Hickory Nut Gap was a through road for the drovers taking their animals to the markets in the Appalachian foothills. Our family history began on this land in 1916 when Jim and Elizabeth McClure settled here after their honeymoon. 105 years later we continue to be stewards of the land nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Continental Divide in Buncombe County.


The modern history of Hickory Nut Gap Farm began in 1916, with the arrival of Jim and Elizabeth McClure.

Newly married and still on their honeymoon, they fell in love with the old Sherrill’s Inn and the surrounding farm. Elizabeth devoted herself to restoring the old inn and its landscaping. On April 30th, 1918 Jim held the first official meeting of the Hickory Nut Gap Farm Company. Wading into farm work, Jim learned firsthand about the many difficulties of mountain agriculture.

We are now five generations of McClure descendants on this land.

Diary entries from the year 1918 written by Jim McClure:

  • Aug. 1, 1918 – “The cursed, cursed pigs are rooting up the whole lawn.”
  • Sept. 11, 1918 –  “…threshed 46 1/2 bu. wheat, 15 rye, 18 oats & 1 barley.”
  • Sept. 13, 1918 – “Sent wheat to Alexander’s mill & they said it was the best wheat they had had brought in.”
  • Sept. 18, 1918 – “…molasses being made, Fin, John & Foy at the evaporator, John with Red & Brown [the mules] hauling cane—& W.B. Morgan, Croak & Zeb strip-ping &cutting cane.”
  • Sept. 19, 1918 – “Molasses started at crack of dawn. By noon…50 gal. was made by 8 p.m.”
  • Oct. 8, 1918 – “Finished picking apples totaling 125 [barrels] …Started [grain] dryer this day & it did twice catch on fire & we are feeling sullen at the Demonstrating agents for getting us into it.”

Jim and Elizabeth McClure
In 1920, Jim McClure helped found the Farmers Federation. The federation was a cooperative with a vision to improve agriculture in Western North Carolina. We Plow God’s Fields tells the story of the McClures, the Farmers Federation, and early life at Hickory Nut Gap.

Elspeth McClure and James McClure Clarke
Elspeth married James McClure Clarke just after the war. James Clarke became the U.S. Congressman for 3 terms during the 1980’s. They raised eight children on the farm. Under the leadership of the fourth generation, Hickory Nut Gap Farm is enjoying a wonderful renaissance.


In 2008 the land was put into a conservation easement with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Protected for eternity, the land will remain managed by the family and in the production of their agricultural pursuits.

Some of the six children, now grown with children and grandchildren of their own, remain here at the farm and in the area, while some have moved away to pursue a different course in life. This large farm family gathers often as the draw of the family home and its agricultural heritage is still strong.

John and Annie (Clarke) Ager host the Hickory Nut Gap Farm Camp. Nearly every day you can catch Annie on horseback with a line of riding students following behind her. John Ager is involved in farmland preservation efforts in the region and a partner in Drovers Road Preserve. John was recently elected as a North Carolina General Assembly Representative. John and Annie had 4 boys: Jamie, Eric, Kevin, and Doug.

  • Amy and Jamie Ager co-own the Hickory Nut Gap Farm business and the brand Hickory Nut Gap Meats. Both are graduates of Warren Wilson College. They have three eager boys who enjoy moving cows and feeding baby chicks.
  • Eric and Rachel Ager currently live in Turkey with their four children.
  • Kevin Ager is in the Army and works in California.
  • Doug Ager lives in Asheville and co-owns the renewable energy company Sugar Hollow Solar with his cousin Phelps Clarke. He can sometimes be seen jogging by the farm on his lunch breaks as their office is located nearby.