Our house is nestled on a slope about 8 feet below a split rail fence. Right now all the lady cows are in Rutherford County finishing up the stockpiled grass from the farm we lease down there and the two bulls are grazing in the Chamomile Field which borders our yard. The bulls seem to get along with each other just fine since there aren’t any cute cows to show off for. The trees along the fence line help to keep their spirits up as it shields them from the rainy weather we’ve had recently.

It’s been a wet couple of weeks mostly marked by mud on our boots, red clay paths throughout the farm store, and the gnawing need to pour the concrete pad for the kitchen we are building at the farm. We try to wait patiently for the rain to stop, long enough to make mopping a worthwhile endeavor and to check for a forecast that suggests we might get something done in the near future. We overcame the urge to be productive one day last week and instead cuddled on the couch watching basketball and those hilarious Capital One and VW Passat commercials while discussing that the next feasible day to pour the pad would be in a week. So we would just have to wait regardless of what the google calendar plan I put together last week indicated. I am from Louisville, KY and Jamie’s from NC so basketball is something that both he, the kids and I do together during the month of March. It wasn’t SO bad to have to wait out the weather I guess. (Note: UL plays NC State on Friday night. Go CARDS!)

But while my mind was being swept away in basketball and how my bracket was performing, I kept having this unsettled sense that I was being watched. As I turned my head, slowly mind you, to see what could be out there, the bull- all 1500 lbs of him- was intently leaning over the split rail watching us through the bay window as if he wanted to come in to get warm and dry by the woodstove too! I looked at Nolin and said, ” Look, I think the bull wants to come inside.” He walked over to the door and said, “ok,” gauging my reaction and teasing me by turning the sticky handle of the door threatening to call the bull “co-um, cuu-uum”.  Levi got on board with the idea and we considered where the bull might sit that Sunday afternoon and which team he would be pulling for. Par for the course with a discussion between two boys, ages 8 and 5, the question was also entertained, “what if he poops and pees in the house mom?” “That would be a disaster boys! [consider mopping that up I think] “lets just let him stay where he is, how about that?”

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He’s there at the top of the pasture nearly every morning while we are getting ready for school. Maybe he appreciates the general chaos our household embodies ranging from indoor Nerf wars to celebratory win wrestling matches. (see below) I hope our family of five provides those two bulls with ample entertainment and peaks their curiosity about humans in general. I remember a time when it was final exam week at Warren Wilson and I was splitting my time between studying, two jobs, my friends and a functional amount of sleep, I would often drive back onto campus and pass the cows in the field wishing that I had a cows life of leisure. Some of those lady cows were nearing 10 years old at that point seeing them hanging out on Dogwood all day grazing and socializing spawned a jealously within.  Free time was such a luxury in college and at times still is, but in that moment when my husband was home, my kids were all together and the game was on, I was happy to be on inside the looking out and even happier that the bull was on his side of the fence and not in my living room!

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Jamie and I often ask this of each other when we are up in the middle of the night catching up on all the things we weren’t able to touch base about that day, taking advantage of the rare quietness in our house while the children are sleeping. The answers could be running two businesses, giving attention to our marriage, raising three boys, driving to basketball and soccer games, or building a kitchen at the farm. It could be gaining more gray hair and lines around the eyes, spending Sunday afternoons working on budgets and cash flow projections, loading pigs, or walking the farm waiting for the grass to grow. Or perhaps if we choose to take a long term scope, we may say to each other, building a grassfed beef and pastured pork brand, developing a regional production model of grass finishing that works in the Appalachian mountain region, raising food that people can trust, creating opportunities for young people in agriculture, serving our customers, and all in all trying to make things work, everyday, holding the pieces together- all of them, all of the time.

We are entrepreneurs, we are farmers, and we are a family. We are putting it all on the line because we think that taking the risk to build our family business is worth it, and we think based on what’s happened so far that you all will like it and that you will come here and to shop, play, and enjoy our farm as much as we do.   We want to create an atmosphere that’s intriguing and inviting — a place to hold your child’s birthday party, a wedding reception, your family reunion, where we will feed you meat raised on our farm, cooked in our kitchen, served by our dedicated staff who treat our business as if it were their own. We want you to think of HNG when you have a free afternoon with your children and you want to show them where their food comes from, what a farm feels like and while you hold their hand walking in the orchard share with them your own memories of your family farm when you worked alongside your grandfather as a child.

Jamie likes to say our mouth just isn’t big enough for the bite we are trying to take. Some days it does seem we are trying to down a half pound cheeseburger with all the fixins on a big sesame seed bun but if you sprinkle that with two days of big opportunities launched and task list accomplished you can, well, sleep at night.

The launch of our new website comes at another turning point as we have now, without realizing it really, arrived at our 15 year plan. This is why we ask ourselves what ARE we doing and how did this happen?  We spend our centered moments thinking through the best way to launch the next piece of our vision for Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Hickory Nut Gap Meats, and our family’s future.

We have plenty of ideas, believe me! There was a point in 2009 when our third son was born that I put a moratorium on new ideas, it became mandatory to only work on the things we had in motion and not add any more to our plate. However, now Levi is 5, Nolin 8, Cyrus 10, and we are gaining some space. They are helping out and interested in what’s next on the farm, and frankly, it’s so cool that they are because I can picture myself working next to my sons in the coming years and feeling so proud of them — that they care and that they may want to be a part of the movement too and that soon they will be the ones with a million ideas.

The next 15 years will be the second phase of raising our children, of our marriage, and of our business. I hope that we have spent our working hours so far laying a foundation that will carry our family and our vision to a place that serves our community what it needs to thrive.

Amy Ager