“The name for our proper connection to the earth is ‘good work,’ for good work involves much giving of honor." - Wendell Berry

Integrated Land Services

Welcome to a New Way of Thinking About Your Land

Our mission is to present the most thoughtful, skilled and professional land services available anywhere. In addition to our unmatched field work and “heavy lifting,” we provide complete land planning for residential and small commercial clients in our area.

We complete all of our own projects, operating our own full fleet of traditional and specialized heavy equipment. Our unique stewardship philosophy, Integrated Land Management, emphasizes a deep commitment to client education, total project management, and absolute accountability.

V&V strives to forge solutions that marry the ambitions and budgets of our clients with sound environmental practice and design. We believe the heart of good value is the integration of progressive and traditional management strategies. When planning and execution are effectively consolidated there is less room for error: communication, scheduling, and quality gaps are closed. That means our clients spend less money and save time.

Located in Asheville, NC, V&V is a service and consulting company devoted to thoughtful restoration and development solutions for our surrounding mountains and rolling hills (NC, SC, TN). We’re proud to be among the nation’s most experienced and respected practitioners of forestry mulching and permaculture-based land restoration. We are committed to leaving the earth a better place, one job at a time.

Integrated land management (ILM) is a unique stewardship-based approach to land management, development, and restoration. It is the lens through which we evaluate, plan, and execute our projects.

ILM inverts the paradigm that isolates a particular land owner’s goal as the complete focal point of a project. Experience has taught us that this approach leads to oversights, poor “hand-offs,” degradation, and higher costs. At V&V we seek to focus attention on the process, and, by extension, on entire properties and ecosystems. In this way, landowners work from the outside in. Our projects evolve in logical ways supported by solid stewardship, thorough planning, precision, and accountability.

Through strict adherence to four simple principles, Integrated Land Management seeks to ensure project success.

Your Land Comes First

This is the foundational principle of Integrated Land Management and its most important idea. “Your land comes first” means we take the time to thoroughly explore and evaluate our clients’ properties, their limitations and attributes, before we begin work. A fundamental comprehension of what can, or should, be done on a given piece of property is the tenet upon which all others are built.

The common practice of forcing land to conform to presupposed desires usually yields disastrous results. Most of the costly mitigation projects we are called to complete are the result of failing to consider the land first: driveways on inappropriate grades or soils, eroding or incomplete site work, collapsing walls, spreading invasive vegetation, etc. Mistakes can be brutally expensive to fix and generally contribute to the degradation of our delicate mountain ecology.

Education

Education is where it all begins. V&V is a provider with a passion for the pursuit of higher standards in the field of land management. We want our clients’ participation and their difficult questions. We want passionate landowners and dedicated stewards.

The more our landowners know about their individual properties; the soils, plants, timber, hydrology, habitats, and history, the more they can help us fashion wise strategies that yield positive long-term results. We are working toward multi-generational stewardship enhancements that depend upon the evolution of our shared understanding.

Planning

Lack of planning or poor planning is where most projects go awry. From driveways to retaining walls, timber harvesting to pasture restoration, it is our experience that if landowners researched and planned more thoroughly, better results could be achieved at much lower costs.

Most landowners would never feel comfortable building their home without blueprints or the oversight of a contractor, yet many initiate projects outside the home without the benefit of either. Land management projects such as road building, site preparation, pasture restoration, and wall construction tend to be more expensive and less clearly defined than most home construction projects. This means clients must not only spend more “boots-on-the-ground” time, but must also take advantage of planning tools such as digital mapping, aerial photography, quality engineering, soil profiling, computer modeling, and more.

These efforts ensure there is a clear and comprehensive plan that thoroughly accounts for the characteristics of a given property before expensive projects begin. Planning is incredibly cheap compared to even a small mistake on the ground. We’ve learned many times over that thorough planning contributes to clearer visualization, builds communication, and saves big money from the start.

Consolidation

Hire a single competent contractor to oversee your land goals, just as you would to build your home. The common practice of landowners acting as their own contractors; choosing multiple sub-contractors of various skill levels to complete multiple tasks over time, proves even more unsuccessful in land management than in home construction.

Consolidating tasks under the guidance of a single contractor means the right hand always knows what the left hand is doing. It means tasks are taken in proper sequence, in a timely fashion and redundancies and do-overs are eliminated.

We see common mistakes such as these constantly, by even the most reputable “green builders,” errors costing thousands while contributing to the waste of resources and time. Consolidation reduces mistakes, hastens task completion, and eliminates gaps in scheduling. Weather exposure, a major cause of budgetary overruns, is also minimized. Finally, consolidation means there is strict accountability and one simple and transparent billing structure.

