Open Ridge Farm is husband and wife team, Jonathan ("Jona") Felts and Gretchen Ferrell, with day labor and entertainment provided by our daughter, Opal. Our farm is 3.5 acres along Rock Creek, watershed of Mt. Mitchell, in the South Toe Area of Yancey County, consisting of a young fruit and nut orchard, market gardens, and certified Farm Kitchen with dining space.
We have both been involved in permaculture and local food activism and education since before we joined forces in Costa Rica in 2003.
Gretchen served as Secretary for the Dig In! Community Garden Board of Directors, and Jona serves as Vice President for the Yancey County Farmers Market Board. Together, they also coordinate the school garden at South Toe Elementary.
The short story is that we practice organic, "no-till" agriculture. We aim to grow nutrient rich soil, which yields nutrient rich food for our community. We never apply synthetic chemicals or fertilizers.
The slightly longer version is that we came to farming with a permaculture background, but found that production agriculture didn't seem to have much precent for incorporating so many tenants of what we knew as good practice (mulching, intercropping, etc). Using the methods small scale farmers were following at the time created more questions than answers in 2013. After a couple of years following what seemed to be normal efficiency-oriented market gardening practices, we decided to instead follow our hearts. We stopped tilling and started mulching, and our plants are showing their gratitude. We are constantly learning and adapting, and aim to make all decisions rooted in health: of soil, ecosystems, climate, as well as our bodies and yours. Fortunately, those things all work together. Isn't it magical?
Our no-till gardens are cultivated with hand tools, utilizing low-input organic growing methods. We aim to keep the soil covered in plants as much of the year as possible, capturing carbon while supporting the health of the soil food web. We grow about a half-acre of intensive annual vegetables for local markets, restaurants and twice-weekly farm pick-ups. We have also planted a mixed fruit and nut orchard, including berries, grapes, apples, pears, plums, peaches, hazelnuts and more.
We built an on-site Farm Kitchen for hosting events and workshops, focusing on casual, affordable, family-friendly farm dinners. We are always trying out new ideas, such as our infamous "Summit to Supper". We also host private parties. Join our "Farm Events" email to keep in the loop!
Jona began making hot sauce in the tropics with his homemade banana vinegar and "Panama Peppers", a close habanero relative. It was instantly popular, and since that time he receives notes from his addicts around the world, begging for the sauce. Fortunately for you all, it is officially legal and requires no shipping for locals! See "Hot Sauce" page for more info about Pica Rica and our other sauces.