The Warren Wilson College Farm is a working farm. With 275 acres divided among 25 fields in the Swannanoa Valley, we are a diversified “mixed crop and livestock” farm, with beef cattle and hogs making up the majority of the livestock. We strive to practice “sustainable agriculture” – farming in a style that is environmentally sound and economically viable, provides valuable and satisfying work to us, and is based on the humane and careful husbandry of our cattle and swine.
We are a “grass-based” farm and market that grass as beef and, to some degree, pork. We grow grains (corn, wheat, barley, and oats) in our rich bottomland soils in rotation with an alfalfa-based hay mix. By plowing the alfalfa down for the succeeding corn crop, we acheive both excellent grain yields and avoid using any pesticides or herbicides in crop production.
Our cattle herd grazes from March until November on “permanent pastures” – fields too steep to be under the plow. In the past 9 years, we have excluded cattle from using streams as their water source by partnering with local conservation agencies and developing independent watering and fencing systems. In 1998 we were named a River Friendly Farmer by the Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District and have incorporated other wildlife, soil, and water quality measures such as using grassed waterways and expanded buffer strips. In 2002 Warren Wilson College was awarded the non-profit Steward of the Year by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, recognizing the work of both the College Farm and the College Garden programs.
The swineherd numbers 25 sows, each farrowing twice yearly, making for lots of pigs – and vet work for the students. This fall, 45–50 beautiful hogs will be available, all born and raised outdoors on our own grains with no drugs or hormones.
It is your support that keeps our farm going, keeps students fixing the tractors and equipment, doing our own vet work, and growing the crops. Small farms across western North Carolina can thrive with all of our support. This is where we live; this is where our food should come from.
Raising our herd on pastures is better for the animals and for the environment. Beef from grass-fed cattle has also been proven better for your health. The natural “salad bar” on which our steers graze builds meat that is lower in total fat and calories yet abundant in good fats like omega-3 fatty acids and CLAs, a cancer-fighting fat. The meat also contains higher levels of a variety of antioxidant vitamins. For the final 100 days the Black Angus steers and heifers are separated and “finished” on dairy-quality alfalfa/grass pastures. This elevated nutritional plane makes the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished.