Restoring Eroded Farmland through Creative Partnerships

Controlling Erosion with Mushrooms

Saxapahaw, North Carolina is a tiny riverside village nestled against the Haw River in southern, rural Alamance County. It is a community of artists, environmentalists, creative business owners, chefs, and farmers. 

Two of these farmers, Ches and Laura Stewart, recently purchased new land to expand their mushroom business, moving them closer to Saxapahaw. Haw River Mushrooms grows a diverse variety of mushrooms, and boasts of creating a “business model that values people, profit, and planet.” After the first major rain event on the new farm, they quickly realized that there was no soil left to hold in stormwater runoff. The creek bisecting their farm ran bright orange with clay from the eroded banks and compacted soil from years of intensive livestock. Ches and Laura were concerned – they knew that unless something changed, erosion and runoff would continue to harm their land, the creek, and ultimately the community they care about, but they weren’t quite sure what to do. So they called their Riverkeeper. 

When Haw River Assembly got involved, we had the experience and tools to restore banks and minimize stormwater runoff, but Laura had a vision of something different. Mycoremediation is the science of using mushrooms to pull pollutants and toxins from water and soils. Rather than creating traditional check dams, we would use the byproduct of spent mushroom substrate as material for our erosion control. In addition to targeting the volume and velocity of the runoff, we would also be filtering the runoff before it reached the stream. Read the full post here.

Microplastics Study Measures Impact On Waterways

Durham – Measuring microplastics in North Carolina’s waterways is no small job. In collaboration with Waterkeepers Carolina, Haw River Assembly is launching a two-year study to collect surface water and sediment samples to understand better the volume of microplastics and macroplastic pollution in North Carolina’s streams, rivers, lakes, and bays.

The study “Improving Human and Ecosystem Health through Microplastic Reduction” launched in February as a collaborative project across 10 nonprofit environmental organizations. To get baselines, 15 Riverkeepers collected two surface water samples and sediment samples. This is the first of bi-monthly samples that will be collected over two years. Read the full post here.

To follow this study and learn more about North Carolina’s Riverkeepers’ work, visit Waterkeepers Carolina – https://waterkeeperscarolina.org.

What’s happening on the MVP Southgate fight?

Haw River Assembly, represented by Southern Environmental Law Center, has been approved to join the case to defend NC Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to deny the 401 permit. That decision, denied in August of 2020, was based heavily on the likelihood of MVP mainline not being successfully completed due to ongoing legal challenges, ballooning costs, and environmental violations. These challenges were also faced in the Atlantic Coast pipeline project, which was canceled and abandoned earlier this summer. 


Divestment meetings have begun with MVP mainline investors. Who are these investors? Big banks. Banks do not hold their customers’ money in the building, they use the money to invest in fossil fuel projects. Check out this report from Oil Change International, and make sure your money isn’t funding this fossil fuel projects. Read the full post here.

Building Relationships and Organizing Communities – Community Leader Spotlight of Brenda Hines

Written by Lucy Gray

Brenda Hines speaks very highly of community organization Down Home North Carolina, which is a group that is working to build multiracial power for working families across North Carolina, and which focuses on mobilizing small towns and rural communities. Ms. Hines has been a
member since Down Home began in 2017, and one of her current goals is making people aware about the effects of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate project. The pipeline is proposed to cut through several central NC counties, including Alamance, which is where Down Home began.

“It takes a long time to develop relationships, and that’s what people have to be rooted in – the relationship building, not just the issue of the moment… Everybody is giving up something. Don’t be shortsighted because it’s a Black life or a Brown life in the forefront, but everybody is affected by it no matter what your racial background may be.”

View full post here.


March 2020 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) updates straight from your Haw River Intern, Emily Williams. Read what amendments to NEPA would mean for the protection of your water quality and how you can comment against the attack on NEPA.


Crystal Cavalier Keck of Mebane, NC, is a member of the Occoneechee Band of the Saponi Nation and is the founder of the Missing Murdered Indigenous Coalition of North Carolina. See what Crystal has to say about the intersection of these social justice issues with developing pipelines around the country in the full post.

“I’ve done research and talked with other researchers when we go into communities and decide to ask questions and ask people about things to do and participate in. Once that research is done, we all leave – it is being recognized now that that causes more harm than anything… When we look at community organizing, you are organizing, and you are beginning with the people who are most affected. You are beginning with the people who live in those communities and they are living the harm, and you help them, or they help you figure out what’s best for us.”

The unregulated poultry industry in North Carolina is burgeoning, with the number of chickens and turkeys increasing 17 percent in just the last 7 years to a total of more than 538 million. This is a problem for the state’s waterways because all those birds produce nearly 5 million tons of waste — and no one knows where it goes. 


Executive Director, Elaine Chiosso talks about Chatham Park.

Omega and Brenda Wilson co-founded the West End Revitalization Association in 1994; since then, the community group has been a pillar of strength and hope in the Mebane community.
Overall, one of the things Mr. Wilson is most proud of are the collaborative partnerships WERA has developed. “A lot of people, when we started filing complaints, saw what we were doing as black against white – that’s not what we’re doing. It’s wrong against right.”
For more information about Mr. Wilson’s work with WERA, you can go to their website at https://www.wera-nc.org/.


A quick update from your Haw Riverkeeper, Emily Sutton on Jordan Lake!


Factory Farming In The Haw River Basin

Isaiah Allen is the chef and a co-owner of The Eddy, a cozy pub tucked on the banks on the Haw River in Saxapahaw, N.C. The Eddy purchases almost every box of produce and side of meat from local farms that share its commitment to the area’s soil and water. Read Isaiah’s story about the farmer he met at the bar.

Environmentalists and concerned citizens alike are no strangers to plastic pollution; however, there seems to be another player in the game: microplastics. Read more about how microplastics are affecting water quality and how you can work with us to make the Haw plastics free!


In early August of 2020, NC DEQ denied the 401 permit, which is the permit necessary to cross streams. DEQ’s letter reads. “The uncertainty of the MVP Mainline Project’s completion presents a critical risk to the achievability of the fundamental purpose of MVP Southgate,” it continued. Read the full post for more info.

River Updates straight from your Haw Riverkeeper, Emily Sutton. Read what’s going on with the local concerns surrounding PFAS and other industrial contaminates here, as well as how to stay involved in local watershed issues.


MVP Updates


Industrial Contaminate Updates


Politicians in Washington, DC, just proposed gutting the Clean Water Act, stripping away longstanding protections for streams, wetlands, and smaller waterways that feed drinking water sources for millions of people in the South. Read more about how you can take action to prevent this.


UNC Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech are offering free well water testing to any resident or business using a private well for indoor and outdoor use in Chatham County, NC or nearby areas. The samples will be analyzed for metals such as lead, arsenic, and chromium. Read for more details.

February 2019 River Updates straight from your Haw Riverkeeper, Emily Sutton. Read what’s going on with MVP Southgate and the local concerns surrounding PFAS and other industrial contaminates here, as well as how to stay involved in local watershed issues.


The Animal Feeding Operation permits are up for renewal, which is an opportunity that only comes around every 5 years. Read more to see how you can comment and encourage NCDEQ to require more transparency in the permitting process for swine, cattle, and wet poultry production.