This Holiday Season, Buy Locally From Sustainable Farmers

This Holiday Season, Buy Locally From Sustainable Farmers

This Holiday Season, Buy Locally From Sustainable Farmers

As we approach the holiday season, it’s a good time to think about where that turkey, pork, or beef comes from that will round out our family meals. We are fortunate to live in a region where good soil, climate and plentiful water have allowed livestock farmers to thrive for hundreds of years. Farming is a tradition here, but it has continued to change along with our food systems and markets.

Currently in the US, over 95% of our meat comes from factory farms. It hasn’t always been this way. Small family farms of the past were much more diverse, often growing their own vegetables as well as raising cows, pigs and chickens for their own needs and to supply the local markets. The money earned by local farmers stays in the local economy. They are involved in and invest in local communities.

These farmers also know that taking care of the land and water will ensure the survival of their farms. They use best management practices like fencing livestock out of streams, maintaining vegetative buffers, rotational grazing and following a waste management plan to manage, recycle and utilize manure and nutrients effectively. These practices make for happier, healthier animals and protect our environment. As one local farmer, Colfax Creek Farm, puts it, “The goals of creating a better food system, regenerating the land and soils that we farm, and reviving rural communities around us all drive us to always become better farmers and stewards of our lands and animals.”

We are seeing a revival of small sustainable farms, and these farms deserve our support. Most local grocery stores do not carry local meat products, unfortunately. Luckily we have farmers markets, and often the farmers sell directly from their farms. Buying products directly from farmers is a great opportunity to visit a farm and get to know the people who feed us. Additionally, we can support local farmers by eating at local restaurants like Newgrass Brewing Company, which not only source local fruits, grains, and herbs for beer ingredients, but also buy meats from local producers. Roger Holland, owner at Newgrass, says, “It is important to us to support our local farmers as much as possible, and between our kitchen and our brewing operation we are in a unique position to do just that. The local products not only support our local farmers, but in most cases provide a superior product that is reflected in our food and beer quality. We are all in this together and it is critical that we show our support for one another through our actions and decisions.”

Below is a map that our Clean Water Teams have created to help you find environmentally-conscious farmers in your watershed.

Sustainable farming best practices

We’re proud to work with farmers who strive to keep our rivers clean. North Carolina’s Riverkeepers are interested in supporting your sustainability efforts and hearing how you’re making your farm more sustainable.

Vegetative buffers. Buffers with vegetation at least 3-4 inches tall along surface waters and wellheads of no less than 25 feet. Buffers should slow the movement of water over the soil or field surface and stop soil particle and nutrient movement.

Stream protection/fencing and stream restoration. Livestock should be fenced out of streams, ditches and ponds that drain to streams. Restore banks or edges of streams that have been degraded by grazing animals, and improve degraded stream crossings and watering points.

Runoff capture and recycling. Runoff from farm yards or fields should be captured and recycled on the farm.

Feed, forage, barnyard manure and agri-chemical storage and handling. Feeds, forages, fertilizers, and stored manures should be covered and protected from precipitation, runoff and flooding.

Minimize nutrient imports. Optimize nutrient cycling and limit feed imports to the farm. Calculate your farm’s nutrient budget.

Pasturing or loose-housed deep-bedded barns. Livestock, cattle, swine and/or poultry are on pastures with live/growing vegetation or are loose-housed at low density in a roofed structure or barn with bedding to absorb nutrients and facilitate composting.

Managed or “holistic” grazing. Pasture management should maintain 3-4 inches or taller of vegetative cover over more than 95 percent of the pasture area at any time. Avoid overgrazing.

Manure management plan. Farms should have, and follow, a waste management plan to manage, recycle and utilize manure and nutrients effectively, and should never exceed recommended NCDA agronomic rates for any nutrient.

Manure spreading/dispersal. Accumulated manure, as well as bedding or compound fertilizers, should be applied to growing vegetation without exceeding recommended soil levels for nitrogen and phosphorus. Waste should not be spread within 48 hours of precipitation.

