Food is personal. That is true for everyone and it remains true despite all the cultural differences of history, geography, language, etc…

Jamie, Walker, Zach and I went out to Hendersonville a few weeks ago for a discussion about blackberries. We learned about a lot of things we’ve been doing wrong. That always seems to be the case. The more you know about a subject, the more you recognize you don’t know.

Our over-producing blackberry canes


Farming is a constantly humbling profession. One that is so complex it is often difficult to understand the outcome of any particular action until several years later. On the way back to the farm, we talked about the frustrations of growing small fruits and apples, things that seem susceptible to such a multitude of pests, diseases, and fungal problems. In the blackberries, for instance, we thought that we were on top of our game because we’d pruned them well early in the winter and bedded them in the spring with hay to prevent weeds. Of course, we soon discovered that blackberries don’t really like thick bedding like ours, nor did we prune them sufficiently for the varietal type, a mistake that cost us half of the crop this year. At times, the pitfalls just seem too numerous to handle. It is as if any positive action is negated by unknown factors before it has the chance to provide any benefits. BUT, I think that one of the most rewarding parts of working on the farm is wrapped up right there in that very frustration. Despite all the dangers; despite the beetles and flies, despite the fungi, despite the rots, specks, blotches, and blights, growing good, healthy, organic fruit can be done. It can. We are doing it. And when it comes out right, when you pluck that apple from the tree and sink your teeth into the firm, juicy flesh, or pop those warm blueberries into your mouth, you know that it was worth it.

Food is personal. Everyone’s relationship with what they eat is different, but there are strong feelings involved whether a person eats primarily KFC, or Hickory Nut Gap chicken. Farming or gardening is, in this modern age, a way for us to understand our own relationship with food more completely. I enjoy knowing how my food is grown. Not just knowing the process, but intimately knowing and taking part in that process.

We are conducting a survey to see how we can improve the farm experience and make your next visit more fun, safe, and educational. Were you appalled? Excited? Interested? Confused? Ecstatic? We would greatly appreciate it if you could take five minutes to fill out our online questionnaire which you can access here. We do our best but we know that it’s always possible to improve. It only takes a few minutes and we need you to help us! Thank you!!

We have started selling North Carolina grassfed cows milk for the first time since Hickory Nut Gap Farm was a dairy! We aren’t the ones producing this milk, though. Wholesome Country Creamery is a new dairy outside of Hamptonville, NC. Their cows are 100% grassfed and humanely treated. We now sell both half gallons (available for $6.00) and 12oz bottles ($2.50) of the non-homogenized whole milk in our farmstore in Fairview.

Drinking the cream from milk is a treat that not many people get to enjoy anymore. Non-homogenized milk is pasteurized but it has not been through the pressurization process which evenly distributes the fat from the cream throughout the nonfat milk. This means that the cream will rise to the top of the whole milk and must be either shaken to disperse it, or enjoyed skimmed from the top of the bottle! Our farmstore is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Besides fresh whole milk, we sell a variety of other local products including: Roots hummus, 5th Sun Chips and Salsa, Haw Creek Honey, Buchi Kombucha, Roots and Branches crackers, and much more. Our grassfed beef, pastured pork, poultry, and eggs are also available for purchase at the farmstore.

A cool and rainy spring may have kept you inside too much over the past few months but it has done wonders for our fruits and berries! Our organic U-pick blueberries are just beginning to blush in shades of blue and our blackberries, black raspberries, and red raspberries are on their way to a beautiful crop. Beginning June 19th, you can bring the whole family out the farm to pick berries and enjoy the beautiful views from Berry Hill.

There is nothing more satisfying than the sweet, wily taste of fresh blueberries for breakfast. Unless, of course, you consider eating fresh blueberries still sun warm and succulent that you picked yourself from the farm. This will also be our first year to harvest black raspberries. They should begin to ripen toward the end of June and early July will be blackberry season for those who prefer a little more tartness in your berry. The red raspberries usually finish out the U-pick fruits, stretching the season until mid to late August and by then we’ll be gearing up for apples!

