Raised Bed Gardening? I Can Dig It!

And now, how to get started…

At The Highland Center, we decided to take the next step in the local foods movement and demonstrate growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers and how different parts of each plant can be used through demonstrations during the Farmers’ Market.  In order to get started, we needed a place to grow everything.  Our answer to that quandary was to build three raised bed near the Farmers’ Market Pavilion and use the construction of the beds themselves as a demonstration.

Take a look at the Constructing Raised Beds Handout to see how we built our raised beds and get an idea how to create plans to build your own raised bed at home.

Here’s the site we started with.

I cleared the sod and leveled the area for the frames.

Then the first level frame was “installed.”

Finally, we finished the construction during the Farmers’ Market and talked about the process to the Market customers.

A couple of questions that I was asked during the demonstration include:

1. What type of wood did we use?  It’s rough sawn, 2×8 Oak.

2. Where did we get the lumber?  Martin’s Native Lumber in Dayton, VA.

3. Where did we get the top soil? Steve Good of Good Excavating supplied the topsoil.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Arts in Bloom at The Highland Farmers’ Market

                                      Summer is the perfect time to celebrate Highland’s many photographers, painters and artisans. Shop for local arts and crafts, along with the finest in local produce, meat, baked goods and more, and bring your own paintbrush to participate in artist demonstrations.

 Friday, June 8th, 3:30 to 6 pm under The Highland Center Pavilion

 Visit the Farmers’ Market webpage for more information and a full summer schedule.

 Scheduled vendors include:

Lee Mitchell – Eggs, lettuce, radishes, onions, spinach, garden plants

Bruce Folks – Maple Syrup, fudge, baked goods, lettuce, radishes, onions, beets, broccoli, kale, blueberries

Church Hill Produce  – Lettuce, squash, green onions, strawberries

Carol Bruce – Lettuce, crocheted flowers

Mountain Pastures – Homemade lotion and lip balm

Highland Center Studios – Small paintings and cards

Gerry Mosier – Quilts table runners.potato bags,handmade soap,hand painted silk scarves and more

Walter Davis – birdhouses and wood crafts

Sarah Ricketts – cupcakes, baked goods, flowers, eggs

Riven Rock Farm – 100% Natural, USDA Grass-Fed Beltie Beef -steaks, cuts and ground beef – low in satuarated fat, high in Omega 3s and antioxidants, exceptionally tender, healthy and full of flavor – raised humanely in an environment free of agrichemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and grain. Also taking reservations for quarters and halves.

Virginia Trout Company – Allegheny mountain trout fillets

Puff’s Maple Pit Cooked BBQ – Pork BBQ (sandwiches and containers), Sausage, baked goods, garden plants

  * Vendors and products subject to change*

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

USDA Rural Development Visits Highland

You may not have heard of USDA Rural Development, but if you live in Highland County you have likely benefited from their projects.  The recent upgrades to the Monterey Sewage Treatment Plant, the creation of the Distance Learning Lab at Highland County Public Schools, and the construction of the Alleghany Highlands Agricultural Center were all made possible through support from Rural Development.

John Padalino, Acting Administrator for Business and Cooperative Programs with USDA Rural Development, has been in his post for only one month.  He has spent much of that time touring the nation to see successful Rural Development projects, and Highland was one of his first stops.

Mr. Padalino, who previously served with the Office of General Counsel and as Chief of Staff for USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Tonsager, travelled to Highland County on Thursday, May 31.  He was joined by other USDA Rural Development leaders: State Director Ellen Davis, Assistant State Director Vern Orrell, and Rural Business Program Director Kent Ware.

The group started their tour at the Alleghany Highlands Agricultural Center, now operating under the trade name Alleghany Meats.  The Ag Center was born out of a USDA Value-Added Producer grant, which identified the need for a local slaughter facility.  USDA was critical along the way, providing funding for construction and equipment through the Rural Economic Development Loan and the Rural Business Enterprise Grant.

Alleghany Meats General Manager Chris Fuller led the tour, explaining how the facility’s custom features ensure that each animal is treated humanely, processed to allow for the highest value for producers, and outfitted for USDA inspection.  He also talked about opportunities for further value-added production, such as a smoker that will be installed this summer.

The group then moved on to The Highland Center, which has worked with Rural Development to establish a business incubation program, replace its roof, and build the pavilion that now houses the Highland Farmers’ Market.  The Highland Center Executive Director Betty Mitchell talked about renovation plans for the Center’s 90-year-old building, which now houses an inspected commercial kitchen, the Highland Senior Center, the Highland County Chamber of Commerce, and numerous businesses, artists and cultural programs.

State Director Ellen Davis, who has been a supporter of Highland County projects for many years, praised the community for its persistence and innovation.  “You all have been very methodical in your approach,” Davis said.  “It has taken you a while to get where you are, but the results are falling into place.”

Mr. Padalino will continue to tour the country to see firsthand the impact that Rural Development projects are making.  The Business and Cooperative Program that Padalino oversees creates jobs by investing in farmers, broadband services, renewable energy and small businesses.   For more information visit www.rurdev.usda.gov.

Posted in Events | Tagged | Leave a comment

Growing your own Success

There’s never a lack of energy or creative ideas in a place like Highland.  Here at The Highland Center we see innovation everyday, whether it’s a farmer selling the newest variety of heirloom tomato at the farmers’ market, or a musician making a living by teaching children how to play instruments.  The leap from great idea to successful small business, however, can sometimes be mystifying.  How do you create and follow a realistic plan?  What financial resources are needed?  In addition to professional business counseling that’s available at The Highland Center each month, a number of community organizations have come together to offer a great lineup of programs for entrepreneurs this summer.