Avoid erosion. Use no-till, minimal-till, or reduced or strip tillage to reduce erosion and build organic soil matter, water retention and drainage.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

When MountainTrue was formed through the merger of the Western North Carolina Alliance, the Environmental Conservation Organization and the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance in 2015, the organization inherited a broad scope of programs focused on protecting our rivers and public forests, reducing our region’s dependence on fossil fuels and encouraging smart growth to improve the health of our communities and reduce the impacts of development on our natural environment.

In the five years since the merger, the organization has been working on addressing issues of racism and equity: all MountainTrue staff members enroll in the Racial Equity Institute, the Building Bridges program or both; we’ve taken strides to diversify our board and staff; and we’re working to build partnerships with communities that are fighting for equitable access to resources and power.

That process has been coalescing and transformational. If you had asked us five years ago, two years ago or even just a few weeks back about our priorities and responsibilities on race and equity, you would have gotten different answers than today. We’ve been evolving toward a wider focus. Yes to protecting forests and rivers and advocating for better public transit, more greenways, clean energy, and dense development for the environmental benefits, but we are also thinking more broadly about how we can help foster communities where people are truly healthy. And this means communities that are free from racism, and where there is equity in the social determinants of health — housing, transportation, education and jobs.

Racial segregation and poverty are outcomes of bad policy.

Poverty and racial disparities have been sustained through bad policies that have disproportionately impacted people of color. This is clearly evident in the histories of Redlining and Urban Renewal. Redlining was the systemic denial of services, especially home loans, to people in Black communities established by the Federal Housing Administration in 1934 and replicated by private lenders and local governments that established racially-restrictive local zoning ordinances. Through a combination of redlining, deed restrictions, exclusionary zoning and leasing practices, and racism on the part of local governments, Black people were relegated to the poorest neighborhoods with the least public services. And because Black people could not get loans to improve or fix their homes, the quality of housing and other structures in these neighborhoods deteriorated and property values fell such that homeownership for Black families did not allow for the accumulation of generational wealth.

Despite these restrictions, Black communities in Asheville like Hill Street and Stumptown, the East End and the South Side were vibrant, thriving centers of Black life. City planners, however, saw only pockets of urban decay ripe for redevelopment under the guise of “Urban Renewal.” In the years after World War II, the federal government funded a massive building boom through the passage of the Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954, and the construction of a vast network of highways through the Federal Highway Act of 1944. With federal dollars flowing to municipal coffers, cities like Asheville were free to redevelop their urban cores, and it was poorer Black neighborhoods that were targeted. Much of the East End was razed to make way for South Charlotte Street and MLK Drive. In the Southside neighborhood more than 1,000 homes, 50 businesses and seven churches were demolished to make way for more upscale housing. In the Hill Street neighborhood, entire street grids were erased from the map to make way for Asheville’s Cross-Town Expressway.

In towns and cities across the country, vibrant communities of color were destroyed and their residents displaced. Some were forced to live in public housing communities that became pockets of concentrated poverty. Many others had to find cheap housing in the least desirable areas near highways, factories, refineries and landfills.

Pollution disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color.

These neighborhoods where the air is thicker with automobile exhaust, smog and fumes, and the soil and water are more likely to be poisoned with lead, heavy metals and other industrial pollutants have been dubbed “sacrifice zones.” The higher concentrations of pollution in these areas have an enormous effect on human health and childhood development and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. For instance, generations of poor kids who grew up near highways breathed air thick with the exhaust of leaded gasoline, and, even now, children in these neighborhoods are more likely to have high blood lead levels because the soil near these roads is still contaminated. Lead has been linked to reduced IQs, attention problems and aggressive behavior, and has been identified as a possible cause of the crimewave that besieged the nation from the mid-sixties through the early nineties.

