Food Sustainability

Pangaea Plants

Photo by Adrian Etheridge

WNC’s First Certified Biodynamic Farm

By Harold Chambers

Pangaea Plants owner Gabriel Noard is building a vision out of 24 leased acres of sandy loam bottomland near Lake Lure, NC. He calls it “Pangaea” from the Greek word meaning “one earth.” On his diversified family farm, Noard specializes in medicinal herbs and vegetables, and in 2015 Pangaea became the first certified biodynamic farm in western North Carolina.

“We were able to achieve biodynamic certification by first being certified organic,” says Noard, “and then going beyond that to encompass the whole farm.” With a hayfield, seven cultivated acres and three acres of greenhouse space, Pangaea reserves areas for biodiversity, maintaining farm health through crop planning, cover crops and compost that reduce the need for off-farm inputs. The farm has also earmarked a certain amount of acreage as wild and uncultivated land.

Noard is proud of Pangaea’s biodynamic certification. He understands that biodynamic agriculture responds to the influences and rhythms of the sun, moon and planets. It resembles the folkways of Farmer’s Almanacs and the traditional farming practices of Appalachian mountain families who could tell you the most auspicious time to plant particular crops. For example, it’s best to plant flowering bulbs and root vegetables during the dark, or waning of the moon.

“While there is a vein of mystery and references to angels and spirits in biodynamics that can either inspire or deter folks,” says Noard, “there are honest and tangible and scientific results gained from it.” For example, adding silica will actually increase the ‘bones’ of a plant.

Biodynamic agriculture also emphasizes sustainability, recycling of organic material and the economic health of a farm. Toward that end, last year Noard repurposed an industrial storage container into a working herb dryer—newly insulated and equipped with steel drying racks and fans. His dried herbs are now available in Asheville at the Herbiary and the French Broad Food Co-op, as well as online.

Last summer alone Pangaea planted 1/8 acre each of nettle, holy basil, skullcap, St. John’s Wort, anise hyssop, arnica, blue vervain and boneset. Noard, his assistant Heather Roy and Pangaea’s farm interns harvested and dried these crops, taking advantage of the newly operational drying shed.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” Albert Einstein said. Noard agrees: “Education is at the root of the solution. Consumers and retailers need to change the way we do business to really support the healing of the planet and its people.” At Pangaea Plants, Noard hopes his biodynamic path will do just that.

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Harold Chambers lives in West Asheville, where he and his wife maintain an organic edible landscape of raised beds, a berry and rhubarb patch and numerous varieties of garlic and herbs.

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