A farm in the spring is a busy place. I haven’t had much time in the past few months to write much of anything because the whole crew has been scrambling to keep up with all the projects that seem to be piling up in front of our eyes. We also had a major setback when Farmer Jake, our illustrious intern, broke his wrist while playing basketball a few weeks ago. He has been relegated to working in the office and the farmstore, his left arm firmly wrapped in a bright pink hard cast. His absence from the more physically demanding chores has left Walker and Jamie and me with a lot more on our plates than we had anticipated what with apple spraying, taking care of the U-pick berries, maintaining a mowing schedule, feeding and moving the animals, fixing fences, harvesting asparagus and mushrooms, attending farmers markets…

The problem is that there is no end to the chores you haven’t done on the farm, so making time to write can be difficult. There’s always something else that seems more pressing or has more time sensitive consequences than posting on the blog. Considering all that, I’m going to take satisfaction in the small number of posts I have made and, once again, resolve to be more diligent in the future.

What else can I tell you about the past few weeks? We…well, I… did have a near catastrophe with the apple sprayer that scared the wits out of me and very nearly caused a major setback in our attempt at holistic orcharding.

I had been spraying the trees with Kaolin Clay all morning and the tractor and sprayer looked like they’d gotten coated with powdered sugar. The clay is meant to deter the curculio beetle, a pest that lays eggs in the developing fruitlets and can destroy and apple crop without proper attention and management. The clay is ground microfine and when it is applied liberally to the apple trees, flakes off on the beetles and inhibits them from completing their reproductive activity.

When I had finished spraying and cleaned out the spray tank, I headed back up the mountain to park the 300 gallon sprayer in the shed. What I didn’t realize was that I hadn’t completely secured the sprayer hitch to the ball on the back of the tractor. While there was spray in the tank, the weight kept the whole thing from bouncing off but now that it was empty, the contraption balanced precariously on its one set of wheels and was only resting lightly on the tractor ball. As I pulled onto sugar hollow I noticed that a black Lexus was coming around the curve behind me but I didn’t give it a second thought. A slight bump in the road made the tractor seat bounce but then I heard a snap and saw the sprayer handle and connection lines tear from their mount on the tractor beside me. I spun in my seat only to see the oddly shaped machine careening back down the road and gaining speed as it went. The driver of the Lexus seemed oblivious for a moment that the vehicle in front of him was headed straight for the recently waxed hood of his sedan. Or maybe he was just inclined to play a one sided game of chicken. I waved wildly at him and tried to shout over the thrum of the tractor. Finally he  broke out of his momentary stupor and swerved into the other lane. He sped around the whole scene and, without so much as a “ Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you”, ran the stop sign at the top of the hill as if he couldn’t wait to get the heck out of Fairview.

The sprayer didn’t make the curve in the road but instead went straight over the edge of the road, down a steep bank, through a barbed wire fence, and crashed into a rhododendron bush. I pulled the tractor off the road and ran down the barn, legs shaking slightly, to get help.

Walker, Jamie, and I were able to pull the sprayer back onto the road and found that, through some miracle, it hadn’t been damaged beyond reckoning. Only the handle, which extends from the spray tank to the tractor, and the odd little platform on the back of the sprayer had gotten mangled. Everything else was more or less untouched by the accident. I kicked myself thoroughly for not correctly securing the hitch, but I guess sometimes those kinds of mistakes are good. I will never, never pull out without checking and rechecking that connection again. Ever. I suppose it was just lucky that the Lexus driver didn’t play his game of chicken for one second longer, and that the rhododendron bush stopped the sprayer from crashing all the way down the hill, and that the odd little platform on the back that acted like a rear bumper. Oh yes, I’m counting my blessings on this one.