Madison County, North Carolina
Sanctuary Stewards: Michelle Dixon
and Peter Waskiewicz
Our Botanical Sanctuary story began Thanksgiving 2016 when we stood with the Lakota Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock and became avowed water protectors for life! On the long road back to North Carolina we hatched our first action plan and long-time dream: find a sunny mountain parcel with surface water and a spring to protect, and then start planting a permaculture paradise. When we looked at a tiny cabin at the bottom of a Madison County holler, our conversation with the owner touched on Peter’s permaculture work, and she lit up. She soon expressed how she had waited years for a couple like us to come along. A few minutes later she offered to finance the vast acreage above the cabin to rejoin the original homestead, and Watershed Forest Farm was born.
Peter has been following UpS from the beginning and helped establish an early UpS Botanical Sanctuary in 2001. Being a BSN member brings many benefits, but mostly our customers love it! We regularly host “Forest Farm Tour and Tea” events. We proudly hang our BSN sign at the point where we begin the tours and plug UpS every time.
Grandfathered within the Cherokee National Forest, the watershed has 5 cleared south facing acres surrounded by a classic Appalachian hardwood cove. Forming a south facing bowl that rises 1,250’ from the bottom to the peak at Mitchell’s Knob, the topography creates a self-contained watershed with various slopes, solar orientations, and microclimates, making it an ideal botanical sanctuary.
According to the stories told by our elder neighbor Cam, the Cherokee summered here until it was settled by the Capps family in 1888. We are currently restoring their original, hand hewn American chestnut log cabin for a classroom. Cam says, “They called it Butter Holler, because the grass and water was so sweet, the cows gave butter. They didn’t have a truck, a tractor or even a wagon, just a mule and a sled.” The extreme isolation was tough, but they managed to provide by “trading ginseng and bloodroot for hardware to the peddler who travelled the mountains by wagon.” Like most of Appalachia, the holler has a history of clear-cutting, once in 1920 and again in 1999.
As we spent more time in the forest, our fi rst mission statement was formed: “To wholly restore a degraded, Southern Appalachian hardwood cove into a wild-scaped, perpetually abundant, multi-generational food and medicine forest.”
To achieve our goals of merging agriculture with preservation, regenerative forestry, and paying the bills, in 2018 we launched the fi rst Community Supported Forest Agriculture (CSFA) program. Alongside traditional vegetables, eggs, and honey, our CSFA includes wild harvested herbs, mushrooms, value-added products, wild-crafting, fi rewood, forest to table dinners, workshops, hiking, camping, and free-range nature bathing.
After 3 years of thoughtful observation and design work this is our vision/mission statement:
Watershed Forest Farm is a Permaculture Homestead, Botanical Sanctuary, and Regenerative Forestry Preserve in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Guided by a commitment to water protection and permaculture ethics, Peter and Michelle are stewarding this magnificent cove forest towards a legacy of ever increasing vitality and abundance. Through demonstration, practical research, and education programs, the farm works to provide a model for active preservation that inspires sustainable forestry in Southern Appalachia and temperate climates around the world.
Peter Waskiewicz is a Permaculture Designer and organic seedsman. Michelle Dixon is an early childhood educator and forest “farmher.” In 2016 they merged for their life’s greatest work, Watershed Forest Farm.
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