Cover Crop Workshop – June 5

covercropInterested in learning how cover crops can enhance your farm or garden? Allegheny Mountain School is hosting a cover crop workshop, “Managing Cover Crops in Conservation Agriculture: Sustainable Small-Farm Production of Vegetable Crop,” on Wednesday, June 5th  from 9am-5pm. Dr. Ron Morse will teach participants how to use cover crop to provide organic nitrogen, manage weeds and attract beneficial insects in home gardens and farms. Cost is $20 and includes lunch.

Please register with Trevor Piersol at 468-2300 or by June 1.



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Highland Elementary Breaks Ground

Elementary students, teachers, and staff gathered yesterday to participate in the Elementary School’s groundbreaking ceremony for a raised bed garden at the school. As part of the ceremony, local youth spoke about their inspiration for the project and the importance of learning to grow food.

Superintendent Dr. Crawford started off the event. He told students how the garden could give students a great opportunity to learn by doing.
Highland elementary students get ready to do the first dig!
Students dig in!

The project is a collaboration between The Highland Center, Highland 4-H and Highland County Public Schools. Local Foods Coordinator Jessa Fowler and Extension Technician Paxton Grant will be coordinating garden care and educational opportunities for students.

Special thanks to High Mowing Organic Seeds, Native Lumber, and 4-H Council for their contributions to the project.

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School Garden Project Highlighted in Local Paper

This week’s local newspaper, The Recorder, features the work of Local Foods Coordinator Jessa Fowler in Highland County Public Schools. Read the full article below.

Highland students learn to grow food


Kathryn Ancarrow and Andrea Hull direct-seeded spinach, carrots and peas. Photos by John Bruce.

MONTEREY — In an era of Furby robotic toys and Wii gamepads, students of Highland schools are earning their green thumbs, thanks to a new partnership aimed at teaching them how to raise produce.

That’s right — vegetables.

The soon-to-be-named project is coordinated by Jessa Fowler, foods coordinator for The Highland Center.

The project is a partnership between The Highland Center, Highland 4-H and Highland County Public Schools. Fowler is working closely with Virginia Cooperative Extension technician Paxton Grant, 4-H agent Kari Sponaugle and Highland school grants writer Sarah Harman.

Superintendent Dr. William Crawford praised the project as “a great opportunity for our students to apply what is discussed in class.

“Learning by doing is authentic, or real, learning.” Crawford said. “Kids, like adults, will be excited to show and share what they grow.”

Fowler assists student Foundations of Agriculture student Noah Arnott.

So far, project contributors have included:

• Highland 4-H Council, $250 for raised bed construction, potting soil and more;

• High Mowing Organic Seeds, 50 seed packets;

• Thrive Farm, topsoil;

• Highland Garden Club;

• Mary Beth Gutshall, paint for the green- house exterior, and

• The Highland Center.

The school board has approved installing four raised beds near the apple trees behind the elementary school. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for May 9 at 11:45 a.m.

Fowler, Sponaugle and Grant have taught about 50 students in pre-K, kindergarten, first and third grades how to start seeds and plant over the past three weeks. They plan to transplant the starts into the elementary school’s raised beds in mid-May. Fowler will be coordinating care and upkeep this summer.

In the high school, Fowler began teaching 15 students as a substitute for Steve Heavner’s fundamentals of agriculture class while he recovers from hip surgery.

Senior 4-H club members kicked off their greenhouse restoration project with a cleanup day on April 6. Ag students have since patched holes, removed trash and built two raised beds inside the greenhouse.

“The resurrection of the greenhouse is under way,” senior Evan Vaus wrote in a school news release of the long-neglected structure, believed to be decades old.

Evan Vaus stands by a raised bed that he helped build.

He and classmate Ethan Botkin crafted raised beds out of scrap lumber from the school.

Harman and Fowler are awaiting grant money that, if approved, would go toward repairing the greenhouse heater. Mean- while, the raised beds will create a passivesolar system to extend the growing season, Fowler explained.

“The students have learned about seed starting and basic biology,” Fowler said. “We have started a variety of plants that are growing well.”

Food grown from the project will go to the cafeteria or farmers’ market, Fowler said.

Fowler and Sponaugle have taught about 35 students in the middle school and high school 4-H clubs how to start seeds.

“We did a seed starting process,” eighth grader Breanna Judy said. “Each person started a six pack of seeds and watered them daily. We did it to grow healthy, fresh food.”

As local foods coordinator, Fowler said she enjoys the potential to work with schools, producers, The Highland Center and the larger community. The daughter of a pastor and a professor, she grew up in Lake City, Colo., so she is familiar with the closest stoplight being an hour away.

Fowler is a fellow of the Allegheny Mountain School, a program of The Highland Center. Allegheny Mountain School is a not-for-profit experiential fellowship program designed to serve the region’s communities in developing a more secure food system.

Fowler said the project is in need of garden tools, and volunteers may be needed over the summer. To contribute or to ask about the project, e-mail Fowler at or call (540) 468-1922.

“We’re starting small and making sure we do everything correctly,” Fowler said. “We don’t want the project to grow so fast that it is not sustainable.”


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Maple Festival at The Highland Center

backgroundThe Maple Festival Dinners at The Highland Center featured locally raised and processed lamb and beef, maple syrup, eggs, and potatoes from seven Highland County farms. This fundraiser served 50 more dinners than last year and sold out of local meat each weekend. Proceeds will be shared between The Highland Center and The Highland Sheep and Wool Producers Association.

By popular demand, recipes from the dinners are available at the links below. Enjoy!


Slow Cooked Local Beef

Slow Cooked Local Lamb

Roasted Root Vegetable Medley

Maple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Maple Bars

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Apple Pruning Workshop

Free apple tree pruning workshop with Kirk Billingsley. Meet at the school playground/orchard at 3 pm and learn pruning tips for established apple trees. For more information call Jessa Fowler at 468-1922 or e-mail

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February Community Potluck

Community Potluck

Sunday, February 17, 5:30 pm at The Highland Center


Come celebrate local food accomplishments, give input on potential projects and catch up with the Allegheny Mountain School Fellows! Bring a dish to share.

RSVPs encouraged: 468-1922 or


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Ag Center featured in Farm Bureau Magazine

Check out the latest issue of Virginia Farm Bureau News.  On the cover is Highland’s very own sheep farmer Jon Donaldson, and inside you will find an article about the recently opened Alleghany Highlands Agricultural Center. Several Highland farmers talk about the advantages of having a local full-service slaughtering facility where they can process premium, value-added meats.  Highland Farmers’ Market vendor Chuck Neely speaks about the flexibility of Alleghany Meats and its manager, Chris Fuller: “Chris is really forward-thinking, and the one-on-one service helps us give our customers what they want.”

The article also talks about The Highland Center’s role in leading a steering committee, administering grants and drumming up community investment for the project.  Executive Director Betty Mitchell states: “I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg that can help strengthen local foods in the community.”

Read the full article here.

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