Blue Ridge Women in Ag shares work with community

Article Published: Feb. 24, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 19, 2011

After spending a couple of hours mingling with women farmers and learning about the aspirations of the board with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, I have a renewed hope for humanity, or huwomanity, I should say.

On Tuesday evening, when it was 60 degrees outside, the board of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA) invited women involved in agriculture, and those interested in supporting them to a "Winter Gathering," catered by Hob Nob Farm Caf�.

Mike and Nova Nelson demonstrated their support of local food by donating the restaurant space and their energy preparing hors d'oeuvres. They seem to revere high-quality, fresh ingredients, including them in restaurant offerings when possible. Local producers donated or discounted the food ingredients and beverages.

Did you know that 11 percent of the farms in Watauga County are run by women? These women are so intelligent and have such practical skills, more than I could ever imagine developing. Even more support their family farm operations, but are not listed as the "principal operator" in the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

Nationally, women principal farm operators increased 29 percent over a 5-year period. Fourteen percent of all U.S. farms are owned and operated by women.

Since farming is a male dominated profession, women often lack traditional supporting networks. BRWIA was started by a group of local women in 2005 who wanted to encourage and support these self-reliant, industrious women.

BRWIA's mission is "to empower women and their families with resources, education and skills related to the production and consumption of sustainably grown food from the community."
They accomplish this in many ways.

Organizing the High Country Farm Tour every August is a massive undertaking achieved by volunteer labor. The tour featured 17 farms in 2010, with more than 250 community visitors. All proceeds from that tour directly benefit women through the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Grant program.

The purpose of the grant program is to strengthen our local food system by supporting females who create innovative, sustainable solutions to producing or marketing obstacles in the High Country. They may choose to complete a farm project or pursue an educational opportunity.

Conference Scholarships to the Organic Growers School and Southern Agricultural Working Group were recently awarded to several women.

BRWIA recognizes that a healthy food system depends on community support. Through the High Country Farm Tour, monthly educational workshops and local food cooking demonstrations at the farmers' market, they provide opportunities for people outside of the farming community to learn about and actively participate in the shaping of our food system.

Last summer, they supported the Hispanic Women's Garden. They also funded materials to build raised beds and provided soil and compost for gardens at Mabel Elementary School.

Whether you're a farmer or consumer, there are plenty of ways to become involved in BRWIA's work.
Participate: Join BRWIA for the High Country Farm Tour, sign up for monthly educational workshops, or learn how to make use of local, seasonal ingredients at the farmers' market cooking demonstrations.

Volunteer: They need help from community members. There are opportunities to assist with or teach monthly workshops, volunteer at the High Country Farm Tour, assist with school garden projects, or help manage a booth at the farmers' market.

Donate: To support the development of an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable food system in the High Country. They have received small grants in the past, but would like to move towards a donor-based financial model to support their work.

For more information or if you would like to be involved, e-mail (

Amy Galloway, president of BRWIA board, shares this versatile and healthy recipe.

"The original recipe calls for layering fresh tomatoes, so when I make it out of season I substitute saut�ed greens for the tomatoes," she said.

Savory Bread Pudding

1/2 pound stale bread
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup gruyere cheese (or Swiss)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1teaspoon minced garlic
sliced tomatoes OR 2 cups greens (spinach and/or whatever greens you have, like Bok
Herbs - thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil - use fresh (1 tablespoon) or dried (1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or coat roasting dish with oil. Stack 2 layers of bread in roasting dish. If using tomatoes, rub garlic on bread. Layer tomatoes, herbs of your choice, grated cheese. Repeat.

If you use greens instead of tomatoes, then saut� the greens with garlic in olive oil until wilted. Adding a couple of drops of sesame oil at the end of saut� gives a wonderful flavor.

Layer tomatoes, herbs of your choice, grated cheese.Repeat. Pour in whisked eggs and milk. Add salt & pepper to taste. Bake 40-50min, until puffy.

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 and is the local food coordinator for Watauga County. To contact Margie, e-mail or call (828) 264-3061.

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