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.