Category Archives: Sandy Mush Farm Stories

A Handcrafted Christmas on the Farm

Community, crafts and giving are what inspired our first annual A Handcrafted Christmas in Sandy Mush.  Our friends, Jeff and Dianne Frisbee are hosting this holiday craft bazaar at their farm, Addison Farms Vineyard.  Jeff grew up on this family farm that has been farmed by several generations of his family.  As many families did in our community, Jeff’s grew tobacco and raised beef cattle and always had a large family vegetable garden.  Jeff and Dianne live in one of the family farm houses, and they have built a beautiful new tasting room which is where the artisans will be showcasing a quality selection of handcrafted gifts.

Jeff and Dianne are grateful to be home after living in the Atlanta area for many years.  They are investing in our community by starting their new business, Addison Farms Vineyard, which is a long-term commitment.  That takes vision and hard work.  I especially appreciate that part of their vision, written into their business plan, is to give back to their community quarterly.  That is an additional investment in our community.  In order to raise funds for Eliada Homes this quarter, they are hosting a $10 charitable gift wine tasting, and they will be matching donations up to $500.  I believe in supporting businesses who value giving back, not just taking; especially when they make a commitment to do it even in the early and tougher years, not just one day when it will be easier.

When I approached Dianne about hosting a holiday craft bazaar for our community, she was excited and willing to jump in even though we only had a little over a month to pull it together.  I love it when people are willing to say “yes, let’s make it happen.”   She gets the import of providing venues for our craftspeople to come together and share their quality work.  This is community building.  This is also an excellent opportunity for others to enjoy their beautiful work and invest in handcrafted, quality gifts that have lasting value because you are also investing in the person, their story, their family and their community.  I hope you take the opportunity to join us as we make this a community tradition.

A Handcrafted Christmas - Saturday, December 7, 12-5

A Handcrafted Christmas – Saturday, December 7, 12-5pm

Doris Gibson:  Gibson Confections –   Chocolates, Gift Baskets

Sacha and Roberta:  3 Graces Dairy –   Cheese

Robin Reeves – Reeves Homeplace Farm –   Jams and Jelly

Kevin Duckett –   Leatherwork, journal covers, cigar boxes… more!

Doc Welty: Leicester Valley Clay –   Pottery

Olga Dorenko –    Fine Art Paintings, Scarves, Prints

Gary Verni-Lau –   Fine Art Paintings

Sally and Stan Justice –   Cutting boards, rolling pins, walking sticks, looms, weaving, soap

Linda Guertler –   Beeswax and soy wax candles with essential oils

Keeley  Turner –  Paintings and t-shirts

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History and Harvest at Reeves Homeplace Farm in Little Sandy Mush…another farm story

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.

Springtime Inspiration on Ostara Farm in Big Sandy Mush

Meet Sunflower, Petunia and baby on the way will make three – (three pumpkin-loving Jersey cows that is) and a flock of cackling hens and a strutting rooster, and, of course, Tara and Sean, the farmers of Ostara Farm.  Now before someone looks at the photos and then questions if I know the difference between pumpkin-loving cows and winter squash-loving cows, let me allay your concerns.  These cows really prefer pumpkins, but the pumpkins were gone and they were just going to have to settle for winter squash during my visit.  I believe Sean mentioned that this was good for their digestive system.  They are 100% grass-fed with additional treats of yummy homegrown veggies, and the milk is organic jersey milk that per NC law is only sold for animal consumption.  My mouth watered thinking about the “real” milk I enjoyed as a child.  No wonder our homemade ice cream was creamy, yummy growing up; the richness makes all the difference.  I must have Tara and Sean over for ice cream this summer; they bring the milk and I do the rest.  Either that or I get our own Jersey cow…hmmm.  After they reminded me of the milking schedule, I think I’ll hold off adding a Jersey to our farm household.   

Tara fell in love with growing her own food and Sandy Mush while interning for Joe Allawos on his farm on Sugar Creek.  She realized that the organic vegetables and the physical exercise she was getting were lessening her fibromyalgia pain.  Tara reflects “ I later came to understand that my body is highly sensitive to chemicals in food.  When I eat conventional foods for any length of time, my body starts to hurt.  So the more I produce my own food the better I feel- it gets me out moving around in the sunshine and the food is clean.  Years later, I read that Fibromyalgia is associated with a buildup of chemicals in the fascia of the body, causing pain and that people who have it cannot process all of the chemicals our environment is laden with, and my own personal experience seems to back this up.”

Tara graduated with a biology and environmental studies background from UNCA, and she and Sean utilize biointensive and permaculture practices on their farm; they use a no till system with a whole lot of mulch.  They do have good looking garlic, which is what inspired my visit; that and wanting to see for myself if they really don’t have to weed due to the heavy mulch.  (I’ll be back in June to check on those weeds or lack thereof.)

Farming has been a natural progression from her internship, growing for herself, then surplus to friends and faculty, to starting a CSA for UNCA faculty, and now selling at the French Broad Coop on Biltmore Ave.  Ask for Ostara Farm’s garlic, and later this season their produce and eggs will be available there as well.  They will also be selling starts at Fifth Season Gardening in Asheville.

After living in a few other places, Tara and Sean made their way back to Sandy Mush and carved out a special home for their farm, Ostara, named for a goddess of spring solstice.  Springtime on a farm holds such promise!  Before I took my leave of Ostara, Petunia let me pet her and I had one more question for Tara: “What do you love about living in Sandy Mush?”.  Tara was quick to articulate the depth of her feelings:

“It is one of the most beautiful valleys on Earth and I feel very close to Spirit here.  I also love that it is still a farming community- we have lots of farming neighbors that we like and can share common interests and experiences with.  Farming can be isolating, but not quite as much in this valley as some of the other places we’ve lived and farmed.  It feels nice to support each other in our work, makes it feel like what I am doing is more magnified, having a larger impact.”

Tara is also passionate about her work with the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council.  

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I love farmers!

As a whole, farmers are generous souls who are willing to share their knowledge, their time and their stories.  I had fun visiting a couple of local farms this past week.  I finally dropped by to meet Janet Peterson on her lovely Cloud 9 Farm in Fairview.  Janet and her partner, Jeff, are building on what her father started several years ago as a timber and blueberry farm.; they have now diversified into beef, chickens, honeybees, blueberries and a sawmill operation.  They also have two lovely accommodations for those wanting a Blue Ridge vacation; they have a charming cabin and a ranch home with a spectacular view.  If you have visitors coming to Asheville, I recommend a Cloud 9 Farm stay; it even includes fresh eggs delivered to your door.  An additional important aspect of the farm to me is that they are working with Buncombe County Soil and Water on a Conservation Easement. 

I also dropped by Ostara Farm in Sandy Mush to talk garlic and mulching with Tara, and came home with yummy homemade cottage cheese for my mom that brought back childhood memories of Big Nanny, what I called her grandmother, who lived on Curtis Creek in Candler; she was a very self-sufficient woman with a green thumb and a big heart.  I love to hear stories of Big Nanny and her strawberries and her milk cow and her quilting and her strong independence.

Since I love farmers and love their stories, I am going to add a new aspect to my blog.  I am going to share stories of farmers in Sandy Mush, and since Sandy Mush is full of interesting people and stories, I will probably include stories of crafts people and others as well.  I’ll try to share a story once a month, and you will find all of them archived under the Sandy Mush Farm Stories category.  I hope you will get the opportunity to know these people and to support their passion and hard work.

Since I just visited Tara and Sean of Ostara Farm, I will get started with them.  Stay tuned…