FIG grows in Valle Crucis

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: Mar. 6 | Modified: Mar. 6
FIG grows in Valle Crucis

Lee Carlton with Goldenrod Garden is returning for her second year at the FIG site. She grows perennials, herbs, cut flowers and vegetables and sells at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market.

Photo by Logan Fields

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 percent 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, 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) service, where customers who want to support her farm invest in her growing season upfront 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 the 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.

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 focus 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 and lip balm, as well as access to herbal education opportunities.

Aunchman plans to offer two children’s programs this summer on the farm, one for pre-K and one for kids ages 5 through 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 plant 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 and medicinal edibles, mead-making, wild fermentation and animal processing. For more information, e-mail her at (

Lee Carlton with Goldenrod Garden is returning for her second year at the FIG site. She grows perennials, herbs, cut flowers and vegetables and sells at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market.
The women also plan to make vegetables available for locals at a roadside stand on the FIG site, located on Dutch Creek Road.

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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