Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sylva, NC: Steven Beltram, Balsam Gardens

Trav and I stayed a night in mountainous Sylva, North Carolina, home of Western College where Edward Abbey was a literature professor briefly before he moved west to fall in love with the deserts of Utah and write about them. Kerri Rayburn (who is the mother of my best friend, Allison) welcomed us in and over dinner she mentioned a local farmer by the name of Steven Beltram who is a new and young farmer whose plants at market always look huge and capable of bearing delicious tomatoes.
Steven agreed to show us his farm the next morning and we found him on top of his barn, working the roof. The house and farm sit on a beautiful, fertile slope, surrounded by gentle curves on all sides; the house itself is an architectural glory. It is one hundred years old with the charm and sturdiness that really only belong to one-hundred-year-old houses. Steven is a builder by trade, so in whatever spare time he may have he works on restoring the house.
We sat on a pile of lumber to the side of the new barn and took in everything around us; the chickens have a lovely homemade tractor, there are rows of crops out in the open and a couple of big greenhouses Steven built, based upon his readings in Eliot Coleman's books on the subject.

He is a thoughtful intentional farmer, and a great host. Before we take off he shows us his potting mix (the reason his tomato plants get so gargantuan for market) and the machine he uses to form the dirt into the actual pot . Instead of buying disposable plastic pots Steven just makes his own using his press and his good good dirt.


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