North River Farms and DB bar D Outfitters are two businesses that operate in unison on a working farm in Mills River to achieve a common goal: the education, preservation and conservation of farming, wildlife and natural resources. DB bar D Outfitters offers guided fly fishing, wingshooting and big game hunting trips year round. Each guided trip generates fishing and hunting license fees for the NC Wildlife Resource Commission to help fund the state in its many conservation projects. Starting in May, North River Farms offers tours of the property, educating agritourists about the growth and cultivation of vegetables, row crops, livestock and hay.
Tour attendees are also introduced to the ongoing, voluntary efforts of North River Farms to implement Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs). These practices are standardized through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services and are designed to benefit water quality and water conservation while maintaining agricultural production.
Current BMPs that are being implemented at North River Farms include:
• Water Resource Protection using riparian buffers, grassed waterways, rock lined outlets, cover crops, setbacks and swales to reduce or prevent any sediment and nutrient transportation from field production areas to any water resource
• Nutrient Management, which helps determine nutrient needs and sources, as well as nutrient applications to minimize impact to water resources
• Irrigation Management, which helps reduce water and nutrient loss to the environment through implementing proven irrigating methods and scheduling
DB bar D Outfitters works alongside North River Farms to showcase how modern farming and wildlife can coexist and thrive with concerted efforts. Mills River is in a watershed where heavy rains sometimes transport unwanted debris into the river from the surrounding area. DB bar D and North River Farms host stream clean-up days to comb the river and its banks for trash to throw away or recycle.
A group of biologists has studied this stretch of river and concluded that the BMPs have had a positive effect on water conservation and protection. These findings show minimal erosion and sedimentation around agricultural fields, well-oxygenated water, a healthy trout population and a high concentration of thriving hellbender salamanders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis). Hellbenders breathe primarily through their skin and rely on cool, well-oxygenated, flowing water, making their population numbers an excellent indicator of water quality.
Farmers are inherently conservationists and rely on natural resources to produce and be sustained for future use without interruption. “It’s a joy as an outfitter for us to see our clients enjoy their time on the water landing fish of a lifetime because of North River Farm’s BMPs in the agricultural fields,” says Kyle Vaughan, manager and guide at DB bar D Outfitters. “It is our commitment to continue to educate and inform on how to protect water resources, as well as set standards and examples for others to follow.”