On October 10, Wilmingtonian Evan Folds announced he would be running for a supervisor position for the NHC Soil & Water Conservation District. Folds has numerous years behind him owning and operating Progressive Gardens, from 2002-2016, wherein he focused on educating the public on products and processes of organic farming and home growing, from indoor hydroponics to commercial agricultural.
“Given my experience and attention to proactive and restorative methods of conserving and managing soil and water during my career, I know we can do better,” Folds tells encore about the state of environment in NHC. “I believe I am an ideal candidate for this position and would appreciate support in the upcoming election by writing my name—’Evan Folds’—into the ballot at the polls.”
encore interviewed the candidate to find out more about what he will bring to the leadership role, as well as ideas he has for more sustainable and healthy practices across the county.
encore (e): What attracts you to be Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor? Why are you qualified and what made you decide to run?
Evan Folds (EF): There is nothing more important than healthy soil and clean water. Simply put, I decided to run because our soil is not healthy and our water is not clean. I believe I can help do something about it.
As the former owner of Wilmington’s Progressive Gardens—and my background operating an organic farm, a natural lawn care care company, and now my work as a regenerative agricultural consultant—I have spent the last 16-plus years developing knowledge and working to conserve and enhance our precious resources. I want to bring a new voice and fresh ideas to the table.
e: The eleventh hour write-in campaign is very exciting. What are the challenges with running such a campaign? Is it worth it?
EF: With so little time and without being on the ballot or having traditional channels of exposure for the campaign, it is certainly a challenge to get my name out there. Because it is an apolitical position, I also do not get the support of a major political party. I plan on showing up for early voting to introduce myself to voters and reaching out to as many people as I can to spread the word. I feel called to do the work, but I need all the help I can get. If everyone out there, inspired by my message could spread the word for me, I would be very grateful, a personal endorsement would go a long way.
e: What are the issues most pressing for our district?
EF: We are at an inflection point of how we engage the natural world. Mother Nature is screaming at us and we can ignore her no longer. Our soil and water are compromised, and our current systems are not set up to incentivize the regeneration required to support healthy people, plants and planet. We have a lot of work to do.
I see the most pressing issue as twofold: educating ourselves and taking responsibility for our own actions. At the same time, [we must hold] industry accountable for the damage being done.
I like to say, “What we think, we grow”—meaning, if our perspective about living ecosystems is misguided, then our actions will follow. If the public can begin using regenerative practices, and speak with one voice and one pocketbook toward the changes we need to make, we can bring the type of impact and public pressure required to deliver real results toward the improvement of our local environment and quality of life.
The Soil & Water Conservation District was created in response to the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s. The mission is very broad, calling “to protect and enhance water quality throughout New Hanover County through land conservation, stormwater management, technical support to citizens and organizations, and conservation education and outreach activities.”
To me conservation means regeneration. My intention is to explore ways Soil & Water’s mandate can approach and potentially influence many issues we face locally in regard to environmental health, and therefore human health. I am excited to explore ways that the position of Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor can work toward this perspective.
e: How can the Soil & Water Conservation supervisor be part of addressing the Gen X crisis?
EF: I am still learning how Soil & Water can interface the Gen X issue directly, but I can say we need people in positions of influence to work for all people, not just those seeking a profit at all costs. And I can say confidently this is the perspective I will bring to the position.
When it comes to industrial pollution, we should be practicing the precautionary principle that says the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. We cannot put corporate profits over common sense or public health—period. Any company that does should change or be shut down, and pay to clean it up.
e: How do you plan to engage the public more actively with the programs of the Soil & Water Conservation District?
EF: Part of the mandate of the Soil & Water Conservation District is public outreach and education down to the residential level. There are so many things citizens can do to improve their quality of life and at the same time mitigate the toxicity that is compromising our soil and water. I have done this type of work for more than 16 years.
I have a million ideas: increasing the tree canopy; evaluating the use of chemicals on school grounds and parks; bringing cutting-edge bioremediation techniques to brownfields; making sure that when we plant trees on public property they don’t die from poor soil conditions; reviewing county-wide fertilization and pest control programs; using biochar in rain gardens and to increase the exchange capacity in landscapes; campaigning public education on the importance of composting and the soil food web; engaging the city composting operation that wants to expand for collaboration, the list goes on.
I am passionate about introducing children to living soil principles and the importance of water quality. Ever seen a kid see a protozoa under the microscope for the first time? Priceless.
e: There are two slots open and only one other candidate running. Are you running against Frank Meares or with him?
EF: There are two positions to fill for Soil & Water in this election and currently Frank is the only candidate on the ballot, so in spirit I would be running with Frank. I met him at the recent board of directors meeting and look forward to exploring ways we can collaborate to further the mission of Soil & Water, and maximize the value of this work for the citizens of New Hanover County.
I believe there is another gentleman running a write-in campaign, so don’t want to take the opportunity for granted. Rather than focus on who I am running against, I try to keep in mind what I am running for —healthy soil and clean water.
e: How do you plan to work with the other supervisors?
EF: As a small business owner and having served on boards throughout my career, including our own Tidal Creek Co-op, I have deep experience working with groups in a collaborative way. This type of group work is highly productive because we are able to refine our collective vision and hold ourselves accountable to the work that needs to be done to improve and conserve the soil and water in New Hanover County.
I look forward to learning from the experience of the other supervisors and how to navigate the position, and also how we can broaden the scope of influence. Given the challenges we face with soil and water quality, I look forward to working toward expanding the vision and impact the Soil & Water Conservation District can have locally.
To learn more about Folds’ candidacy, follow his campaign on Facebook.