As far as bosses go, Anthony Owens has a pretty good supervisor. His office isn’t too shabby either. “It’s great to be outside. Mother Nature is the best boss,” Owens says as he scans the picturesque valley where hundreds of his trees are bursting with young apples. “Outside is my office. It definitely beats a cubicle and four walls.”
Owens grows assorted fruits and vegetables on approximately 150 acres of Henderson County soil. But apples are his bread and butter, with a total of 25 varieties harvested by his Windy Ridge Farms. What sets him apart from most growers is his style of farming — Owens is a certified organic farmer.
“Basically, organic means no use of synthetic or conventional fertilizers can be allowed,” Owens says. “No man-altered chemicals.”
Owens has been farming organically since 2001 after joining an organic research project. Some growers left the program, but Owens kept at it. It’s a tough way to farm, but Owens wouldn’t do it any other way. “I tell people you got to be part farmer and part scientist,” says Owens, who is also the new president of Blue Ridge Apple Growers. “Every day it’s something different, and you combat a different disease or insect. There’s no silver bullet with the organics. But to see a kid eating one of your apples or to see somebody pick up a bag of your fruit or vegetables it’s a nice feeling.”
He’ll get that nice feeling a lot next month. Owens is among 15 organic farmers who will participate in the first organic farmers market during the North Carolina Apple Festival. The market will be on Sunday, September 5, from 11am to 5pm at the Historic Train Depot on Seventh Avenue in Hendersonville. “For those who are looking for organic fruits and vegetables, that’s where they can come,” he says. “We hope everybody will come down.”