It would be a mistake to reduce this oppression to simply matters of historical mistakes, market demand and geography. Redlining was explicitly racist, as was the targeting for destruction of poor and communities of color by mid-twentieth century urban planners. Similarly, proximity does not fully explain why Black and Brown communities suffer higher levels of air pollution. The National Center for Environmental Assessment finds that Black and Latino people are exposed to about 1.5 times and 1.3 times more particulate matter, respectively, than White people and that emissions are generally higher from factories located in communities of color than those located in wealthier White neighborhoods. Decisions are being made to site more polluting factories in poor neighborhoods than rich neighborhoods, and then to run the factories in Black and Brown neighborhoods dirtier. This is more than economic oppression. It’s environmental racism and it’s a dynamic that has been repeated time and again — famously in the financial decisions that lead to the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the state’s negligent response. Poor people are exploited for profit, and Black and Brown people most of all.

No zone should be sacrificed.

The society that we now inhabit is one where Black and Brown people have fewer opportunities, are more likely to live in areas that are polluted and dangerous, and are more likely to be trapped in cycles of poverty. To make matters worse: layered on top of this structural racism is a brutal criminal justice system, a broken healthcare system, an anemic educational system, crumbling infrastructure and growing food insecurity. In each and every regard, the consequences of these systemic failures fall heaviest on poor Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Set to topple all these fragile civic institutions is the leviathan threat of Climate Change, which, if left unchecked, will flood our lowlands and mountain valleys in wet years and burn our mountaintops in drought years. Already, the outlines of this dystopia are clear: people and communities with resources will be better positioned to adapt, fortify and recover from disasters. Poorer communities will be sacrificed, largely abandoned by our federal government like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the American citizens of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the Black neighborhoods of Houston that were flooded by industrial pollution during Hurricane Harvey, or the towns in Eastern North Carolina where homes were flooded with water tainted by millions of gallons of animal waste during Hurricane Florence.

But acting on climate change is not simply altruism, because the security of wealth will be fleeting. Climate Change is proceeding at a pace that has taken scientists by surprise and contributes to a wide spectrum of related maladies such as water shortages, crop destruction and the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. The climate challenges laid out in the October 2018 IPCC report will be insurmountable for a nation that is depleted and divided. Time is running out: to avoid climate catastrophe, we must stop sacrificing our most vulnerable populations, unite and act now.

Our conscience demands action and unity.

The wider movement needed to repair our country, protect our environment and take on climate change must be multicultural and firmly committed to dismantling racism and all systems of structural oppression. This was the strategic rationale of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign — which he described as “the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity” — and later of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Both civil rights leaders understood that an anti-racist movement in which White participation is based only on notions of altruism of charity will exhaust itself and fail to create the mass politics needed to win lasting systemic change.

It’s been two years since the 2018 IPCC report was published warning of dire circumstances of not taking bold, swift action to curtail climate catastrophe. It has been nearly 40 years since Professor and NASA scientist James Hansen gave Congressional testimony about the threat of global warming. In that time our elected leaders have failed to meet the challenge head on. Worse, they’ve scoffed at proposals of the magnitude needed to address the climate crisis head on.

We have our work cut out for us. MountainTrue and its members must commit to the work of dismantling structural racism and uniting our communities in the fight for justice and survival in the face of climate change. Neither cause can succeed on its own; all are interconnected. We know that we don’t have all the answers, but we’re ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with communities fighting for justice.

As an organization, MountainTrue is committed to fighting racism and economic inequity, because meeting our core mission of protecting communities and the environment requires it. This means we must be ready to take on fights that are beyond the scope of traditional environmentalism. We will live our values and use our influence and institutional power to win a more equitable future, and we invite you, as a MountainTrue supporter, to join us.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

We don’t know if the algal blooms are recurring, but there was a confirmed harmful algal bloom in Moss Lake earlier this summer.


Your Broad Riverkeeper, David Caldwell, goes out each week to test recreational waters in the Broad River Watershed for bacterial pollution. While sampling at Moss Lake on June 3, David noticed that the water was very green and cloudy, so he also tested the water with a YSI meter that measures temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH and turbidity (a measure of cloudiness).  “I got really high dissolved oxygen and pH readings, so I did some research and found that this could be an indicator of an algal bloom.”

