BRWIA announces grant recipients

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: May. 9, 2013 | Modified: May. 9, 2013
BRWIA announces grant recipients

Fresh leeks are a healthy, hearty and obviously necessary component of an asparagus and leek salad.

Photo submitted

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is a nonprofit organization that aims to strengthen our local food system by organizing several great programs, including the High Country Farm Tour and the Mary Boyer Sustainable Food and Agriculture Grant Program.

Named after a beloved late board member, the grant provides support for female farmers, ranchers and processors who plan to create innovative, sustainable solutions to production or market obstacles in the High Country.

The 2013 grant recipients are Kae Arrington of Mitchell County and Shiloh Avery of Wilkes County. These women have definitely proposed creative ways to add to local food production. Arrington owns a herd of Scottish highland cattle. This breed of cattle utilizes steep land and grazes like goats in the summer, requiring few resources. They produce excellent beef and use their horns to protect themselves and their calves from predators.

Arrington’s grant award will help her purchase and build a minimal safe handling facility. She will host a workshop after she has built her facility to demonstrate how one or two people can safely handle the cattle. This model may be a great option for those interested in reclaiming overgrown farms and supplying the High Country with sustainably produced, grass- and bramble-fed beef.

Avery will use her award to explore and develop no-till organic vegetable production. The mulching effect of organic no-till reduces exposure to the soil, eliminating the need for farmers to wash winter squash and pumpkins prior to marketing and reducing crop loss due to rot.

She is commissioning custom machinery to help with this, and has already done a good deal of experimentation around this project. Shiloh will provide two workshops for those wanting to learn from this demonstration — one in the fall around cover crops and then one in the late summer about the no-till organic vegetable production.

Amy Galloway puts in many volunteer hours serving as board chairwoman for Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. She is an adventurous cook, and this is one of her favorite spring recipes, adapted from

Asparagus and Leek Salad with Homemade Croutons

For the croutons:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups day-old bread, crust removed, cubed
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Toss to coat well. Transfer bread to a baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

For the vinaigrette:
Half a red onion, finely diced
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon or brown mustard

Mix the red onion with the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl, and set aside for a few minutes, before whisking in the remaining vinaigrette ingredients: olive oil and mustard.
Set aside.

For the salad:
4 large leeks
1 pound asparagus
Small amount of olive oil for cooking
1 15-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans

Cut off dark green tops of leeks and root ends. Halve each leek lengthwise. Rinse well under cold running water to wash away sand. Cut into one inch segments. Pour olive oil in 12-inch pan until lightly coated. Sauté leeks over low heat for 5 minutes. Add one inch segments of asparagus and continue to sauté for 5 more minutes, or until desired amount of crispness.Transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool and stop cooking, drain and pat it dry. If not in a hurry, this may cool in refrigerator.
Place cooked leeks and asparagus in a large bowl, and mix in beans and cooled parmesan croutons.
Pour vinaigrette over and toss well. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email or call (828) 264-3061.

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