Ha! Reading back over my initial post I realized I forgot to include some very crucial information: my name, for starters, what I’m doing taking over the blog, and how exactly I fit into the picture of Hickory Nut Gap Farm. I’m sure for anyone reading this, the last post was an interesting and completely baffling piece of writing which held very little in the way of context clues about its meaning. I hope that didn’t deter you from reading on. Mark Clarke. That’s my name. As to my connection to the farm, that explanation is a bit more involved.

In 1916 my great grandparents, James and Elizabeth McClure, came to Asheville from Chicago on their honeymoon and were smitten with the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. They were so taken with the area that they decided to purchase an old house (the former Sherrill’s Inn) and a sizeable tract of land for farming. The couple had very little knowledge of the rigors of raising pigs, growing apples, or even maintaining the garden, but with the help of some local farmers and a fiery Presbyterian determination, they began to bring life back into the dilapidated old homestead. Over the years the farm has known many different visions under drastically distinctive leadership, but the McClure descendants have not lost the love of this land that the young couple felt when they first looked out over the hazy peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Jamie Ager, with his wife Amy, is part of the fourth generation on the farm and, together, they are the present day managers and owners of the business. I am also a part of that fourth generation. I’m fortunate that the Agers are not only family, they are great employers. My English degree may not seem to connect very effectively with farming, but Jamie and Amy thought I might be able to add something to the business through writing. Part of the vision of Hickory Nut Gap Farm is to educate customers about the farm and what we do here. That’s where the blog comes in. I hope this lends a bit of clarity to my first post and I’m sure all the things I have still forgotten to explain will fall into place as I continue to write about the history and activity of the farm.

Cheers!

Mark

Fall on the farm. You can just see the old Sherrill’s Inn up on the right.

 

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and, like so many of my classmates, I found myself weighted down by an indefinable dread at the thought of what was next. I wasn’t afraid applying for a job, or finding a place to live, or even beginning to pay my own bills. Those things were concrete. I knew that they would begin to fall into place as I moved forward. No, my real fear stemmed not from inexperience, but from indecision. For so many years my path had been clearly laid out in front of me and now, without regard for academic success or extracurricular participation, life stopped handing me my goals and said, “ok, now you decide”. It was like hiking on a narrow trail for miles with very few forks to choose from and then suddenly the path disappears in a thicket and anything further can only be accomplished by bush-whacking.

When my cousins Jamie and Amy Ager offered me a job helping out on the farm for the busy fall season, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I need direction, I was aching to get my hands dirty, to spend my days outdoors, and to acquire some skills beyond those peculiar academic qualities I’d nurtured for so long. I was a little concerned that moving back home and working on the family farm would be stifling. Unlike so many people who can’t wait to get out of their home town and away from their parents though, I feel blessed to live in a place like Fairview, surrounded by an interesting, loving, and exuberant family. This blog is my chance to give a little glimpse of what our conjunction of land, history, and family looks like—to me, at least. With all my talk of direction, this may seem like moving backwards and maybe it is. But it doesn’t feel that way. Someone told me once that history is not what just what happened, it’s who we are. In a sense, my writing here will be a journal of work on the farm, exploring the history of the land, and getting to know my family members as an adult; all things that I’m confident will help me to understand how I should move forward and where it is I want to go.  I hope that these entries are interesting not just for the stories that I will recount, but also for the learning process that is already taking place and which I will share as best I can, with you.

Our eleven month aged, pastured pork hams have been transformed yet again into a prosciutto style thinly sliced, cured delicacy. Available at the Farm Store, Asheville City Market, North Asheville Market and West Asheville Market. Wrap it over asparagus, treat yourself to using it as a pizza topping or create a locally grown charcuterie appetizer tray at your next holiday party including: HNG prosciutto, sopressata, salami, smoked kielbasa.

Keep a look out for our cured meat gift baskets, available to ship to loved ones across the United States this November and December. Goodies to be included: sopressata, salami, salami milano, pepperoni, hot sopressata, beef jerky and beef snack sticks. If you aren’t friends with us on facebook please like us now there will be posts letting you know when these packages are available for purchase. https://www.facebook.com/hickorynutgapfarm

Updated in October 2016:

Order your pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free Thanksgiving Turkey from Hickory Nut Gap Meats!  From their curiosity for shiny belt buckles, shoe brads, and diamond rings to their amazing ability to communicate, turkeys are always a pleasure to raise. Although they do have their challenges. We have had years that all but 5 of our heritage breeds went to roost in the trees and flew away, freezing temperatures on processing days and birds that wieghed in at 30 lbs, hanging over the pan and barely able to fit in the oven. We hope this year will be very predictable so far so good… we estimate having 12-20 lb birds available at $4.50/lb.

Here is how it works: there is a $20 deposit required to place your turkey order. Turkeys will be available fresh and frozen on November 19th, 20th, and 21st from 9am – 6pm. First come first serve on size. Let us know if one of our pastured raised birds can grace your family’s table this year, we’d be honored if so.

