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Red Maple Helicopters

After a life time of being fascinated by these seed pods of our native red maples, I have never been sure whether I liked them or hated them.  The seeds always foiled the broom whisks which were never able to herd them 100%; or the leaf blower which added more chaos to any effort of spring tidiness.

I have decided now that “I love ’em” as they have a unique ability (unknown to me until now) that they capture and hold water at the base of their copter wings —  even without the rain participating in loading this indiscreet reservoir of light!

Premier Southern Juried Exhibition Announced for September

Since 2003, fine art photographers and photography lovers from across the United States gather in Pike County, Georgia for SlowExposures. It’s the annual juried exhibition that celebrates the rural American South—in the rural South.

Call for entries is now open.

The Organics: Hands and Heart Cheryl and Ray

This profile is a seminal component of a major work portfolio head lighting organic farmers whose hands are as expressive as their faces, and whose hearts have lead them to a proactive life of caring for the earth and others.

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Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel – Plum Granny Farm

“Growing up on the farm, I really never saw myself coming back and making a life here – I needed to get away and create my own story,” Cheryl Ferguson of Plum Granny Farm in Piedmont North Carolina explains.  “But once I entered my 40s, I started thinking about the potential of returning to my family farm and creating a special place here with Ray for us to share with others.”

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Cheryl Teague as teenage farmer

Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel met when Cheryl moved to Richmond, VA (and away from NC) in 1979 and they were married in 1984 in Washington, DC.  Busy professional lives in public health and IT, and a move to New Mexico, left little time for farm fantasies.  As Cheryl’s parents aged and health declined, the farm conversation came up but was never resolved.  Finally, after her father passed away in 2007, the discussions became more focused.  “We knew that the farm was a special place and we wanted to make sure it was preserved as a working farm,” said Ray.

Although they have no formal training in farming, they bring skills from their former lives.  Cheryl notes, “I’m a cause person – perfect training for a farmer.”  And Ray’s background in corporate IT management brings a business orientation to the task.  In their constant refinement of  their formula for sustainability, Ray knew from the very beginning a necessary ingredient.  “Farming is a business!”

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They have always been drawn to the open spaces; it is only natural that they have ended up back home to celebrate a culturally rich community and a way of life.

 

The Organics: Hands and Heart Isaac Oliver

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We had a family garden when I was growing up in Alabama, and my dad gave me the responsibility of taking care of the beans. I really enjoyed that experience – a real sense of pride that has stayed with me.

What impacted me the most was one day when I was working construction (on the west coast) and I looked into the field next to our building project, and the field crew were harvesting and packing up the produce on their organic farm.  I had a feeling of being “left out”.  I had never thought before of doing something like that for a living, but I could see myself doing it now!

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Harmony Ridge Farms Crew: Kyle Montgomery, Ashley Pully, Jeff Seibel, Isaac Oliver, Brandon McGinnity, and Kevin Oliver

Holly (my girl friend – later to be my wife) grew up as a vegetarian and had been cooking for herself since her teens.  She had much more environmental awareness than I did, and we both soon eased into a new lifestyle – one of sustainability, a heightened awareness of environmental issues, and one of community building comfort as we began to associate with others like us who had similar values.

Being laid off and the recession forced Holly and me back closer to home in North Carolina.  My dad and I began to compare notes and talk about a new dream.  That dream became a reality when we bought the land here (presently Harmony Ridge Farm) and set to do what we are doing now –  being organic farmers.

We have never looked back.

 

The Organics: Hands and Heart Jennifer Mantler

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Jennifer Mantler lives what this photo essay  project is all about …

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Jennifer, like so many other college students that we have encountered, had periods of disillusionment during the college years of her life.  Unfulfilled expectations and conflicting messages generated by a choice of  study majors, in Jennifer’s case – environmental science and political science – left Jennifer feeling that there had to be something more.

Another common theme we have encountered as an ingredient for how these young people get where they are today is mentorship – someone that believed in them and had a value system akin to where they thought they were.

The influential Root Cellar in Columbia, MO

In this case, it was a small grocery in Columbia, Missouri,  The Root Cellar, whose owners Chelsea and Jake Davis influenced her perspectives on local food systems and their sustainability.

“For the three years that I was there with them, we grew together and it was nice to be part of a business start up and and to experience the changes first hand.  But, I realized through that experience that I wanted more than to just sell the food, I wanted to grow it.”

 

 

The Troybilt made me do it …

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Cynthia Glasscoe enjoys telling the story of her dad’s Troybilt tiller which changed her life.