Stories of living where you want and loving what you do

Thursday, May 24, 5:30 pm at The Highland Center. In partnership with the Staunton Creative Community Fund. Speakers will include Shenandoah Valley business owners, young and old, homebased and storefront, who will share their innovative approaches to making a living (and living their passion!) through food, music, and service industries.  Come for the presentations, stay for the conversation.  This fun, informal event will create a dialog between entrepreneurs and audience members around successful models for rural development.
Email highlandcenter@htcnet.org for more information or to RSVP.

Empower your employees to provide excellent customer service
Monday, June 11, 7 pm at the Highland County Public Library.  Join Joyce Krech, Director of the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, for this discussion on how to get customers in the door and keep them coming back.  The “Give ’em the Pickle” method, popularized by Bob Farrell, focuses on the small but special things that make your customers happy.  RSVP to Tomi Herold at mail@highlandlibrary.com or (540) 468-2373.

Sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension
Wednesday, June 13, 5:15-8:00 pm, Mountain Hideaway Restaurant.  Learn how to improve credit and deal with debt for both personal and business finances.  Dinner provided.  Call the Highland County Extension Office at (540) 468-2225 to register.

Are you a retailer interested in carrying local meat?  Are you a producer looking for ways to build your customer base?  The Highland Center will be hosting a conversation between farmers, customers and local businesses on options for marketing and selling local meat.  Date TBD.  In the meantime, if you have questions about purchasing or selling locally grown products, contact Scott Smith at tscottsmith@htcnet.org or (540) 468-1922.

There is no cost for any of the above opportunities.

UPDATE:  See photos from the Secrets to Homegrown Success event below!

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Summer Local Food Events

It’s going to be a busy summer at The Highland Center, with plenty of events for those interested in learning how to grow, harvest and prepare their own foods:

Cultivating Shitake Mushrooms

Workshop with renowned mushroom grower Paul Goland; learn how to inoculate and manage mushroom logs
Wednesday, May 9; 1:30 – 5:00 pm
Allegheny Mountain School
Logs & supplies available for purchase
Free will donation; proceeds benefit The Highland Center

Apple Tree Grafting

Workshop with Kirk Billingsley
Saturday, May 12, 3:00 pm
Allegheny Mountain School

Ecology Walks on Allegheny Mt.

Hike in the woods with local guide Pen Goodall, learning about flora, fauna and ecology. Third Tuesday of the month, May through October (first hike on May 15).

There is limited space for all Allegheny Mountain School events. Reserve your spot today by emailing Coriena Reynolds at coriena@alleghenymountainschool.org.

Workshop for Artists, Businesses & Local Food Entrepreneurs

Ever had a great business idea and wondered how you could make a go of it in Highland County? Meet staff from the Staunton Creative Community Fund and other like-minded entrepreneurs to discuss how to make a living in a rural economy. Thursday, May 24 at 5:30 pm at The Highland Center. RSVP at highlandcenter@htcnet.org.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Alleghany Meats Open House

Yesterday marked the official ribbon cutting of the Alleghany Highlands Agricultural Center.  The project, which is now known under the trade name Alleghany Meats LLC, is the product of nine years of grassroots community development.  The Highland Center was a founding member of the Ag Center Steering Committee, providing administrative management and helping to garner resources from USDA Rural Development, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Virginia FAIRS and other contributors.  94 local investors pitched in to make the facility possible, representing $1 million in private funding.

U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte addressed the crowd of nearly 250 people, complimenting the vision and hard work of everyone involved with the ag center’s development.  Other guests included Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds and Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Matt Lohr, among other state and local officials.  General manager Chris Fuller did the honor of cutting the ribbon, remarking “The ability for a community to feed itself is a basic necessity … agriculture here is a longstanding tradition, and although we’re new, this business is going to be a big part of the agricultural tradition.”

The Highland Center hopes to continue partnering with Alleghany Meats as they carry out that mission, connecting farmers with customers who care about purchasing healthy, flavorful and locally grown meats.



Posted in Events | Leave a comment

New upcoming Artisan Trail in Highland

This past Thursday Sherri Smith, Executive Director of the Artisans Center of Virginia paid Highland County a visit to talk about the “Virginia WesternHighlands Artisan Trail”, a project of the Artisans Center of Virginia.

According to their website; “The Artisan Trail Network is a program of the Artisans Center of Virginia, a 501(c) 3 organization working in partnership with communities to create economically sustainable artisan trails connecting craft with agriculture and cultural assets across the Commonwealth.”  This idea is modeled after the highlysuccessful artisan trail programs started in North Carolina.

During her day in Highland, Sherri introduced the Trail Program to a group of interested artists, artisans and farmers at The Highland Center. Then she and a small group toured around to some of the local stores and artist studios that may eventually be on the “Virginia Western Highlands Artisan Trail”.  The stops included:

Artist Studios in The Highland Center
Blanchard Furniture with David Blanchard
Highland County Crafts
Artful Gifts with Lisa and Jim Jacenich
Odds and Ends with Joan Atkeson (an antique store to opened behind Evelyn’s Pantry)
Wool Becomes Ewe with Teresa Wagner
Sugar Tree Country Store with Fern Heatwole
Ginseng Mountain Store with Deborah Ellington

Highland County’s Artisan Trail Ambassador is Valerie Hilliard.


Posted in Media | Leave a comment