We would love to introduce you to a person that we call the Asheville Farm Girl, Ms. Calixta Killander, who was born in England. Her childhood education was in Cambridge, then she attended high school in north Yorkshire. Calixta grew up eating produce from her mothers garden. Homegrown and organic jellies, jams, juices, honey, and vegetables have always been a part of her life, but she never imagined that it would be a part of her future. At the age of 18 Calixta traveled to India for 6 months, and it was then that she realized how important growing food is to a culture and to the world. She saw how much people really need to be nourished, she witnessed the poverty; and then she decided to move to America to study sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College. Calixta also spent time working on small organic farm operations, growing different types of vegetables, and raising animals in a holistic way. When asked about her passion for agriculture, she replied “It is not just about growing food, but is about growing food in a way that is sychronistic to the ecological cycles of the environment around it, so you are not depleting the soil and resources of the area.”
Today Calixta, the Asheville Farm Girl, is the garden and produce manager at The Farm in Candler North Carolina, which is a wedding and event retreat center. They are located just minutes up the road from west Asheville. All of this happened rather quickly. In March 2014, she started working at the Farm to start “Operation Vegetable” on a large pasture area, created raised beds, added compost, and created diverse vegetable gardens. Growing things from peas to root crops, brasicas, kale, cabbage, lettuce, greens, onions, strawberries, beans, corn, squash, zucchini, and then fruit trees to start a long term orchid operation. She said it takes awhile to learn the land she is working on at The Farm, in regards to the soils, water, sunlight, pest control, and which plants thrive.
Then after year one, it has been really helpful to develop an even stronger plan for next year. Expansion plans for the garden, and doing more of a traditional plowed field with raised beds to do larger productions are already in the works. The plan is to start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where they feed 10 – 15 share families in addition to the people here. Also a Community Farmer’s Market is also in the big plan. Soon the Farm will supply added value products such as pesto, salsas, and fermented products such as Kimchi, pickles etc. And wait until you hear about the Mushroom Farm! We will save that for another story.
Will Work For Food? Calixta has volunteers that come out to the Farm and help, in return for produce baskets. Planting, weeding, seeding and crops; plus an educational component where she passes her passion and teaches folks how important their garden really is.
What is important to the Asheville Farm Girl? Growing heirloom varieties because it’s important to keep plants that are adaptive to local regions and alive. Although they are not officially certified as organic at the Farm, everything is made from raw materials and taken through a deeper process. This also includes integrative pest management, cover cropping, crop rotations, and using plenty of compost to increase soil health.
Who in the community has helped you get to where you are today? Calixta responded: “Marc Williams, a local ethobotonist and wild foods expert was amazing. He is also the one who connected me to the Farm. Marc’s website is BotanyEveryday.com. Then there was Pat Ross of Warren Wilson College and the WWC Garden who was a wonderful mentor and teacher too. ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) has helped with education and their support of small budding farms. I also appreciate the local farmers in the area, for all of their support and advice. The is such a big sense of community among growers.”
What businesses/restaurants does Calixta and the Farm currently supply? The main ones are The Walk in west Asheville, Rejavanation Cafe in Candler, Colorful Palate Catering in Asheville, and she also makes donations to Oleufimi Lewis who runs an organization named Ujamaa Freedom Market, who distributes food to nutritional deserts in the Asheville area.
We asked Calixta what she would like the World to know… “It’s really important to support your local community in whatever way you can, invest in local produce, and realize the vitalness of the small organic farm; because large scale agriculture is not the answer.”