Heifer's Farm Dinner at Against the Grain Farm

Recently I trooped out to Against the Grain Farm to capture images of a farm dinner Heifer USA was hosting for a number of high country farmers, chefs, local foods entrepreneurs and key players within the Heifer organization.

Holly Whitesides co-owner of Against the Grain Farm shared with newcomers the history and ethos of their farm before leading folks on a tour of the grounds.

Sipping locally brewed beverages attendees marched past hoop houses and hen coops.

At the far side of a 'holler visitors were greeted by an excited and quite vocal band of hogs.

Heifer C.E.O Pierre Ferrari enjoyed some conversation with one of the more outspoken members of the drove.

Jeffrey Scott, project director for Heifer's Appalachia Region described some of the work Heifer USA has been involved with supporting our High Country local food system.


He then encouraged folks to "sit with someone you don't know," "listen deeply" and generally eat, drink and be merry.


The food provided by local farmers and prepared by Reid's Catering was plentiful and delicious.


Lively conversation was also in good supply as folks compared notes and exchanged thoughtful reflections.


Finally a bonfire was lit and people nursed beers, chatting as the sun dimmed and the stars poured out into a late harvest evening.


The Petaled Finery of Goldenrod Gardens

I had arranged to meet with Lee Carlton the owner/operator/farmer/grower/weeder of Goldenrod Gardens a few days earlier. She told me to meet her at 6:30am on the F.I.G. Farm in Valle Crucis - a privately owned tract of land set aside for aspiring young farmers.

Lee walked me between well defined rows of flowers snipping and collecting bright stems as she went. Here a long bed of zinnias....

There a bi-colored bed of Gomphrena.

Lee explained that she grows her flowers for mixed use. Flowers for fresh bouquets of course, but also selecting colorful and interesting varietals that dry well for use in her Fall wreaths. These purple scabiosa were extraordinary.

And how about these little green star flower spheres!

I spent quite a bit of time moving and shooting amidst the petaled finery. These dahlias had me entranced for a good ten minutes before Lee snipped and set them in a jelly jar vase.

Besides flowers Lee also grows a healthy stock of vegetables. A number of different kinds of beans.

I loved the delicate peach colored bean flowers that bloomed above the stalks with bees floating between well pollen-ed stamen.

One long row of peppers included poblanos, jalapenos, serranos, bell varietals and the hot but fruity scorpion pepper. Lee worked her way down a row filling a basket with their fiery treasure.

Finally we trooped to the interior of the farm where towering rows of sunflowers reached for a bright but overcast sky. I spent some time getting lost in the rows enjoying their fine tendril-ed splendors with my macro lense.

Lee culled a number of long stems before we headed back to the barn.

Big buckets of bloomage were well underway from the mornings harvest.

And a young assistant washed and sorted through heaps of baby carrots.

All in all a beautiful morning in the Valle despite the foreboding skies. And those dahlias.....!

Lee sells her flowers and vibrant edibles Saturday mornings at the Watauga County Farmers Market.


Morning Harvest at Against the Grain Farm

Last Friday on a foggy August morning I arrived at Against the Grain Farm hoping to capture some of the harvest and Farmers Market preparations. Andy was already out and about feeding the various animals and I caught up with him as he filled two large drums of water for the hogs.

We then hopped in his truck and motored up behind a wooded knoll to where the hogs were stationed. They quickly emerged from their shelter and curiously snuffled in the air - probably wondering who the heck I was and why was I making strange clicking sounds!

Andy poured some grain into their trough and their curiosity vanished in a storm of morning hunger.


The morning was rapidly clearing and a patch of blue sky had opened over Tater Hill as we caught up with Holly coaxing the goats from their cozy barn.


The goats approached me cautiously but seemed very sweet-natured and curious - perhaps detecting the smell of my dogs - or maybe just me?

Holly described their goats as a mixed herd comprised of Saanens, Alpines and Nubians.

We then went into the barn to see a newborn that had been birthed the night before. He was a teeny little guy that could barely stand but his Mama helped him to his feet to suckle. I had to dial the shutter speed way down on my camera to even get a shot in this darkened corner of the barn - hence the slight blur, but I was too mesmerized to care.


Then it was out to the crop fields to harvest carrots with the two interns Derrick and Heather. Carefully making their way down the rows they quickly pulled handfuls of bright orange roots from the earth.


And then it was back to the sheds for for a good hose down.

By this point Andy and Holly were out culling kale and chard stalks in a colorful leafy field.


A light rain started to fall so I ducked into a hoop house to enjoy the warm tomato friendly climate.

I enjoy each and every adventure shooting photography on our local farms but there was something very moving about this particular journey. Perhaps it was the sweet-natured animals? Or maybe the young enthusiastic interns hosing down carrots to the sounds of Ray Lamontagne on the radio? I don't know exactly just one of those extraordinary mornings you get to experience once in a while. Thanks Andy and Holly - and good luck with little one on the way!

Apple Blossoms on Brushy Mountain

On Easter Sunday I traveled up to Moravian Falls to spend some time with orchardist Tom Lowe. I hoped to capture a few good images of the Spring apple blossom. Tom is a long time vendor of Watauga County Farmers Market and a deep resource of wisdom concerning fruit tree cultivation in the High Country.

We bombed around the orchard on Tom's Quad bike inspecting the various groves and rows.

Basically I hung on for dear life!

Tom showed me the peach trees that were hit by a late April frost and tragically not likely to fruit this season.

And then we were among the Apple blossom.

We climbed a ladder or two for trimming purposes.


And enjoyed the view.

I promised to return in the Fall to capture the apple harvest. And I can't wait for the snap of that first apple that I usually share with my wife in our booth, next our good neighbor Tom Lowe of Brushy Mountain Farm and Orchard.

Four-Legged and Feathered Mornings

I journeyed up to Elk Creek, Virginia twice in the last few weeks in an effort to photograph some new born lambs and piglets. Mark and Dawn Rhudy run the beautiful five generation Mountain Memories Farm. Turning into their drive way at 7am (BEFORE feeding time) you are greeted by a hungry and clucking barrage of hens.

Then the real madness begins as Mark readies the feed and pours it amongst the anxiously following beaks.

Up next are the beautiful adult pigs.

And then a Mama Hog who reluctantly leaves her week old piglets to feed.

The Piglets nuzzle and frolic during Mama's absence.


We leave the bristley Mama with her newborns suckling in the dark of the stable.

Off to the fields to feed the sheep and young lambs. Mark points out a mother with her days old triplets in tow.

The truck is quickly surrounded by hungry bleating mouths which Mark obliges tossing handfuls of nourishing hay bale.

A black sheep rises above the drove.

The lambs stay close to mama as the herd munches.

Mark keeps a keen eye open though as some lambs stray further a field.

The little ones settle down for a snooze in the sun after the feed.

I am immensely grateful to Mark and Dawn Rhudy for inviting me out to spend time with their four-legged and feathered family - not to mention providing me a classic Appalachian Farm breakfast I will remember for years to come with surely some of the best baked biscuits on the planet. Oh and the eggs, the Eggs!