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Experience life at Hickory Nut Gap Farm through weekly writings by Mark Clarke, farmer and family member.view blog
Sign up for our Meat CSA -- both 10 and 15 pound shares are available.
Hickory Nut Gap CSA customers get and additional 10% off meat purchases on the day of pick up and complimentary admission coupons to our fall activities.
Don't miss out -- stock up on healthy, grassfed beef and pasture raised pork and chicken today. Next session starts in April 2014. Six-month commitment, once a month pickup!
Hickory Nut Gap Farm History
Hickory Nut Gap -- where the highway crosses the Buncombe and Henderson County line, and the rain that settles on the east of the Continental Divide flows down the Rocky Broad to the Atlantic and that which settles on the west flows to the Mississippi -- has always been an important gateway across the Blue Ridge. For many thousands of years the Native Americans lived and hunted in these hills.
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 inn and the surrounding farm, which had fallen into disrepair.
We are now five generations of McClure descendents on this land. Originally from Lake Forest,Illinois, Jim and Elizabeth were an unlikely team of a Presbyterian minister and visual artist in the fastness of Appalachia. 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 the farm work, Jim learned firsthand about the many difficulties of mountain agriculture.
Diary Entries from the year 1918 written by our great-grandfather Jim McClure... [Aug. 1] "The cursed,cursed pigs are rooting up the whole lawn." [Sept. 11] "...threshed 46 1/2 bu. Wheat, 15 rye, 18 oats & 1 barley." [Sept. 13] "Sent wheat to Alexander's mill & they said it was the best wheat they had had brought in." [Sept. 18] "...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] "Molasses started at crack of dawn. By noon...50 gal. was made by 8 p.m." [Oct. 8] "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."
In 1920, Jim initiated the visionary Farmers Federation, a cooperative organization to bring better agriculture to Western North Carolina. We Plow God's Fields tells the story of the McClure's and the Farmers Federation.
Jim and Elizabeth McClure raised two children, Jamie and Elspeth. Jamie died unexpectedly while on a coast guard ship during World War II. Elspeth married her first cousin James McClure Clarke just after the war. They raised eight children on the farm. Jamie Clarke became the U.S. Congressman for 3 terms during the 1980's. By the 1950's Hickory Nut Gap Farm had become a dairy and apple farm, and a way to keep a big family busy! Under the leadership of the fourth generation -- of which there are 23 descendents of Jamie and Elspie -- Hickory Nut Gap Farm is enjoying a wonderful renaissance.
In the spring of 2009 a permanent conservation easement was placed on the farms 350 acres of working farmland. This easement will preserve the integrity of Hickory Nut Gap Farm as a working farm for all generations to come. Current farm enterprises include meats, produce, fruits, sawmill, and horseback riding.
Many family members are involved in the operation of Hickory Nut Gap Farm as whole and some have begun their own enterprises. Grassfed beef and pastured pork and poultry, which are sold under the name Hickory Nut Gap Meats are raised and sold here and in the surrounding area. In addition to the livestock, 10 acres of certified organic apples, blackberries, raspberries, black raspberries and asparagus grace our fields.
Flying Cloud Farm, operated by other family members, is a 14 acre organic vegetable and fruit farm just down the road that direct markets their produce through weekly farmers markets, a CSA, and a roadside stand.
Other family members and operate an art, drama, and horseback riding camp in the summer.
We hope to continue to live the vision of our ancestors by increasing the vitality of the WNC farming economy. Our mission is to connect sustainable agriculture practices, our family history, and our customers by sharing the family farm experience and serving as an example of healthy land stewardship. Thank you for supporting our family farm.