLE MUSHROOM CLUB: Meets monthly at the WNC Nature Center on Gashes Creek Road in Asheville. Meetings are open to the public. Membership is required to participate in forays. $18 individuals, $25 family.

ASHEVILLE PARKS OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts offers many opportu nities for outdoor adventure this winter and spring. Fees are listed for Asheville city residents and for non-residents. Call Christen McNamara at 251-4029 or email

ASHEVILLE ZIPLINE CANOPY ADVENTURES: Tours run at 9 and 10:30 a.m. and 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m. daily. The full course takes 2 1/2 hours. Cost is $45-$79 per person. Call 877-247-5538 or visit

WESTERN CAROLINA BOTANICAL CLUB: Identifies and studies native plants and their habitats and encourages members and the public to protect and preserve the biodiversity of our natural world. Weekly field trips, community service projects, workshops and more. Beginners are welcome. Call 696-2077.

BLUE RIDGE NATURALIST CENTER: Various programs, walks and seminars for the community. At UNC Asheville. Call 251-6198 for more information or to register for programs.

CARL SANDBURG HOME: National park located in Flat Rock. Tours of the home (admission fee), several miles of hiking trails, gardens, descendants of Mrs. Sandburg's dairy goat herd. Free programs year-round. 693-4178 or

CAROLINA MOUNTAIN LAND CONSERVANCY: Hendersonville-based nonprofit dedicated to land preservation. Guided hikes, outreach events and volunteer opportunities. Contact Aimee McGinley,, 697-5777 or visit

CHIMNEY ROCK PARK: North Carolina's newest state park is 25 miles southeast of Asheville. Hiking trails, guided rock climbing, bird watching, children's programs. Admission fee. Call 625-9611, 800-277-9611 or visit

DIAMOND BRAND OUTDOORS: Outdoor enthusiasts have opportunity to participate in several types of free instructional clinics and special events. A complete schedule and information can be found at

DUPONT STATE FOREST: Miles of multiuse trails, waterfalls and lakes straddling Henderson and Transylvania counties. No admission fee. Visit

ELISHA MITCHELL AUDUBON SOCIETY: Promotes an awareness and appreciation of nature, to preserve and protect wildlife and natural ecosystems and to encourage responsible environmental stewardship. Offers bird walks, naturalist programs. Visit

ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSERVATION ORGANIZATION: Hendersonville-based conservation nonprofit. Guided hikes and community events. Call 692-0385 or visit

FLETCHER DISC GOLF: Fletcher Parks and Recreation-hosted disc golf doubles program is at 5:30 p.m. Thursdays at Fletcher Community Park. Program to players of any ability. Loaner discs available. Visit

FONTANA VILLAGE: Local author and hiker Jerry Span leads family-friendly, diverse programs throughout the year. For information or to register, call 498-2211, ext. 144.

FOOTHILLS EQUESTRIAN NATURE CENTER: FENCE offers 384 acres of hardwood forest, meadow and wetland for hikers, birdwatchers, gardeners and astronomers. Located at 3381 Hunting Country Road, Tryon. 859-9012 or

GORGES STATE PARK: State park in Transylvania County, about 45 miles southwest of Asheville. Park office is on U.S. 64 in Sapphire. Trails, waterfalls, picnic areas, campsites. Admission is free. Call 966-9099.

GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN: Located off N.C. 221, south of Boone. Attractions include Mile High Swinging Bridge, environmental habitats for native wildlife, natural history museum and alpine hiking trails. Visit or call 800-468-7325.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK: Extends 70 miles along the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Hiking trails, scenic driving routes, camping, picnic sites. Open year-round. Free. Call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on U.S. 441 at 497-1904 or visit m.

LAKE JAMES STATE PARK: At the base of Linville Gorge, Lake James State Park is a 6,510-acre lake with boating, fishing and swimming in season, picnic area, campground, hiking trails and ranger-led nature programs. Call office in Nebo, McDowell County, at 652-5047 or visit

Loons of Lake James Boat Tour: Join a ranger on a boat ride in search of loons. For ages 7 and older Meet at 10 a.m. Nov. 26 and 2 p.m. Nov. 27 at Paddy's Creek Area office. Call 584-7728 to register.

LOST COVE NATURALIST CENTER: Offering programs in outdoor self-reliance living skills. Learn primitive technology skills, taught by hands-on professionals. Center is at 160 Grassy Knoll Way, Blowing Rock. More at 295-8570 or

MOUNTAIN WILD: Local chapter of the N.C. Wildlife Federation works to preserve and increase wildlife and wildlife habitat of the WNC mountains. Free programs meet the fourth Tuesday of each month at the WNC Nature Center, 75 Gashes Creek Road, Asheville. Call 338-0035.

