Aspiring Women Farmers Build Skills With Farm Incubator Project

— Written By Kathy Lee

The farm incubator and grower project (FIG), located in Valle Crucis, will host three women growers this year. According to the 2012 agriculture census, women are leaders in the local food movement. Most aren’t interested in operating large commodity farms. Rather, they tend to operate small-scale, diversified farms producing goods for direct sale as principal operators of 14% of the nation’s farms.

While women operators do own a greater percentage of their farmland, being successful enough to invest in land, equipment, and infrastructure through farming takes time. Locally, the FIG site provides low cost access to farm resources. The growers lease acreage, and have access to a shared tractor, greenhouse, washing station, a cooler, and other tools. Previous FIG farmer Matt Cooper serves as a mentor by providing advice on production, resource management, and marketing.

Caroline Hampton has named her half acre operation Octopus Garden, referring to her eight closest friends, and “homage to community”. She will be marketing sustainably grown vegetables, herbs, and flowers at local farmers markets and hopes to build a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where customers who want to support her farm invest in her growing season up front and receive a share of what she grows for the rest of the season.
Hampton became interested in agriculture while attending UNC Chapel Hill, where she was immersed in the thriving local foods community around the hub of Carrboro farmers market. She built relationships with farmers who mentored her through apprenticeships. Last fall, she rounded out her experience with more formal learning at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ organic vegetable farm in Goldsboro, NC.
Those interested in supporting this young farmer may like Octopus garden on Facebook or donate to help cover start up costs through the IndieGoGo fundraising campaign at
Rashell Aunchman from the Taproots School of Lively Living has a background in herbalism. She will be focusing on medicinal herb production for an herbal CSA, as well as growing vegetables. The herbal CSA will provide members with access to fresh herbs and homemade herbal products such as soaps, salves, chapstick, as well as access to herbal education opportunities. She plans to offer two children’s programs this summer on the farm, one for pre-K and one for kids ages 5-9. Children will experience the farm, learn how to make fun gardens, and have opportunities to make art outside with projects like birdhouses, wreaths, and painting with plants dyes. Aunchman will also offer classes for adults in biodynamic agriculture and yoga in relation to gardening. Other workshops planned include topics such as gardening, beekeeping, wild edibles and medicinals, mead making, wild fermentation, and animal processing. For more information, her e-mail is
Lee Carlton with Goldenrod Garden is returning for her second year at the FIG site. She grows perennials, herbs, cut flowers and vegetables, and sales at the Watauga county farmers’ market.
The women also plan to make vegetables available for locals at a road side stand on the FIG site, located on Dutch Creek road.