Pictured: Moss Lake during the algal bloom (left) compared to normal water conditions (right).


Algal blooms, which form due to an excess of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, can release toxins that are linked to human illnesses and have even been shown to cause death in livestock and dogs.

The following Monday, David received a call from a Moss Lake resident who had noticed many dead fish in the water. David notified the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and they sent a staff member out on June 10 to take water samples in and above the lake. The report came back confirming an algal bloom, and it was named a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) because of the presence of cyanobacteria that “may produce cyanotoxins.” A second report confirmed the presence of a cyanotoxin called microcystins, which can cause illness in humans and animals that come into contact with water affected by a bloom. The concentration of the toxin was only 0.4 micrograms per Liter (ug/L) – well under the EPA’s recommended safe level for microcystins of 8 ug/L. Keep in mind, however, that the samples were taken by DEQ seven days after the algae were first noticed, so much of the algae had died off by then. In talking to that same resident after these reports came out, David also learned that he had noticed similar conditions at least twice since then, and once with a very foul odor.  

As algal blooms become more and more common due to rising temperatures and an increase of nutrients in our waters, Riverkeepers across the state believe more study and analysis of algal blooms in Moss Lake and elsewhere must be done. We would like for the residents at Moss Lake to take more of a lead in identifying and reporting possible algal blooms. If the water turns really green, they should contact DEQ immediately. The “life cycle” of algal blooms can be really quick –as short as a couple of days – so quick reporting is important.

Some of the residents around the lake do not want the bad publicity that would come with raising awareness to this potentially dangerous problem. However, if we don’t first acknowledge that there may be a problem, then there will be little effort towards determining the root causes of the issue and improving the water quality in Moss Lake and other water bodies. “I would ask the Moss Lake area residents this,” David says. “What do you want your lake to look like in 10 to 20 years?  What will you do to help realize that vision?”

 

To learn more about algal blooms, visit the NCDEQ page here or the FAQ page from the NC Division of Water Resources here.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

DEQ: It’s Time to Modernize NC’s Pollution Spill Notification System

DEQ: It’s Time to Modernize NC’s Pollution Spill Notification System

Join North Carolina’s Riverkeepers in calling on state regulators to modernize its public notification system.

Millions of people across North Carolina take to our beaches, rivers and lakes to cool off, swim, paddle, and fish, but most are unaware that nearly 16 million gallons of untreated sewage has spilled into our waterways during a two and a half month period (May 17 to July 30) according to data collected by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

North Carolina desperately needs to update its public spill notification system. Current state law requires operators of wastewater collection and treatment systems to notify DEQ of spills of over 1,000 gallons into surface waters and to send a press release to local media within 24 hours. For spills of over 15,000 gallons, operators are required to place a notice in the newspapers of counties impacted by the spill within 10 days (NCGS 143-215.1C). Spills of other pollutants have similar reporting requirements to DEQ.

North Carolina should not be depending on ads in print newspapers to get the word out about dangerous spills. Newspapers are not mandated to run the press releases, and many local newspapers are only published in print on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, which is not frequent enough to warn river users of water quality problems in a timely manner.

The public has the right to know about major pollution spills that impact our waterways as soon as possible, and through the technology the public uses today. Join North Carolina’s Riverkeepers in calling for a better, more modern system that would:

  • Publish spill data to an online database and interactive map and on agency social media channels
  • Send email and text alerts to interested parties.
  • Allow the public to sign up to receive these alerts for the watersheds that they are interested in.

Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Update: City of Asheville Agrees to Stormwater Task Force!

Update: City of Asheville Agrees to Stormwater Task Force!

Update: City of Asheville Agrees to Stormwater Task Force!

UPDATE: Great News: More than 800 of you took action and helped make a difference for the French Broad River!

Asheville City Staff have committed to working with local clean water advocates to set up a Stormwater Task Force. The task force will analyze where and how the City’s stormwater infrastructure can be improved, and will put together an action plan to fix the problems.