MOUNT MITCHELL STATE PARK: Home to the highest peak east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell, 6,684 feet elevation. Located on N.C. 128, off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 355. Interactive programs are free. Call 675-4611 or e-mail

N.C. ARBORETUM: Connects people and plants through various year-round programs, lectures and special events. Promotes conservation, education and research. Located off N.C. 191/Brevard Road, south of the Biltmore Square Mall. Call 665-2492 or visit

PISGAH CENTER FOR WILDLIFE EDUCATION: Ongoing classes at center, adjacent to the fish hatchery in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. Operated by N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. All programs are free; registration required. Open daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. except Sunday. Call 877-4423.

PURA VIDA ADVENTURES: Adventure guide service offering guided climbing, mountain biking, hiking, water tours and paddling trips. Call 772-579-0005 or visit

REI ASHEVILLE: Outdoors outfitter in Biltmore Park, 31 Schenck Parkway offers ongoing schedule of classes and special events. Call 687-0918 or visit Registration required.

SIERRA CLUB (PISGAH): The Pisgah chapter of the national environmental club. Monthly meetings and discussions. Call Robert C. Hynett at 693-1975 or e-mail

SIERRA CLUB (WENOCA): Western North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. Meetings at Unitarian Church, corner of Charlotte Street and Edwin Place, Asheville, and are free and open to public. Visit

SLICKROCK EXPEDITIONS: Cullowhee-based guide service that runs recreational trips of backpacking, canoeing and camping in wilderness areas throughout the Southeast, as well as in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. Call Burt Kornegay at 293-3999 or visit

SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN HIGHLANDS CONSERVANCY: The conservancy works with individuals and local communities to identify, preserve and manage the region's important lands. Hikes scheduled on Saturdays. Call 253-0095 or visit

RV CAMPING CLUB: Small local camping club looking for new members. Camping trips are one weekend per month, March-November. All ages welcome. No dues, no structured activities. We share a love of the outdoors, good company, great food & a roaring campfire. Contact Lillian at or 369-6669.

WILD BIRDS UNLIMITED: Offering various bird programs with instructor and owner Simon Thompson. Visit www.asheville.wbu for directions, more information or contact WBU at 687-9433.

WNC NATURE CENTER: A living museum of plants and animals native to the Appalachian region, 75 Gashes Creek Road in East Asheville. Admission: $8 adults, $5 children, free to members of Friends of the Nature Center. Call 298-5600. www.wil

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Busy season begins for NC Christmas tree industry



11/28/2011 - Busy season begins for NC Christmas tree industry
by The Associated Press

RALEIGH -- Now that Thanksgiving dinner is out of the way, the busy season has started for North Carolina's multimillion dollar Christmas tree industry.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says fresh, state-grown Christmas trees will be available at stands and farmers markets this weekend, as well as at farms in the western part of the state, where most of the trees are grown.

More than five million Christmas trees are harvested annually from North Carolina's 1,000 or so growers, making it the second-largest producer in the country. The industry generated about $85 million for the state's economy last year.

This year, growers are also donating about 1,000 trees to military families at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Camp Lejeune, Fort Story in Virginia and Fort Bliss in Texas.

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Buncombe farmers win "slow food" sustainable-agriculture award



11/21/2011 - Buncombe farmers win "slow food" sustainable-agriculture award
by Jeff Fobes - Mountain XPress

Jamie and Amy Ager of Fairview won the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association "Young Farmers of the Year" award. From the announcement from Carolina Farm Stewardship Association:
Durham, NC - The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) has named this year's sustainable agriculture award recipients. The awards were announced November 12 and 13 at the 26th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham, NC, a gathering of over 1,250 sustainable farmers, agriculture advocates, foodies, educators, and experts.  These institutions and individuals have made outstanding contributions to the sustainable food movement in North and South Carolina and have helped make the Carolinas one of the fastest growing sustainable agricultural sectors in the country.

The award recipients are:

Farmers of the Year, John and Betty Vollmer, Bunn, NC (919-496-3076 ) - In the early 1990s, John Vollmer, a third-generation tobacco and small grain farmer, knew that the outlook for tobacco farming was bleak. Moreover, Vollmer had seen the number of farms dwindle in his area from about 250 in the 1970s to just 30. He realized that organic production might provide a means to keep the farm viable.  "My main goal was to keep the farm in the family for the next generation," Vollmer said.  So, John completely diversified into pumpkins, strawberries and organics.  Recently, John and Betty added organic blueberries and they are looking to expand into more organic varieties.  In addition to organic acreage, they have many improvements to soil quality, PH and water holding capacity by using compost and cover crops in their non-organic fields. Now that the family has grown, John's goal has been realized; the 4th and 5th generations are helping sustain the farm!  John has shared his inspiring story of how diversifying with organics saved his farm with conventional farmers, elected officials and the public and is one of the most respected and influential organic farmers in the region. John and Betty are honored for their important contribution to organic agriculture in the Carolinas.  