Customer qoute from this weekend ” this is basically…awesome” that, made me smile! Visit the Farm from 9-6pm seven days a week through October 31. This fall has been an amazing time on the farm. We have had over 1900 visitors so far this season! Folks have been giving us great feedback on the trike track. When was the last time you tried riding a three wheeled bike? Well come out and enjoy riding tricycles with your family, we have two adult and six kid bikes available and a fun little track in our newly opened barn area. When your legs get tired have a little rest on the tire swing while enjoying your maple bacon ice cream (it really is delicous). There are piglets, ponies, goats, baby chicks and calves to pet. We even have a round bale maze, recommended for four feet and under and a pick your own pumpkin patch. Enjoy food from one of our weekend food trucks and sip hot cider by the creek while your watch your kids play and don’t forget to take home some delicious locally grown apples. There is so much to enjoy on the farm this fall, come see us!

This recipe is one of our regular customer’s FAVORITES!
Keller’s Roast Chicken Recipe
The chicken must be at room temperature before it goes in the oven, or the chicken will not cook evenly. What Keller recommends (and what we do) is leave the chicken in the refrigerator, uncovered (on a plate and not touching anything else in the fridge), for 1-2 days after buying it, so that the skin gets a bit dried out. It will roast up crispier this way. Then 1 1/2 to 2 hours before it goes in the oven, we put it on a plate on the kitchen counter to come to room temp (about 70 degrees). Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken before you set it out to come to room temp. (Save for stock.)

Ingredients
One 4 to 4 1/2 pound chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (smash with the side of a chef’s knife, makes it easier to peel)
5 thyme sprigs
About 1/3 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil (Keller uses canola oil, we prefer olive or grapeseed oil)
4 Tbsp butter, room temperature (spreadable)
A large (11-inch if you have it) cast-iron frying pan
Kitchen string

Method
1 Preheat oven to 475°F.

2 Use a paring knife to cut away the wishbone from the neck/breast area of the chicken. You will probably have to use your fingers to feel around for it. This is a little bit tricky, but if you can remove the wishbone first, it will make the chicken easier to carve after it is cooked. (This ease of future carving is the only reason to take the bone out, so you can leave it in if you want.)

3 Generously season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Add three garlic cloves and 5 sprigs of the thyme to the cavity, using your hands to rub the thyme and garlic all around the cavity.

4 Truss the chicken with kitchen string. To do so, start by cutting a 3-foot section of cotton kitchen string. Place the chicken so that it is breast up, and the legs pointing toward you. Tuck the wing tips under the chicken. Wrap the string under the neck end of the bird, pulling the string ends up over the breast, toward you, plumping up the breast. Then cross the string under the breast (above the cavity and between the legs). Wrap each end around the closest leg end, and tie tightly so that the legs come together.

5 Slather the chicken with oil and season well with salt and pepper.

6 Place the chicken in the pan. Slather the top of the chicken breasts with butter.

7 Place the pan in the oven and roast the chicken for 25 minutes at 475°F. Then reduce the heat to 400°F and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 160°F on a meat thermometer and the juices run clear.

8 Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving to serve.

9 Cut the chicken into serving pieces.

Serves 4.

We are hosting school groups again this year and hope that you will consider Hickory Nut Gap for your students agricultural experience. A typical farmer guided fieldtrip includes an apple tasting, touching and feeding the animals, pollination activity, time for the maze, the trike track and hay pile. Cost for tour is $5/student and chaperone. Teachers are free. Call to schedule your classes tour today!

As always we are raising pastured turkeys again this year. See Walkers video from their first day on the farm. Turkeys are some of the most curious animals we raise on the farm, while some doubt their intelligence, we admire their curiosity and vocal socializations. Soon they will be moving out to pasture to graze on insects and clover. Put your order in today for a frozen pasture raised turkey. $4.50/lb, approximately 12-25 lbs frozen.

If you are one of our many customers who frequent the farm and are activities during the fall we invite you to purchase a season pass for you and your family. The farm is open to the public 7 days a week in September and October from 9-6pm and is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with your children or entertain your out of town leaf watchers. We have a picnic area by the creek and other family friendly areas that will allow you to supervise your childrens play while engaging in actual adult conversation with your friends and family. Adult Pass $20, Child Pass $14, Age 2 and under FREE.

We are gearing up for our 6th season of inviting families to our farm for fall activities and are excited to have expanded our offerings for 2012. Come check out the renovated barn which will include the famous hay pile, new trike track, expanded animal area and performance space. We have food trucks lined up to serve lunch and snacks and have diversified our products with in the farm store to include more beverages, local artists and crafters, pickled good and much more. The organic apples and raspberries continue to ripen and the bale maze is under construction. There are alot of new things in store for you this year, stop by and see us. Current hours are Wednesday- Friday 1-5 and Saturday 10-5. Starting September 1st we are open 7 days a week from 9 am – 6pm.