“It has been in my barn forever as a a gentle reminder of when he was alive and instilled in me his passion for gardening and farming.”

This image is the newest addition to the Organics: Heart and Hands series.

SlowExposures Juried Exhibition – personal, casual, congenial

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Jurors Jerry Atnip and John A. Bennette explain their winner selections in a public gallery talk.

The 13th edition of one of the South’s favorite photo exhibitions this past weekend (September 17-20, 2015) was by all accounts one of the luckiest. With 900 images submitted from all across the country,  jurors Jerry Atnip and John A. Bennette  distilled the finalists to 75.   Photographers and the public were treated to a real fete – Southern style!

My wife and I are life-long veterans of festivals – sports, crafts, and photography – but never have we experienced such a warm environment for conversation, the opportunity for cross fertilization of ideas, and the native stimulation that the participating artists individually brought to this event.

There are several elements contributing to its success.  Number one is it’s location in rural Pike County, Georgia, about 100 miles south of Atlanta. Number two is the legion of dedicated volunteers who for many years have poured their oversized small-town hearts and souls into a venue that is aimed to please and exceed all expectations for hospitality.  Number three is  the artist photographer who knows the reputation of this festival and only submit their best work.

The slow pacing of the four days facilitates a saturated adsorption.  The genuineness of this community provides healing time from the rapid pace of another life that everyone brought with them but left checked at the county line.

SlowExposures festival dates for 2016 are September 15-18!

-Houck and K.B. Medford

The Organics: Hands and Heart Bob Alsup

This profile is a seminal component of a major work portfolio head lighting organic farmers whose hands are as expressive as their faces, and whose hearts have lead them to a proactive life of caring for the earth and others.

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From surgeon to farmer …

Since coming back to Winston-Salem to begin practice in 1979, Bob Alsup always had a garden. Even as a kid, he had a strawberry patch or vegetable plot.  On his very first day in Winston-Salem as a physician, he was looking for a place to plant his garden.  Luckily, his dad who had some land in county,  was generous enough to allow him to clear some.  For 33 years since,  the garden grew bigger each year.

The itch to grow goes all the way back to the early ’50’s and his childhood home on Queens Street; their home was literally in the shadow of  “Baptist Hospital” (North Carolina Baptist Hospital) and “Bowman Gray” (School of Medicine).  Neighbors were tolerant and so was the hospital and medical school.  “Our roosters were loud!” he remembers.  No one got upset.

“I was so excited about what was coming up, and if I weren’t on call,  I would be at the farm gardening with a flashlight!”

“A 33 year transition from being a full time surgeon and a hobby farmer  to now being a full time farmer giving it all that I got seems to me to be a pretty natural transition.”

I agree … HMM

Graveside flowers of a cotton farmer’s wife …

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August 19, 2015 … What one might expect, of course, the corporate “green and yellow” floral arrangement from the local John Deere dealership … Cotton harvest season is October;  cotton bolls in two of the arrangements.

The Organics: Hands and Heart Kate Schumacher

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Kate Schumacher harvests the turnip patch.

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Kate Schumacher has lived her whole life in the South, and as she tells it, “rural spaces have been a part of my entire existence.”  A college education and a few months into graduate school put her into a panic when she finally figured out that  she wasn’t living a meaningful existence.   Career testings consistently pointed her to fields of study that had the word “agriculture” in them and on a whim and at the latest possible minute, she signed up for a master gardening class.

That changed everything.

“I don’t want to say that farming is ‘simple work.’   It is hard work.   It is work that comes from the earth.   You eat a meal three times a day.  To be part of something like that, you need to take full ownership of your food. To me, that is meaningful.”

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Kate with Grandma

Kate points to her heritage. Her 86 year old grandmother no longer lives on the family farm where she was raised, but according to Kate, “she still has that ‘farming mentality’ where you do everything yourself, you work hard, and you don’t lean on other people for help. I remember sitting on the front porch picking the ends off of green beans, peeling fresh apples to make apple turnovers, digging up turnips, harvesting fresh squash, and making tomato sandwiches with freshly picked tomatoes.  As a kid I connected fresh, local food with people I loved and respected.”

“Farming is appealing because of the attitudes and behaviors which I associate with –  patience, kindness,  humility in the face of nature’s power, and empowerment by adapting to nature’s challenges. I am fully aware of my youth and how much MUCH more I have to learn as I create and grow into the farming lifestyle I imagine for myself.”

Kate currently farms for Harmony Ridge Farms in Tobaccoville, N.C.