Young Farmers of the Year, Jamie and Amy Ager, Fairview, NC (828-628-1027 ) - Jamie and Amy Ager are part owners of Hickory Nut Gap Farm and operate Hickory Nut Gap Meats, the brand under which they market meat sales from the farm. The six children of James and Elspeth Clarke jointly own the land of Hickory Nut Gap Farm and in 2008 the land was put into a conservation easement with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Protected for eternity, the land will be preserved as farmland and managed by the family.  Both Jamie and Amy are graduates of Warren Wilson College and they have three eager boys who enjoy moving cows and feeding baby chicks.  Jamie has spent the past few years revitalizing the farm's pastures and hayfields by developing an intensive rotational grazing system that keeps the livestock out of the creeks and springs.  Amy focuses on the marketing and accounting aspects of the farm while working out in the field as much as possible. Jaime and Amy are recognized for their outstanding commitment to sustainable livestock management and land conservation, as well as for providing an inspiring model for young farmers to imitate.   
Business of the Year, Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO), Pittsboro, NC (919-542-3264 ) - Born as a project of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association in 2004, ECO markets and distributes wholesale Carolina organic farm produce to retailers, restaurants and buying clubs.  ECO is completely farmer owned; 80 percent of their sales go right back to the growers.  ECO's customers get fresh organic veggies and fruits, along with the knowledge that they're enabling farmers to protect their family land.   ECO allows participating organic growers to profitably sell their products and supports efforts to improve production and packaging techniques. By pooling diverse harvests from several regions, they have been able to meet the demand for a steady stream of high quality, seasonal food choices throughout the year. ECO's mission also includes community education about the importance of choosing local and organic produce and helping conventional growers enter the expanding organic market, including assistance in the transition to organic farming.  ECO is honored for their commitment to helping sustainable family farms thrive in the Carolinas. 
Institution of the Year, Southern Exposure Seed Ex change, Mineral, VA (540-894-9480 ) - Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) offers more than 700 varieties of vegetable, flower, herb, grain and cover crop seeds. They emphasize varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast and are specifically adapted to organic conditions.  Part of the SESE's mission is to promote seed saving and traditional plant breeding.  According to SESE's Ira Wallace, "We believe that preserving unusual heirloom varieties helps to preserve and promote that other endangered breed - the American small farm."  They are honored as institution of the year in recognition of their important work to provide a variety of seed saving equipment, as well as seed saving resources in their books and DVDs, to the agricultural community.  
Activist of the Year, Janette Wesley, Greenville, SC ( ) -  A Greenville, SC native, Janette Wesley serves as Convivium Leader of the Slow Food Upstate chapter.  With Janette at the helm, this active chapter has accomplished much to, as Janette puts it, "create a space for the 'feasting and living together' of those seeking and providing sustenance that is 'better, cleaner, and fairer' in Greenville and the Upstate.  The group founded one of the country's first Earth Markets, or farmers' markets that have been established according to guidelines of the Slow Food philosophy of Good Clean and Fair. These community-run markets are important social meeting points, where local producers offer healthy, quality food directly to consumers at fair prices and guarantee environmentally sustainable methods.  The chapter hosts dinners, events, and workshops throughout the year to support four community grants: Slow Food in School; Slow Food on Campus; The Ark of Taste and RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions).  Janette is being honored with this award for her tireless efforts to grow grassroots support for fair farm and food policies that affect the Upstate. 
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agent of the Year, Paige Burns, Richmond County
(910-997-8255 ) - Since embarking on her Extension career in 2008, Paige Burns has worked with energy and enthusiasm to help farmers struggling to adjust to shifting markets.  In addition to serving as the local food coordinator in her role as Extension agent, Paige also worked to establish a Voluntary Agriculture District program in Richmond County. She has worked with both farmers and gardeners to make practical application of organic and sustainable practices appropriate for the Sandhills region and, together with fellow Extension Agent, Taylor Williams, she created an organic gardening curriculum to teach sustainable soil and pest management practices. Paige also worked with adjacent counties to launch the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative, a food hub centered in Carthage, NC, and has worked tirelessly to promote the local food movement in the area. She teamed up with other area agents to host the first local food conference in Hamlet, NC. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Paige is that she has managed to do all of this while serving as interim County Extension Director for Richmond County.
South Carolina Cooperative Extension Agent of the Year, Blake Lanford, Horry County
(843-365-6715 Ext. 115) - In his role as the Regional Economic Community Development agent, Blake Lanford has worked extensively to promote agritourism throughout SC.  Agritourism refers to activities that may be pursued both on and off the farm to supplement traditional production processes and reconnect with the consumer public.  This type of business is of growing importance to small farm enterprises throughout the state. Typically, cooperative organization, marketing and training related to activities of agritourism have been limited in the Pee Dee region of SC, but Blake has helped to change that with the implementation of the Pee Dee Agritourism Passport program. The program incorporates Google Maps to enable residents and visitors to use the Internet to locate on-farm lodging, produce stands and other agriculture related businesses.  Also, a printed version of the map that folds to the size of a passport has been made available at area chambers of commerce, convention and visitor bureaus and welcome centers. The program is integrated with S.C. MarketMaker, a program managed by Clemson University that helps agriculture and seafood industries to reach new markets. Together, these two programs now connect all elements of the food chain - from farmers and fisherman to processors and distributors.
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) is a 32-year-old non-profit network of over 2,300 members that helps people i n the Carolinas grow and eat local, organic foods by advocating for fair farm and food policies, building the systems family farms need to thrive, and educating communities about local, organic farming. .