Integrated Land Management doesn’t fight with Mother Nature – it works with her. ILM employs solutions and methods that imitate the wisdom of the natural world.

This means driveways are installed on appropriate grades and soils, retaining walls are correctly footed, fitted, battered, and back-filled, forestry mulching is practiced with an emphasis on natural succession and soil improvement, homesites are excavated with an eye toward minimal impact and integration, and so on.

Through ILM we learn as much as possible about a particular site before the work begins. We recognize the disastrous long-term cost consequences associated with ignoring nature’s wisdom. ILM is really simple: let Mother Nature’s preferences and provisions inform every decision and budget by trusting that this is where value, integrity, and success ultimately reside.

We trust these principles in all aspects of our consulting and service work. We want you to see your land through the clear lens of integrated land management so you can truly create and nourish the home and habitat you want your property to become. Whether you live in our service area or thousands of miles away, we want our website, staff, and philosophy to be a source of information and inspiration for you.

Let’s all help raise the bar on land management in the Southern Appalachians and elsewhere.

The Promised Land

We fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2005 when we swapped our recently remodeled Victorian in downtown Asheville for a beautiful, abandoned 300 acre property in the mountains of East Tennessee. The idea was to move closer to the pastimes we enjoyed or wanted to explore – hunting, gardening, animal husbandry, horsemanship, and backwoods living in general.

Despite coming without access to power, running water, or any usable structures (and without access in general) we thought we could make a go of it. The land was haunting and surreal – an abandoned farm (plus 2 graveyards) situated in an upland basin surrounded almost entirely by National Forest. It had everything – steep, rolling, and flat terrain, numerous creeks and springs, decent stands of hardwoods, as well as a dilapidated system of logging and farm roads.

The previous owner, a resident of Alaska with whom we forged an amicable lease-purchase agreement, knew almost nothing of the property having bought it as an investment some years before. Twenty years of neglect left former crop fields and pasture in an advanced state of succession. A few wetter acres were merely overgrown with saplings, multi-flora rose, sumac etc., but the majority was a tangled jungle of yellow pine, poplar, and cedar ranging from three to ten inches in diameter.

Our first goal, however, was a place to live.

Building a Cabin Without a Road

We began construction of a 16’ x 18’ cabin in the spring of 2004 while the property was still a “hunting lease.” Owning a construction company provided the necessary expertise, as well as an abundance of repurposed material. It did not, however, account for the lack of a usable road.

The property had no right-of-way, an issue that wouldn’t be fully resolved for another eight years. Our only option was an overgrown mud bogging route – initial failed entry attempts included a borrowed bulldozer and an appearance in federal court – apparently no amount of passion and/or ignorance is sufficient to offset unapproved rehabilitation of National Forest lands.

We also tried filling the enormous mud-bogging craters with brush and carpet scraps pillaged from the dumpster of a local carpet outlet. (This strategy usually allowed for a respectable entry pass at just the right speed, but not often an easy exit, especially after rain. Much was learned about the mechanical advantages of good cable rigging and caffeine).
Over a series of long weekends and treacherous supply hauls we managed a modest cabin, comprised mostly of materials recycled from remodeling jobs and scrap from the old collapsed barn.

By the end of 2004 the base footprint of the cabin we now call home was “roughly” complete…except for power and running water and insulation and really anything that might constitute an amenity. We managed also to drag in and plumb an ancient, leaky Knox Meal Master – a kitchen mainstay for impoverished Appalachian households for nearly a century (thus began our enchantment with traditional wood cook stoves).

Shortly after, we rehabilitated the old Forest Service road, this time with appropriate permitting, and began to expand our efforts. Sadly, both pickups trucks were casualties of war, the stalwart 1995 Tacoma to “repeated terrain encounters” and my lovely red 1986 F-150 to arson (not everyone was excited about the loss of quality mud bogging in the area…).

Early Attempts to Clear Abandoned Fields

After repeated attempts to clear the 90 plus acres of former pasture we realized that all traditional methods only created further issues and setbacks. We wanted to “work to scale” but also to use the available biomass (i.e. the pines and cedars) in a beneficial manner. We tried both hand clearing and bulldozing. The hand clearing was grueling and ineffective, while the bulldozer destroyed the soil structure and left enormous brush piles and erosion issues – you never go for a haircut and tell the barber, “go ahead and take a little scalp.”