This is an important step for the French Broad and the communities and businesses that depend on it. Please take a moment to thank members of City Council and City Staff for being responsive to the public. It’s important for them to hear that we appreciate them taking action, but that we also expect them to honor and work toward implementing the recommendations of the task force.

Prior Action Alert

Call on Asheville City Council to do its part to clean up the French Broad River, starting with the establishment of a Stormwater Task Force to address the City’s water pollution problems. Not only does the City have a legal obligation to protect water quality, Council’s commitment to racial equity demands action to protect residents of the Southside neighborhood from the highest pollution levels in the city.

Throughout the spring, summer and fall, MountainTrue conducts weekly bacteria sampling along the French Broad River and posts the results at swimguide.com. In 2019, this program made headlines as more than half of the sites (53%) failed to meet the EPA’s E. coli standard for safe recreation. This year, the results are even worse, with 69% of the sites failing. With climate change causing heavier and more frequent storms, this problem will only get worse.

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson taking water samples from Nasty Branch, a stream that flows through the Southside neighborhood that has, on average, the highest E. coli levels in the French Broad River Basin.

Our river is a public resource, and tens of thousands of people recreate on the French Broad every year. However, none of the testing sites within the City of Asheville pass the EPA’s safe limit on average, and the worst site that we test is Nasty Branch, which drains over half of downtown Asheville and flows through the historically African American Southside neighborhood, before discharging into the French Broad River in the River Arts District.

High levels of E. coli also indicate the presence of other, more harmful microbes, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus. Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. Contact with or consumption of contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness and skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.

Asheville City Council has a moral and legal responsibility under the Clean Water Act to protect our river and water quality for all city residents. City of Hendersonville staff* has already committed to establishing a Stormwater Task Force, Asheville should too.

* We previously incorrectly said that Henderson County was setting up a Stormwater Task Force. We have corrected this page and the letter to Asheville City Council to reflect the fact that City of Hendersonville staff has committed to establishing a task force and tacking storm water pollution issues. 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Pollution Tip Leads to Enforcement Action Against Tryon International Equestrian Center

MountainTrue Pollution Tip Leads to Enforcement Action Against Tryon International Equestrian Center

MountainTrue Pollution Tip Leads to Enforcement Action Against Tryon International Equestrian Center

On July 27, MountainTrue followed up on a public complaint of sediment flowing into White Oak Creek from the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TEIC). Video showed a significant discharge of muddy water flowing off the site into the creek — a tributary of the Green River. MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan then reported the issue to the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources (DWR).

Two days later, on July 29, DWR sent an inspector to the equestrian center where they witnessed site contractors flushing sediment into the center’s stormwater drainage system, and failures in their stormwater management system. In all, DWR cited Tryon International Equestrian Center with four water quality violations that must be “abated immediately and properly resolved.” These violations, failure to resolve them quickly and remediate damage to the environment could result in civil penalties up to $25,000 per day for each violation.

“Tryon International Equestrian Center has been a repeat violator of water quality.” explains Gray Jernigan. “They were first cited in 2014, and it only got worse as they rushed to build new facilities ahead of the World Equestrian Games in 2018. They took shortcuts and chose not to employ standard best management and construction practices to keep sediment on site, and the problems persist.”

The Green Riverkeeper shared the video of the illegal discharge on its Instagram account where it sparked a public outcry, and elicited a response from Sharon Decker, President of Tryon Equestrian Partners, the owners and operators of the center. Decker assured the public that “we share the same concerns you do about the environment, water quality and strong stewardship.”

The Equestrian Center has received numerous violations from the NC Department of Environmental Quality over the years dating back to 2014, amassing tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

“They’ve made assurances to the community to clean up their act, but their efforts have fallen well short of what is expected of someone who professes to care about the environment,” says Gray. “I’ve offered to meet with them to discuss steps they can take to undo the damage done and protect our public waters, and I look forward to having a conversation with the leadership at TIEC.”

Media contacts:
Gray Jernigan, Green Riverkeeper
C:828-423-0578 E: gray@mountaintrue.org

Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director
C:415-535-9004


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.