Grayson Landcare has been supporting our community for 15 years! And with your support, we look forward to another 15. But before we start dreaming about that future, let’s take a look back and see what we have accomplished since our incorporation in 2007. Grayson LandCare has evolved since then, which is exactly what the organization is set up to do! As a member-driven organization, we strive to help members be successful in sustaining the land and the county’s resources for years to come.
Grayson Landcare began when Jerry Moles and Charlotte and Philip Hanes started looking for ways to make preserving the natural resources in Grayson County a benefit to the environment and also to the folks who live here. They identified the main industries-forestry and cattle and looked for ways to support them. The New River Land Trust recommended conservation easements as a way to earn tax credits while keeping land available for farming and forestry. Realizing the financial benefits of niche marketing, grass fed beef was identified as a more sustainable way to produce beef in our area. That led to the development of Grayson Natural Farms, and River Ridge Farm. River Ridge is a showplace for rotational grazing, pasture and herd management. In recent years they have added preservation and production of heritage sheep and organic berry production. River Ridge Organics is one of the few organic certified farms in Grayson County and also is Gap and World gap certified. These operations provide models for sustainable livestock and farming systems.
IFM started in 2008 with help from the Town of Independence special events coordinator Carol Lundgrun and local business owner Taphne Taylor Collins. Other organizations provided support for traditional cattle and forestry operations. At the request of newly arrived produce farmers Rick and Jen Cavey, GLC agreed to help the Independence Farmers Market expand it’s reach to support niche farmers, ranchers and artisan entrepreneurs bring their products to market and IFM joined GLC in 2011. In its 15 years IFM has provided over 200 small businesses an outlet for their products. Vendors have ranged in age from 10 to over 70. IFM has provided education, marketing and a community for vendors and customers alike.
Cynthia and Rick Taylor brought Permaculture as a framework for gardening and an overall principal for sustainable living to Grayson LandCare 6 years ago. The Permaculture garden and food forest at Church of the Good Shepherd has provided produce to Food Independence and God’s Storehouse in Galax as well as a habitat for pollinators and native plants. It is a model for home and production gardeners alike and a living classroom for habitat improvement and rainwater control.
Kathy Cole developed the idea of the Free Market for years before making it a reality 5 years ago. In that time tons-literally- of items have been diverted from the landfill and redistributed throughout the community. Over time, Kathy has added a medical lending library and an outreach section for Social services. The annual Christmas shop provides kids an opportunity to shop for family members for free as well as the general public.
During the pandemic Tom and Anita Simpson and Bev Fermor and Ken Kruzer saw families struggle with increasing food insecurity and Food Independence became part of the Grayson LandCare family 2 years ago. That need has only increased and Food Independence and countless volunteers have continued to expand to meet the needs of our community. Their monthly food distribution occurs the 4th Tuesday of the month and has grown from serving 90 families to over 300.
The Seed library is a joint project with the Grayson County library that also came about during the pandemic as seed became scarce and prices rose. Workshops on seed saving and seed distributions have been held. The public is welcome to donate their favorite open pollinated seeds or take what need. If you have success with seeds you “checked out” return some of your saved seeds to keep the project going.
The School garden project is also 2 years old and is giving kids at Independence Elementary school the opportunity to learn to grow their own food and to taste it and share it with their families. It started with a raised bed garden outside and has grown to include an aeroponic Tower Garden and a traditional hydroponic garden. All gardens are in highly visible locations and the reach extends beyond the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders who have participated in the after-school gardening program.
In addition to our monthly meetings and presentations and mini grant program, Grayson LandCare supports all these projects with office staff, fundraising, grant writing, advertising and more. Many of you donate your time and dollars to these projects, sometimes not realizing they are a part of Grayson LandCare. I hope this history of our organization has helped you see the value in supporting Grayson LandCare, so that we can remain a strong organization that continues to support these projects and helps to start new ones as our members see needs in our community for the next 15 years and beyond.
Here’s and to another 15 more of great members and projects helping our community!