Dig In! Garden Spring Fling 5.18.19


Join our Team!

Dig In! is hiring a Farm Manager to cultivate food and community with us in Yancey County. Applications are now being accepted. Please read the Job Description below and share widely!


Job Title: Farm Manager
Employment Type: Full-Time 
Dig In! Yancey Community Garden 
Yancey County, NC 
Dig In! seeks a full-time Farm Manager to cultivate food and community in our diverse vegetable, flower, and seed gardens in Yancey County, North Carolina.
Dig In!’s vision is to create and grow three areas of community change:
  1. Grow a garden with the helping hands of many to ensure that people with low incomes in our community have the opportunity to choose food that is fresh and nourishing.
  2. Create ways to share the harvest and instigate community resources that connect food growers to low-income families in Yancey County.
  3. Cultivate a community of gardeners by providing hands-on education in the garden so that people in our communities feed each other.
The Dig In! Garden is a quarter acre garden, now entering its ninth season, that provides sustainably-grown produce and food systems programming for Yancey County and surrounding communities. We grow and harvest for five community-based food programs that reach low income families and individuals in Yancey County. We operate Harvest Tables, which are similar to pop-up markets, weekly starting June through October. Seasonal workers join the Dig In! Team during the growing season and include full and part-time interns. Volunteers work in the garden twice weekly. We host students, mission and community groups in the garden throughout the season.
The Farm Manager is responsible for planning and overseeing the maintenance of Dig In!’s demonstration, education and production garden. This includes crop planning, seed and supply ordering, tillage, fertility, harvest, post-harvest handling, irrigation, crop rotation, as well as organizing and teaching volunteers and seasonal workers in the garden. This person must also supervise and coordinate the care, maintenance, cleanliness and organization of our equipment, tools, barn and related spaces.  The Farm Manager will work closely with Executive Director and Board of Directors to expand the Dig In! operation.
Applicants must be excited and capable of working with diverse populations, possess good communication and interpersonal skills and work closely with the Executive Director, volunteers, garden produce recipients and seasonal workers.
  • Plan, design and oversee maintenance of Dig In!’s garden for the purposes of food donation, education, and community building.
  • Work with the Executive Director to supervise and coordinate communication with seasonal workers and volunteers.
  • Act with a high degree of self-reliance, confidence and initiative, communicating effectively with diverse groups of individuals including volunteers, students, children, and community-based partners.
  • Inventory, secure and manage all garden based supplies, tools and equipment.
  • Build and maintain equitable relationships with Dig In! staff, board, volunteers, students, community members and community partners.
  • Assist the Dig In! Board of Directors and volunteers in community events
  • Assist Executive Director with developing and presenting gardening education for the general public.
  • Assist board with fundraising and special events coordination.
  • Participate in Dig In! staff meetings and professional development.
  • Applicants should have a total of 15 points or more in any combination of experiences as follows:
  • 3 points for each season working in a management capacity in a farm environment (setting priorities, being the person accountable, training and managing others)
  • 2 points for each season working as a farm crew leader (training and managing others, ensuring tasks get done)
  • 1 point for each season as a farm crew member or outdoor/environmental education professional.
Preference will be given to applicants who have worked in an educational farm context.
Applicants should have strong written and verbal communications skills, appreciate work outdoors in all weather, and be able to lift 50 lbs. unassisted. Qualified candidates will have a demonstrated ability to work independently and collaboratively, with both skilled and unskilled labor, be able to safely and skillfully operate a tractor with implements, and a passion for farm education, youth empowerment, and food systems change. Experience in food justice and equity, agroecology, community-based agriculture, and/or basic equipment maintenance and construction highly valued.
The person we want on our team has:
  • A willingness to contribute innovatively to the growth and evolution of Dig In! as an organization as it continues to fulfill its mission.
  • A positive and constructive attitude, self-direction, and self-motivation.
  • An openness to assessing and improving personal skills.
  • Professionalism, flexibility, intuitiveness, organizational and communication skills.
  • Quality of a servant leader who, “shares power… and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” (Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership)
To apply, please submit a resume, cover letter, and contact information for 3 references to kwood@diginyancey.org with the subject line “Farm Manager.” Preference will be given to applications received before November 25, 2018. Position will be open until filled.

Thank you Dig In!

Olivia Sanders

What an incredible gift it has been to be a part of the Dig In! Community Garden team for three seasons! I couldn’t locate Burnsville on a map before I applied to this position, but the organization’s vision to share healthy food with everyone in the county compelled me to apply, interview, and move here. I had no idea what a wonderful community I was jumping into– I came for one summer and have stayed for nearly three years, if that shows you how much I liked it!

The generosity and compassion in this county astounds me. To the people of Dig In! and the wider Burnsville community, thank you for all the beautiful ways you share with each other, build, create, and celebrate together. From hand drawn maps to off-season work, from cameos in the paper to a scholarship for the trip of a lifetime to Cuba, your gifts have inspired me in their generosity and genuineness. I hope to be able to reciprocate all the kindness one day.

I want to thank Dig In! for all the work they are doing and will continue to do. I realized quickly that what we are growing at Dig In! is far more than vegetables. I have seen this group of dedicated people grow a community where people really care for each other. I have seen us build a garden from scratch that lives vibrantly as a world apart from the world at large, with gorgeous flowers, fluttering butterflies and bees, sweeping curved contour beds, and friendly people who are happy to see you every week. This place, this project have showed me what beautiful worlds are possible if we put our egos aside and collaborate together. I am so grateful to have served this garden and contributed in some small way to this important work.

Thank you for all for creating such a beautiful workplace, community, and culture and sharing it with me. All of this has been such a gift!



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Our experience is that bowls can change a community. Dig In’s Empty Bowls dinners has helped our community grow a garden for 9 seasons so that everyone can eat well in Yancey County.

Leading up to Dig In!’s 9th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner, consider placing a bowl in your home and collecting change. Bring the coins you collect to our Empty Bowls event on October 4, 2019 at the Burnsville Town Center and we’ll put it all together to grow and share food so everyone eats well in Yancey County. The sound of those coins in your bowl is a good reminder that when we all share, there’s enough for everyone. We’re calling this #BowlsforChange. If you’ve got a Bowl for Change, share a picture and tell us about the world you want to grow. Every contribution matters, especially yours.

Gardening in Times of Extreme Weather

Olivia Sanders

Many folks kindly asked about how we fared in the rain from Hurricane Florence. We fared well, with no flooding and little erosion. I thought I’d share an update, some pictures, and some things I’ve learned about gardening in a very rainy season. 

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Top: Farm before Hurricane Florence
Bottom L: Collapsed tomato trellising after the storm
Bottom R: Runoff water collected in tractor bucket. The tractor was sitting in the barn during the storm. The water is from what flowed through during the weather event.

The weather is growing less predictable every year, and extreme weather events like these storms and droughts are becoming increasingly common. Because of the geography here, the weather can be very extreme, localized, and difficult to predict. We got only 5.5” of rain from Hurricane Florence, while our friends in the South Toe (same county, just over two mountain ridges) got 11.5 inches. Since we can’t change the weather, how do we use best practices to prevent damage to our crops?

These extreme weather events are new to us too, but I thought I’d share my observations about what’s working for us at the garden and what’s not. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are a lifetime of lessons to learn, but I’ve shared a few things we’ve picked up on. Some are from successes and some are from failures!

Slow water down on your landscape. Fast moving runoff grabs soil particles with it as it runs downhill. Slowing water down increases infiltration into the soil, which helps your plants grow and prevents that erosion. Many of the strategies below are some application of this concept.

Swales and berms helped us prevent erosion in this storm. Swales and berms are tools that help slow water down; swales are little gullies that collect water, and berms are rises that stop water from flowing. When you put a swale and a berm together “on contour,” meaning they go directly across the slope of the land, they act as little dams to stop fast moving runoff. (Those metal water bars that go across gravel driveways are similar to this.) While it’s helpful to put permanent, large scale berms and swales on your farm, if you just want to prevent some damage at the last minute like we did, you can run around the farm with a potato plow digging trenches uphill of all your fields

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Raised beds on contour are very stable. We have many raised garden beds that are built up from the walking paths, about 4-6 inches high. We have some that are laid in straight rows based on ease of cultivation, and some that are built “on contour,” meaning they go directly across the slope of the land. Between those, we found that the straight beds were more likely to erode due to fast moving runoff, while the contour beds stopped water and slowed it down, like little dams.

Alternatively, if drought is the problem, this strategy is still helpful– when the beds are on contour, they slow water down from moving off your property. The little dams act to hold water in the garden longer when you do have it.

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Mulch is great for protecting your soil and maintaining ideal moisture! Earlier this summer, a heavy rain fell on the garden, and we had some little chard plants surrounded by lots of bare soil. We thought, this is great! The chard had so much soil surface exposed to absorb the rain! Wrong. Within days, it was dry and cracked like the desert, damaged by the pounding rain.

This time around, we laid some hay mulch in between the plants. This layer slowed down the rain hitting the soil surface and prevented that damage. It also prevents the water from evaporating, keeping the soil moist longer. You can see how this strategy would help in a drought situation too.

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Choose shorter, sturdier corn varieties than we did! Like us, you may want to grow the biggest, baddest dry corn around, the one that grows 18 feet high, has two big ears per stalk, and takes over 100 days to mature. Learn from my mistakes–that’s not the corn for small mountain gardens! Tall, heavy, late maturing varieties in a small scale garden can so easily blow over in the high winds we get these late summer storms. Maybe you’ll have way better luck than us, but I just want to warn you so you don’t get disappointed by fallen, immature corn like us.

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Farming has always been a risky endeavor, and as the changing climate increases the likelihood of these extreme events, it’s only getting riskier. I am grateful we are gardening in a community that cares about how we all get fed. If you have any suggestions of your own to add to the conversation, don’t hesitate to comment or contact us!

Calling all ye bowls

Two organizations in Yancey and Mitchell Counties host Empty Bowls events to support efforts to address hunger in our communities. We’re teaming up with Shepherd’s Staff in Mitchell County to collect bowls from generous clay artists in our area to make these events successful. For more information on how to donate bowls to Dig In! and Shepherd’s Staff 2018 Empty Bowls events, please click on this link: Call for Empty Bowls

Goose Corn

Olivia Sanders, Dig In! Field Manager

Heirloom corn– with its dented kernels and browning, wormy tip, it doesn’t look like it belongs in the same world as the shiny, uniform corn in the supermarket. And in some ways, it lives in a different world entirely. Heirloom foods are historical breeds that have been saved and refined for generations, many of them passing through families to a time before European colonization. They represent the diversity and the stories that were present on our dinner plates before commercial breeds we now see in the grocery store became ubiquitous. While our heirloom field corn might not look pretty to many of us, to some of our neighbors it looks just right. It may look just like the grain they grew up shucking, hanging in barns, and taking to the grist mill. This corn has passed through so many hands and carries the intergenerational story of Appalachian agriculture.

We planted our heirloom variety “Goose corn” kernels in circular mounds in June, guarding the sprouts with row cover until they grew too big to fit in a crow’s mouth. After that, we stood back and watched them grow. When the volunteers would arrive for our weekly work together day, the most common greeting was “Would you look at the corn!”

When we harvested the ears in mid-October, they sparked even more conversation. The dense, long ears that were white or red doesn’t look like typical summer barbeque sweet corn. That’s because Goose corn is a type of “dent” corn (also called “field” corn) that is traditionally dried and ground into cornmeal. This means that you harvest it once the kernels have small dents in each one, revealing that they are mature and losing moisture. After we harvested the corn, we hung it in our barn to dry. During the winter we’ll scrape the kernels off their cobs, winnow it, and grind it into meal, carrying on the story of so many Appalachian farmers before us. And like them, we’ll also save about a third of the seed to plant out next year.

The story of this Goose corn extends far beyond our few short months spent with it. We received the seeds from our neighbor Jim Veteto, who directs the nonprofit Appalachian Institute for Mountain Studies (AIMS), a group that works to save heirloom varieties and keep them in production. The seeds for our unique variety of Goose Corn came from Bald Mountain in the northwest corner of Yancey county, where they have been selected and planted by several generations of Yancey County settlers. Jim explained to us that for seeds to stay viable and genetically diverse, they need to be grown out every year or two. This allows them to keep growing and adapting to the conditions that vary from year to year.

By planting these seeds and saving them for future generations, Dig In! is grateful to continue the agricultural traditions of our region. We think heirloom foods represent an important part of our history that can live on through our work and create a more resilient, diverse food system. We’d like to give a big thanks to all the farmers before us who worked with this land to bring us regionally adapted varieties, to AIMS and Jim Veteto for making these seeds available to us, and to everyone who supports our work in this county!