I recently reconnected with and visited local farmer and not so distant cousin, Robin Reeves. Glenn and I enjoyed some of Robin’s pastured, pork, turkey and chicken; I never knew turkey meatloaf could be so delicious. While visiting the farm, we recalled our family connection, and I enjoyed a tour of her family’s historic pre-civil war brick farmhouse.
Reeves Homeplace Farm in Little Sandy Mush has been farmed by Robin’s family for over 200 years. Robin was drawn back to this family tradition after a number of years away for college, and restaurant and agriculture business careers. While growing up on the farm, Robin’s family farmed beef cattle, burly tobacco and tomatoes. After her father, Burder, lost his leg due to diabetes, she and her son, Reeves, moved home to the farm to help her mother, Betty, take care of her dad. During this time, she became interested in raising pasture raised chickens, ducks and turkeys, and she began building this farm venture over the course of three years while she continued her WNC Ag career and helped with her father’s care until he passed away. By this time, Robin was seriously wrestling with the pull of coming home to the farm full-time; she struggled with this for a year before making the decision in 2011 to commit to farming full-time. She is committed to the hard and rewarding work of raising healthy pastured livestock to provide her customers with beef, pork, rabbit, duck, turkey and chicken. She also grows a few vegetables and sells eggs to round out her farm offerings. You can drop by the farm, as I did, to pick up your meat or you can also find her farm offerings at the Leicester Tailgate Market and Madison Farms.
Additionally, Robin raises show turkeys that are shown at the NC State Fair. That is Robin holding one in the photo. Also strutting in one of the photos is Robin’s favorite rooster. Robin was willing to let me relocate the other roosters to Bee Branch Farm, but I assured her that we and our hens are quite happy with the current status.
Robin and I share a common family ancestry through our Reynolds’ relations. My great-great grandmother, Juanna Estalene, and her great-grandmother, Mary Cornelia, were siblings, and one of their younger brothers was AC Reynolds, the well-respected local educator. I have a copy of a brief bio he wrote, at his daughter’s request, recording family history in which he details his accompanying his father, brother and others as they took a drove of turkeys and a drove of sheep to Asheville on foot; this was a three day trip round trip away from home probably in the late 1870’s. He recounts his awe in first seeing the French Broad River, and how this trip opened up his world: “Our world was no longer bounded by the mountains which stood upon all sides of our farm, but it reached twenty miles to the east and would soon cross the mountain and reach fourteen miles to the west.”
The farmhouse that Robin and her family live in was built by Malachia Reeves prior to the civil war; the one foot thick walls were built with bricks molded of clay from the farm, fired and put together with sand and lime Here is a little more history that I looked up in family documents that have been compiled by many diligent family historians over the years. My thanks to you all!
In 1891, Cornelia (Nelia) married Robert Fillmore Reeves, son of Elizabeth Robeson and Malachia Reeves. They lived in a log cabin behind the brick farmhouse until their first child was born and Malachia died of pneumonia; they lived in the brick farmhouse the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, Robert’s life was cut short at the young age of 44. Nelia had to see to the operation of the farm and rear the children, who were ranging in age from 2-18 by this time. They raised cattle, hogs and chickens as well as food crops. Nelia rode her horse to Waldrup’s store in Big Sandy Mush to sell eggs and chickens and to do her marketing. Later a store was built on the Reeves’ property, which was run by Commodore Wells. The store sold everything from suits and hats to chewing tobacco and cheese. After 1918, when her son, Rosco (Ross), Robin’s grandfather, returned from World War I, Nelia managed the store with him, and a corn mill was built next to it. Nelia was another strong and resourceful mountain woman who kept the farm going and continued to live an active life until her death in 1958 at the age of 89. I am certain that she would be proud of Robin for her commitment to family and the farm.
I am excited that Reeves Homplace Farm will be one of our Sandy Mush Farm to Cycle stops on September 28th. Many people will get to learn more about this family farming tradition, and help support farmland preservation which is near and dear to both Robin and my hearts. Robin’s family is also working closely with Southern Appalachian Conservancy to protect their farmland for perpetuity.