Second Spring


Work at Second Spring

The world of farming is changing rapidly. In the past century, we've seen family farms disappear: following the Nixon administration's dictum of "get big or get out," much of America's farmland was consolidated into mega-farms. "Big ag" completely altered the rural landscape of America. Workers disappeared from the farm, replaced by increasingly complex, expensive, high tech machinery. The new system of food production was propped up by cheap fossil fuel in the form of synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides. Suddenly, a very small number of people (sometimes just one person) could "farm" massive amounts of land.

If you're reading this, you're likely familiar with the consequences that have ensued. Our top soil is disappearing; the Gulf of Mexico is turning into a nitrogen run-off deadzone; methane pollution from big ag has become the single largest contributor to climate change worldwide.

In the past few decades, organic agricultural has arisen as an alternative to the destructive practices of industrial agriculture. While large scale organic production has its benefits, the idea of starting a large--or even mid-sized--organic farm is overwhelming for many young people interested in farming. Even a five or ten acre vegetable farm requires a $30,000 tractor, expensive implements, large barns and warehouse space, a massive irrigation system, and a huge amount of labor.

At Second Spring, we offer apprentices a very different approach to farming. As a "market garden," our practices are modeled on those of eighteenth and nineteenth century Parisian growers. These farmers pioneered season extension, growing under moveable glass cloches, while producing the entire city of Paris' food using less than 1/10th of its land base. They did this with simple, effective tools: appropriate technology for their small market gardens.

Our growing system utilizes just 1 acre of land to produce food for more than 100 local families, a dozen restaurants, and our local farmer's market. We produce over 40 different kinds of vegetables each year throughout all four seasons, offering the only year-round fresh vegetable CSA in Asheville. We accomplish all of this using a permanent bed system, large amount of compost and organic matter, a BCS walk-behind tractor, and hand tools.

We started out with zero capital, obtaining a loan from the USDA to purchase our start-up equipment and infrastructure. We were profitable our very first year as a farm, deriving two full-time incomes from our market garden: we opted to work full-time on the farm, and it paid off.

We utilize techniques popularized by Jean-Martin Fortier and Eliot Coleman. As a Second Spring apprentice, you'll learn to:

  • Seed transplants in one of our greenhouses
  • Direct seed plants in the field using our various seeders
  • Transplant a variety of vegetables
  • Install and operate irrigation
  • Prepare seedbeds for planting
  • Use a BCS walk-behind tractor for preparing soil, mowing, and more
  • Manage our greenhouses and hoophouses
  • Harvest a wide variety of vegetables and prepare them for market
  • Take vegetables to market, work our farmer's market booth, and interface with CSA customers
  • ... and much more.

We take the task of training our apprentices very seriously. As a small farm with a compact growing area, there are opportunities every single day for question and answer sessions about all aspects of our production. We will gladly pause to answer questions, demonstrate techniques, and offer corrections so that apprentices feel satisfied with their learning experience from day to day. For those who are interested, we're happy to sit down and go over our accounts, record keeping, planting calendar, and other important planning aspects of running an intensively managed farm. Apprentices are paid a stipend and provided with housing on the farm. Food is provided, and a communal meal is prepared daily. If you are truly serious about learning how to run a highly profitable, small scale market garden, please email us about our apprenticeship program. Our apprenticeship runs from March - November, and are currently accepting applications for the 2016 season.