Organic Producer Profiles
Kimberlie and Ralph Cole own and operate West Wind Farms, a 100-acre iversified family farm located on the scenic Cumberland Plateau. They raise grass-fed lamb, beef, and pork, pastured chicken and turkey, and collect free-range eggs. They also produce organically produced, chemical-free, but non-certified, honey.
All the animals are rotationally grazed, and all are born and bred on the farm. Even the birds have constant contact with fresh pasture, and they get proper exercise and free movement in their “chicken tractors.” All of West Wind Farms is certified organic by Quality Certification Services (QCS), including the animals and animal products.
Small-scale production allows the opportunity to observe each animal in detail and provide attentive care from birth/hatch to processing, and stress-free animals mean better-tasting meat. All organic feed is custom mixed on the farm, and the animals receive the finest quality nutrition. Organic feed grain is either farm-raised or bought out-of-state, when it is unavailable locally.
Providing nutritious organic meat and produce for the local community is a priority for the Coles. Lamb and beef are processed young, so cuts are lower in fat and slightly smaller for portion-conscious consumers. Pork comes from heritage Berkshires, a breed known for its flavor. West Wind sees a real need for secondary processing of meats, especially in specialty sausages and convenience foods such as luncheon meats. “This is an area where the big concerns are taking market share from the small farmer, and it is an opportunity for a small organic processor,” says Kimberlie. She makes West Wind Farms Pilgrim Pork Sausage, free of preservatives, and gives away samples at the farmers’ markets. Nearly all the products are available year-round.
“We are dedicated to promoting farming on a small scale . . . and showing young people that it can be done. West Wind provides the opportunity for interns to experience daily life on an organic farm. By assisting the organic farmer, the intern will learn what it takes to create a successful organic farming system. Interns on the farm are encouraged to work in a focused manner in areas of the farm that attract them. This is to try and tailor what needs to be done on the farm with the interns’ interests and which aspects of farming they want to learn. Our farm is so diversified, there is something that everyone can enjoy.”
Once a year, in the early fall, West Wind has a customer appreciation day. Customers, their friends, and other visitors come for farm tours, demonstrations, discussion groups, and a cook-out with all the farm’s products spotlighted. The Coles purchase some products from other local farmers to fill out the meal. They also deliver to various farmers’ markets in Middle and East Tennessee, and ship meats mail-order nationwide. All meats and poultry are certified organic and are USDA inspected.
Ralph was named 2005 Tennessee State Farmer of the Year by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Ralph and Kimberlie Cole
155 Shekinah Way
Deer Lodge, TN 37726
Curtis Buchanan grew up on a farm near Bakersville, North Carolina, that has been in his father’s family since the early 1800s. The family has traditionally raised trees, and Curtis followed in this tradition until a few years ago. He still produces Fraser Fir Christmas trees on the same land that his father’s family grew on for centuries, and the farm still looks over the famous Roan Mountain. Curtis recently changed his production methods to make them sustainable.
Commercial Christmas tree farmers often use a powerful organophosphate pesticide called Di-Syston to control the Balsam Twig Aphid and Spruce Spider Mite. The Balsam Twig Aphid causes curling of the fir needles and makes the tree unmarketable. Di-Syston is so toxic that signs must be posted every 100 feet around the field before application. Applicators must be specially certified to apply the chemical and must wear the maximum personal protective equipment. The chemical is normally applied in late April in granular form and is systemic in action.
Experts in the Christmas tree industry said that heavy applications of chemicals were mandatory in order to produce quality trees. Curtis decided that he would quit growing Christmas trees if he couldn’t find a way to produce them without chemicals. In fact Curtis did stop growing trees for three years, from 1992 to 1995. But in 1995 Curtis decided to try growing Christmas trees organically, and eight years later (in 2002) his operation was certified organic.
Curtis tried many products and methods before he discovered a highly refined vegetable oil, called “Natur’L Oil,” that was being manufactured and marketed as a surfactant by Stoller Chemical Company. Curtis sprays the oil in a 2% solution with a high-pressure sprayer. The oil suffocates the aphids for a 90% kill. Curtis says, “There’s a fine balance between suffocating the aphids and not suffocating the trees.” Curtis has used the oil for four years now and is satisfied that he can produce market-quality Christmas trees. Stoller Chemical Company recently applied to Organic Materials Review Institute to have the oil brand-name listed for this purpose.
Many customers have told Curtis that his Fraser Fir Christmas trees are the only trees that they can tolerate in their house, even though they have not tested positive for fir tree allergies. There is no scientific evidence to support it yet, but Curtis and others think that the trees are still expelling the Di-Syston from their needles in December, causing the allergic reactions. Researchers at the Appalachian Sustainable Development/Community for Jobs and Environment think the theory could be valid. They are sponsoring research into Di-Syston residual emissions.
Curtis is excited about his tree operation and foresees his work having an impact on all commercial tree production.
Glen Ayre Tree Farm
208 E. Main St.
Jonesborough, TN 37650