Connecting Nature, Food, and Community at Gentry Farm
Partners Amanda Gentry and Wendy Painter are the fifth generation to steward Gentry Farm, a historic family farm nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. The barn built by Amanda’s great- great-grandparents still stands and is one of the oldest in Ashe County, North Carolina. While surrounded by family history, Wendy and Amanda think critically about the future of the land. “My goal since returning to Ashe County to assume ownership of the farm has been to ensure long-term sustainability,” Amada says.
As Amanda and Wendy seek ways to support the farm financially for the long term, they plan to use the funds from a Brighter Future Microgrant to support the expansion of their orchard with berry plants and apple trees and to upgrade the barn to package their products and sell directly to the community. Growing in the Appalachian Mountains, they must consider the kinds of fruit that will thrive in an unpredictable climate. American Farmland Trust, with the help of Tillamook Creamery, launched the Brighter Future Fund to support farmers in the face of pressing challenges like climate change and COVID-19.
“We want to thank American Farmland Trust and Tillamook for the Brighter Future Fund grant,” says Wendy. “We’re going to put this to good use here on the farm. Conservation is a really important component of what we do. We have this beautiful pristine creek. We have forested land and historic buildings. We have a lot, but we want to build on that in a manner that allows us to sustain the farm and provide quality of life.”
Wendy and Amanda are also considering the long-term sustainability of the farm through the lens of environmental stewardship and land protection. The farm’s entire 120 acres have been permanently protected through a conservation easement with the New River Conservancy. Recognizing the importance of water resources, they also conserved the portion of Silas Creek that runs along their property and ultimately empties into the New River. And they planted the creek banks with native plants to protect the banks, improve water quality and the ecosystem.
“Conservation and sustainability is important for us now, but it is also important for the next five generations of Gentry Farm,” Amanda says.
“Conservation and sustainability is important for us now, but it is also important for the next five generations of Gentry Farm.”
As the river is connected to the wider community, so too are Amanda and Wendy. Through a partnership with a local dentist, Dr. Amanda Stroud, they recently created a community garden, which grew from a small plot at the AppHealth dental office to a one-acre space cared for primarily by volunteers. The garden provided food to families experiencing food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is not the first iteration of Gentry Farm creating community through the land and farming. Amanda’s grandmother, in her day, traveled the neighborhood teaching other women how to preserve fresh foods.
Beyond orchards, Amanda and Wendy envision a farm open to the community through food, art and a connection to the natural world via walking trails, tours and events. Sign up for their updates at http://gentryfarm1821.com.
Brighter Future Fund
Informed by farmers, built on experience, and inspired by you. AFT’s Brighter Future Fund carries forward AFT's commitment to addressing inequalities in our agricultural system by providing grants up to $5,000 to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or women farmers nationwide. Help us support another round of inspiring farmers by donating to the fund today! 100% of all funds raised will go directly to farmers to strengthen farm resilience, enhance farm viability, and improve access to land.