The 2012 Sustainable Agriculture Conference was sponsored by: Live Oak Farms, NC SARE, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., the USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. 

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Charter's "Movies for Food" supports MANNA FoodBank



11/21/2011 - Charter's "Movies for Food" supports MANNA FoodBank
by Caitlin Byrd - Mountain XPress

ASHEVILLE, NC - The sight of empty shelves at local food pantries is an all-too-often occurrence these days. Food banks find themselves serving more families in need than in recent past.

Over the years, Charter employees and customers across the country have participated in giving programs that benefit their communities, and this year is no exception. Movies for Food is a nationwide donation program created by Charter to help re-stock empty food assistance organizations' shelves in our communities.

Charter employees throughout Asheville know that local food assistance organizations are wrestling with the same dilemma facing other organizations across the country.

"Holiday time is especially difficult for many Asheville families," said Anthony Pope, Vice President and General Manager of Charter's operations in North Carolina. "Our Movies for Food program enables us to help families who may experience tough times this winter. This is the impetus for Charter to work alongside MANNA FoodBank, offering Charter On Demand movie coupons for food donations; and giving away an HDTV, a year of the Charter Bundle with HD and many other great prizes."

Customers donating four non-perishable food items will receive an On Demand movie coupon, (cable channel 1 with a Charter digital set top receiver). Customers donating eight or more non-perishable food items will receive two On Demand movie coupons.

"Without the support from corporate and business partners in our area, MANNA FoodBank would certainly struggle to meet the needs of 1in 6 of our neighbors across our 16 county service region," said Joshua Stack, Communications and Marketing Manager for MANNA FoodBank. "We're grateful for Charter's support and the incentive they provide their customers to make a difference in our work to end hunger in WNC."

Charter's partnership with local organizations guarantees that food donations are distributed in the community in which the donation was received. Residents and Charter customers may visit the Charter Sales and Service Center in Asheville, 1670 Hendersonville Road, to drop off the non-perishable food items.

Charter's Movies for Food program is currently underway and accepting donations through Saturday, December 31. To find the nearest Charter office visit More information is available

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Taste of Asheville features treats from the city's best restaurants



11/18/2011 - Taste of Asheville features treats from the city's best restaurants
by Staff - Asheville Citizen Times

 It's no secret that Asheville's restaurants are famous for their wide variety of eclectic and familiar foods. There's one place to enjoy it all on one night -- the annual Taste of Asheville celebration on Thursday night at The Venue, 21 N. Market St.

 More than three dozen of the city's restaurants will be serving their best items at this annual party, produced by the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association. The cost is $70 a person or $125 a couple, which includes both wine and beer tastings. The night will also launch the 2012 AIR Passport program offering discounts from many restaurants. A portion of the proceeds from the Taste of Asheville program and the Passport sales will support the AIR's Chefs of Tomorrow scholarship program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. 