It was at this juncture that research turned up the fledgling field of forestry mulching. We learned that we could turn thick 5 to 15 year old successional growth into mulch right on the spot. The mulch also protected the soil from erosion while degrading into a rich, black layer. We experimented with different levels of re-growth, inclination and aspect. In every case we were ecstatic – old cattle ditches were filled with mulch, reforested field areas were selectively thinned, farm roads and survey lines were recovered. We even cut horse trails with excellent mulch for footing and good clearance.

The results were other-worldly, the machinery however, was not. Forestry mulching is a high impact sport. First generation mulchers, and many still being built today, were basically experiments perpetrated on those in forestry and excavation trades. When they weren’t overheating, they were disabled by engineering issues. It wasn’t pretty but we persevered, refining techniques, improving maintenance, and providing necessary feedback, requested or otherwise, to the industry.

Our Family Expands

Our son Silas arrived early in 2007, and slowed proceedings somewhat. His arrival eventually became impetus to finally cobble our disparate solar components into a functional off-grid power system. Tip: have a professional design and build your system… and yes, you do need all those finicky little proprietary clips and bits. We spent several days designing and welding a stout solar rack in order to save money. Total savings – about $8. We also simultaneously built a pump and filtration system to bring creek water to the house – we are lucky enough to own the watershed and brave enough to drink with minimal filtration.

In typical homesteading fashion, things didn’t quite work exactly as planned. Just as we were becoming comfortable with our new amenities came a strike of lightning – Literally! Thanks to a direct hit to our system we were returned to our previous primitive living conditions for another eight months before repairs were completed.

Then followed the Great Recession. Progress continued on the farm but work was slow. Much time was spent planning and looking forward. By the end of 2011 there was light at the end of the tunnel… a tiny economic flickering, a few timid clients with minuscule budgets nursing us forward with a tree job or lot clearing here, a road or wall there, some occasional pasture restoration etc.

By the end of 2012 we were again profitable. Like other companies who escaped the ravages of economic collapse, we were back with renewed vigor. Better organized and more deeply committed to customer service, improved field standards, and education. The economic downturn gave us the necessary time needed to flesh out a formal working philosophy: Integrated Land Management.

It also gave us time to get many of our farm endeavors, including horses, chickens, and cows underway. This included new driveway access. By the end of 2012 our right-of way issues were finally resolved, freeing us up for 2015’s mile long driveway construction project which cut 20 minutes+ off our daily commutes….sometimes it isn’t just the little things that make the difference, it’s the big ones.

More Expansion

In 2013, our second son, Cade, arrived and the pace quickened. We brought several new talented, hard-working employees aboard and updated our equipment arsenal.

As an industry leader in responsible land restoration and development we also decided it was time to give something back. 2014 allowed us to the opportunity to contribute both muscle and expertise to a few worthy causes close to home including Asheville Community Yoga, and The Hot Springs Community Learning Center.

We also started a management intensive rotational grazing program for cattle and began experimenting with warm and cool season grasses….We are now a certified Master Beef Producer in the state of TN.

More than a decade into it, our commitment to the revitalization of the region’s delicate ecosystems and native resources continues to grow. We are currently experimenting with a variety of natural soil amendments, such as fish hydrolysate and myccorhizael additives, as well as native grass plantings and loblolly pine savannahs.

Each year we mulch several acres of abandoned field in an effort to reach our target goal of 100 pasturable acres. We hope to up the ante by sustainably logging 30 to 40 acres of poor successional growth under our Forest Stewardship Plan. We are hoping some early successful growth post timber harvest will create major habitat benefits.

All About Frank

Frank Vogler holds a B.S. in Political Science and B.A. In Classical Guitar Performance from Vanderbilt University. His graduate studies were conducted under acclaimed classical master Robert Guthrie at Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.

Frank maintains interests in poetry, politics, conservation biology, and professional wine tasting, as well as more physical pastimes such as yoga, hunting, music and natural horsemanship.

All About Carrie

Raised on the outskirts of London, Carrie always had an interest in the outdoors, with a passion for animals that was expressed by many years of volunteering at a rescue center, and scrounging access to any rideable horse she could find. A degree in Biology from University of the West of England led to a job in laboratory equipment sales, specifically ultra-cold storage of tissue samples like blood and brain.

This in turn brought her to Asheville (location of one of the world’s leading cryogenic freezer manufacturers; bet you didn’t know that!), and hence the fateful meeting with Frank, in Barley’s Taproom.

Fast forward twenty-odd years, two kids, and the move from downtown to no-town, and we find her running the land clearing side of V&V, overseeing the ground crew and the forestry mulching. Still riding horses and advocating for animal wellness, specifically through Steele Away Home canine foster group in Cocke County.