Dedication. Commitment. Perseverance. Meet Will and Savannah Salley
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Dedication. Commitment. Perseverance. These were the words written on my daughter’s standout “Eye of the Storm” award at the end of her 8th grade middle school year this past June. My wife and I both cried when she got the award because we had seen her work so hard with so much enthusiasm during the year despite the chaos around her.
Aren’t we always seeking the eye of the storm in this chaotic and turbulent world we live in? We need leaders who see what is right, decide to do it, and then stick to it. Savannah and Will Salley are doing that, and if I could give them an “Eye of the Storm” award for their dedication, commitment, and perseverance to making this world a better place I would do it.
After meeting each other and getting married in Maui, Hawaii in 2014, they sold everything they had, bought one-way tickets to California, bought a car, and drove to western North Carolina where they both have family roots. Will’s grandmother grew up farming peaches around Saluda, NC and Savannah’s father’s family is from the Boone/Deep Gap area. Savannah’s maiden name is Watson, and yes she is kin to legendary guitarist and singer Doc Watson.
What is the driving force behind Will and Savannah’s decision to grow local food using ecological practices and philosophies? What has kept them going through years of toiling, struggle, and setbacks as they have developed their farm business? The source of strength for Will and Savannah is their love for wildlife, untamed places and appreciation for the fragile balance these maintain for our planet and our existence as humans here on earth. Their life commitment to provide a hopeful balanced future between humankind and our natural environment is the driving force behind their business model and lifestyle philosophy: environmental stewardship fostered by ecological farming systems. What a blessing that Will and Savannah chose WNC as their home to carry out their vision!
Will’s fascination of ecological systems and nature grew directly out of his childhood. While many other kids were playing video games and watching television, Will was in the woods or wading through a creek, searching for knowledge and fulfillment by searching for animals, plants, and fungi to study how they interacted to create a perfect symphony of life. Will’s father, an agricultural professional was always bringing home snakes, turtles, and other critters from his rural work travels, and he instilled an appreciation and wonder of nature in Will. Savannah’s father took her and her sister on extensive camping trips through the California wilderness as children, exploring all the natural wonders California has to offer.
This enterprising and dedicated young couple are currently in their 3rd season of growing organically produced mixed vegetable crops on the Community Farm Incubator owned by local land trust Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. They discovered the land opportunity through NC FarmLink and have been able to use the opportunity to get through their tricky start up years to hone their trade. Their farm, Headwaters Market Garden, is defined by ultra-fresh, high-quality produce and herbs using low till bio-intensive growing methods. You can find their sought after products at Asheville City Market Saturday mornings April-December and at local restaurants downtown.
So what is next for Will and Savannah? Their goal is to find land of their own to establish a multi-faceted ecological farming operation, in which each enterprise supports the others – as well as the local native ecosystem. This will include small livestock such as sheep and poultry, perennial vegetables and fruits, and sustainable woodlot products such as mushrooms and nuts, in addition to their annual vegetable production. They have a vision to help establish an ecologically sound form of agriculture that will set a positive example to be emulated throughout the region and beyond; one that is truly sustainable not only for the environment, but for the farmer and their local community.
Will and Savannah are currently looking for an opportunity to buy their own land either through a conventional sale, owner finance, or lease to buy option. Are you the right landowner for them to work with? I wish they could be my neighbors. Their ideal property would have 2 – 5 acres of cleared land and 10+ acres of woodland. Contact Will and Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 318-5141, or view their NC FarmLink profile.
Will has a BS in biology is from Presbyterian College in SC. Savannah has a BA in communication disorders and sciences from Cal State Northridge. Before diving full time into farming, Will worked as a Certified Crop Advisor for 5 years, mostly in the southern piedmont of NC and northern piedmont of SC. Both Will and Savannah are also graduates of the year-long Farm Beginnings Course offered by Organic Growers School.
Interesting fact: The logo for Will and Savannah’s farm, Headwaters Market Garden, is the native brook trout. I think its the perfect logo for farming with an ecological mindset. Can farming and pristine water capable of supporting native brook trout go hand in hand? If Will and Savannah are the farmers, yes they can.