 Restaurants featured at the Taste of Asheville and in the Passport are Avenue M, Blue Ridge Dining Room, Blue Water Seafood, Boca, Bouchon, Chai Pani, Chef Mo, Chelsea's Tea Room, City Bakery, Corner Kitchen, Creperie Bouchon, Curate Tapas Bar, Dining Innovations, Fiore's, Frankie Bones, The French Broad Chocolate Lounge, The Green Sage, Homegrown, Horizons, Jack of Hearts, Jack of the Wood, Laughing Seed, Lexington Avenue Brewery, The Lobster Trap, Luella's Bar-B-Que, Mamacitas, The Market Place, Mela Indian Restaurant, Neo Cantina, Olive or Twist, Pack's Tavern, Pomodoros, Sunset Terrace, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Ultimate Ice Cream, Vincenzo's and Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian. 

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Holiday events sure to bring crowds and traffic to Asheville this weekend



11/18/2011 - Holiday events sure to bring crowds and traffic to Asheville this weekend
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Two popular holiday events combined with a hot new movie seem certain to pull big crowds and clog streets this weekend.

A crowd of 3,500 or more is expected tonight at Biltmore Park for the annual Holiday Lighting Celebration, set for 6-9 p.m. About the same time, a big crowd will head to the Biltmore Grande cinema to see the new "Twilight" movie, "Breaking Dawn." That could lead to heavy traffic along Interstate 26 at the Long Shoals Road exit leading to the development.

Another big turnout is expected downtown Saturday morning for the 65th annual Asheville Holiday Parade.

Biltmore Park is adding police officers and members to its "courtesy patrol" to handle the extra visitation, said spokeswoman Sarah Davis. "I would recommend coming an hour early," she said. "Last year (the holiday lighting) was on opening night for the new 'Harry Potter.' We are hoping it will be really busy."

"Breaking Dawn" will play 43 times daily this weekend at three local cinemas, but the Friday-Saturday night showings always draw the biggest turnout. One 7:30 p.m. screening at the Biltmore Grande is already sold out, but tickets remain for many other showings there. The movie is also playing at the Carmike and the Carolina Asheville theaters.

For the tree lighting, Santa will arrive at at 6 p.m. Biltmore Park in a horse-drawn carriage. At 7, he'll lead a countdown to the lighting of a 25-foot tree in front of the Barnes and Noble bookstore. The night also includes holiday caroling.

A second traffic crunch could happen Saturday morning leading up to the Asheville Holiday Parade. Street closings begin at 9 a.m. The parade will roll from the foot of Biltmore Avenue to Pack Square and down Patton Avenue to French Broad Avenue. All streets intersecting that route will be closed to traffic until the parade is passed.

Biltmore Avenue could be reopened by 12:30 p.m., but the entire route will likely be clear by 1 p.m. Parking is available at the city garages at Wall Street, Rankin Avenue, the Civic Center, a lot next to the AT&T building on O. Henry Avenue, a garage at the Buncombe County Hea lth Department and elsewhere.

Asheville's city bus system will operate on all routes, Saturday although some downtown stops will be blocked for the parade. Routes impacted by the parade are 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 26, and 170. Passengers should plan on catching the bus at the city transit station.

What: Holiday Lighting Celebration.
When: 6-9 p.m. tonight.
Where: Biltmore Park.
What: 65th annual Asheville Holiday Parade
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Parade begins at the foot of Biltmore Avenue, runs onto Patton Avenue at Pack Square, and ends at French Broad Avenue

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Asheville's Jennifer Pharr Davis nominated NatGeo's Adventurer of the Year



11/17/2011 - Asheville's Jennifer Pharr Davis nominated NatGeo's Adventurer of the Year
by Alli Marshall - Mountain XPress

Local athlete Jennifer Pharr Davis was named fastest Appalachian Trail thru-hiker after after completing the 2,180-mile AT in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes. Because of this accomplishment, she's been nominated for NatGeo's People's Choice Adventurer of the Year.

According to a press release, "National Geographic released the list of Top Ten Adventurers of the Year last week, and now the polls decide who will be the People's Choice winner of 2012. Voting ends on January 18, 2012, allowing for two months of logging on and 'Voting Jen,' one vote per day, per computer (or cell phone). Davis is an inspiration to people from all walks of life for first breaking the Women's AT Thru-Hike Record, and then the Overall/Men's Record by 26 hours."

About Davis:
A graduate of Samford University, Jennifer Pharr Davis completed her first Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2005. Since then, Pharr Davis has hiked over 11,000 miles on six continents, completing the Pacific Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, Long Trail, Foothills Trail, Bibbulmun Track, GR-20, Haute Route, Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, West Highland Way, Inca Trail, and a summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. She is a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Long Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Pharr Davis resides in Asheville, NC with her husband and hiking companion, Brew.


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