In order to understand the workings of Hickory Nut Gap Farm it is, first and foremost, important to meet the crew:
Jamie and Amy are the founders and co-owners of the farm. They have been making this whole thing work since 2000, when they picked up what was then a confusion of endeavors, and began to solidify and realize a new vision for the farm. They have three boys, Cyrus, Nolin, and Levi, and an unbelievable amount of energy and enthusiasm. Any task they have to do for the farm, I’ve seen them master with a wriggling infant in one arm. Amy deals with marketing, company finances, insurance, bookkeeping, and some of the more technical needs of the business. Jamie is a visionary and a mover. He’s always getting fired up for the next project, the next idea, and he has the persistence and drive to follow through (most of the time).
Often, Jamie and Amy are occupied dealing with the business side of things, so Walker Sides is the Farm Manager (that’s a new title for him woot woot!). Walker is an ingenious fellow with oodles of common sense and a clear-headed nature. He’s a good guy to work for not only because he knows so much about the farm, but also because he is willing to jump in and get his hands dirty no matter what the task may be. He’s got a wry sense of humor and loves to find fun in his work.
My favorite story about Walker is that once, when a salesman called him to try and sell a home security system, Walker told the guy he already had one. The salesman asked what company was the provider and Walker answered, “Marlin”.
“Marlin?”, asked the salesman, “I’ve never heard of them before”.
“Yeah”, Walker replied, “that’s the company that made my shotgun, that’s the only home security I need”, and promptly hung up.
Ann Araps is the Retail Manager and does most of the work pertaining to the Farmstore. She is very small, very blonde, very energetic, and undoubtedly one of the most capable people I’ve ever met. Our customers love Ann. Quite literally. I think there are a number of regulars who come all the way out to Fairview just to see her, forget about buying meat. When I’m working in the store and someone calls, they almost invariably ask for Ann. If I tell them she’s taking lunch and that I can take a message for her, they usually just say, “No thanks, I’ll call back later”. Somehow she makes customers feel they’re getting a special deal that only she can provide for them. I’m not sure how she does it. Her undaunted positivity is infectious and makes people feel good about themselves and their choices.
Jake Buchanon (pr. ‘Buck-an-an’ not ‘Byookanon’) is the intern this year from Sylva, NC. He graduated from Western Carolina last May and is in basically the same situation as me; farming because he needed to spend his days outside after four years of musty libraries and mustier history books. Jake’s a good ol’ boy, a true Western Carolinian who loves bear hunting, drinking Bud Heavy, and playing baseball. He just stopped smoking cigarettes, but habits like that die hard, so he’s taken to popping dum dums whenever he gets the craving for nicotine. It’s working for him so far but it is a little comical to see him walk off to strike the distant-eyed smoker’s pose and then whip out a sucker instead of a pack of smokes.
Jake loves to talk. He loves to talk about politics, religion, tradition, family, literature, you name it. He really loves to talk about history and if you get him started on the Civil War, you’re in for a longer conversation than you may have bargained for. His gregariousness is a great quality when it comes to the more repetitive tasks on the farm like weeding berries or mulching apple trees. In fact, we have designated a certain term for the odd conversation topics that crop up because of those mind-numbing activities: ‘orchard talk’. Jake is a phenomenal orchard talker and I feel like I’ve gotten to know him pretty well because we are often paired together for long stints up in the apple trees or out on Berry Hill.
Steve Howard is the wholesale manager and the resident Bostonian on the farm. He’s got a sharp sense of humor and an even sharper business sense that doesn’t tolerate too much rambunctiousness. Dealing with restaurants is not an easy line but Steve is good at buddying up with the chefs and making sure that everyone gets what they want and all the bills get paid. I’ve had to pack the deliveries with him in the past and it’s no easy task. Not only can you not forget any of the restaurant orders, all the boxes have to be labeled correctly and properly noted with the product and exact weight included. He is meticulous with regards to the details, and that makes him good at his job. Steve loves to talk about growing up in Boston and the rest of the crew members joke that we could get a number of people in a lot of trouble because he always remembers the first and last names and the addresses of the characters from his youth.
Kat Johnson works part-time in the farmstore but is planning to move to Virginia in the spring to work on another farm. She’s an amazing painter/potter/visual artist/clothing designer. She has redone a good portion of our apple signs and made the most beautiful painting of an apple life cycle that I’ve ever seen. Kat has spent her time on the farm living in the little shack by the creek with Jake. Her room, which we spent several weeks reclaiming from tangles of poison ivy vines, probably never gets warmer than 60 degrees because its so poorly insulated. She also had to put up with a string of unclaimed black cats coming to the shack and whining to be fed. I’m not sure exactly what relationship she had with the cats, but they always seem to be hanging around the house and I’m fairly certain Jake wouldn’t feed them if even if he had scraps he didn’t want. Kat is quirky and fun and we’ll all be sad to see her go in April.
This is the crew, as concisely as I can present it, anyways. I feel like I’ve left out too much, but that’s probably inevitable when real people are the object of reflection. I hope that at least this provides a glimpse at what the people on the farm are like and what to expect when you come out and visit!