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Weekly Scoop (November 4-10) - The Evolution of Hickory Nut Gap Farm 🐮 Plus lots to do this week!

The Evolution of Hickory Nut Gap Farm


Local favorite promotes sustainable farming and agriculture plus Barn Yoga, brunch and pasture-raised Thanksgiving turkeys now for sale!

”Every decision we make has to match our core focus: are we building our community through agriculture? If the answer is no, we simply don’t do it.”

- Jamie Ager, 4th generation farmer at Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Go to any of Asheville’s best restaurants, and you’ll likely see Hickory Nut Gap meat on the menu. The family-owned farm is a local favorite. With over 80 different goods, crafts, and specialty products sold through local area businesses, the farm is well-known throughout the region. Located in Fairview, Hickory Nut Gap Farm is open to the public for tours and dining. On any given day you can see families, tour groups, schools of children, summer campers, and lunch-goers flocking to the farm to learn, touch, play and eat. Outside of the local farm, Hickory Nut Gap partners with additional farmers to expand their supply chain, giving them the opportunity to offer quality 100% grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork far beyond our North Carolina borders.

Hickory Nut Gap Farm is much more than just a place to have fun with your family, an event to attend, a great place to eat, or a brand to look for in a supermarket. While they still strive to be all of those things, they are a group of locals who care about the entire food system from the soil, to your plate. It’s in their DNA, dating back to a little over 100 years, to care about agriculture and the people who support the industry. Hickory Nut Gap continues to innovate their processes, looking for better ways to approach agriculture. They focus on animal genetics, pasture health and forages, science, technology, nutrition, and economics.

James and Elizabeth McClure were the original founders of Hickory Nut Gap farm in 1916. They were the first to develop the Appalachian Farmers Federation, an organization aimed at building a support system for area farmers. They fought for farmer’s rights, built long-lasting relationships in the community, and were committed to bettering agriculture.

Hickory Nut Gap Farm has gone through several transitions from a dairy farm, to an apple orchard, to livestock. Today, it maintains a combination of working livestock farm and an agritainment destination where anyone can come experience agriculture. Most recently, fourth generation farmer Jamie Ager (who grew up selling apples from his family’s farm stand) and his wife Amy converted the farm over to raising livestock in 2006. Jamie and Amy were college sweethearts attending local Warren Wilson College. Both had grown up in farming, with Jamie particularly tied to his generational farm.

After studying components of regenerative agriculture and how the environment benefitted from ruminant animals naturally grazing grasslands, Jamie and Amy were determined to better the community through agriculture. They began spearheading a movement toward 100% grass-fed beef and pasture raised pork in the southeast. The meat raised is not only a better quality, healthier alternative to conventionally raised meats, but it speaks to the soul knowing that these animals are respected, provided a wonderful quality of life, and treated humanely from start to finish.

“Raising livestock is much more than putting food on your plate,” says Jamie.

In 2008, Jamie developed a friendship with Sam Dobson, another generational farmer from Iredale County, with strong relationships to other family farmers throughout the region. Together, they discussed a model where farmers could successfully manage their land in a successful and sustainable way by partnering with Hickory Nut Gap to sell livestock that matched a set of humane standards under the brand. Hickory Nut Gap could then establish the needed relationships with distribution, marketing, and logistics to alleviate this burden from farmers, allowing them to do what they loved. Providing enough meat to the marketplace and wanting to tackle climate change with the rotational grazing model, relationships with family farmers were critical to success. To date, they work with over 50 family farmers and continue to grow that model, all committed to raising quality, humanely raised meats under the standards and protocols consumers have come to love about the Hickory Nut Gap brand.

“We are committed to challenging the way agriculture currently operates,” Jamie adds. “We are spearheading a new and better way to look at livestock, food quality, the environment, and the fair treatment of farmers in that process. When you accept innovation as your mantra and commit to challenging the status quo, bumps are part of everyday life. We don’t always get it right, but we are a strong values-based company who cares about getting it right even if it is a harder path. Every decision we make has to match our core focus: are we building our community through agriculture? If the answer is no, we simply don’t do it. This can create bumps in business, but ultimately, it makes us accountable to our community.”

A common misconception Hickory Nut Gap often faces is that consumers assume all of their meat is grown at the Fairview farm. While they are a working livestock farm in Fairview managing roughly 400 acres, it takes approximately five acres of land to raise one cow from birth to finishing on grass alone. With grass-fed cattle, they take longer to reach maturity than a conventionally raised cow; about 13 months. That would mean the Fairview farm could only supply 80 cows each year to the marketplace. Their cows are definitely a part of that piece, but there is no way to scale with that model. So, they developed a set of criteria using their home farm as a benchmark and began working with other family farmers to replicate that model on their land. What resulted is much more than supply and demand: they have the ability to give farmers a better, more reliable option for their farming business. Jamie states, “We take pride in knowing that we are helping to keep farmers on their land, and continue to build our economy by offering a sustainable pay-price. We also have the opportunity to initiate more widespread change in land practices, rotational grazing, and humane animal treatment. The local farm is still the heartbeat of our operation, but we take pride in knowing that we can positively affect the economy, climate change, human health, and animal health on a much larger scale. We are blessed with a local farm who helped build agriculture in our area over 100 years ago, and we can now share that experience with anyone who wants to learn more about it.”

When you visit Hickory Nut Gap Farm, be sure to come hungry and bring the whole family! They recently hired two exceptional chefs who launched a new BBQ lunch menu. With all of their ingredients sourced locally and their exceptional meat quality, it's a great place to enjoy lunch from 11am-4pm. Plus they have a great space and lots of activities for people of all ages to enjoy before or after you eat. They also offer catering anytime throughout the year, including an unbelievable charcuterie platter, perfect for group snacking! During the holidays, their chefs prepare traditional holiday meats and sides to take the stress out of dinner plans.

Every Sunday the farm offers Barn Yoga and brunch starting at 9am. The farm is now officially taking deposits for their pasture-raised Thanksgiving turkeys. We only have a limited stock and they sell out every year, so $20 will reserve your bird through their website. They are also taking holiday catering orders for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. December 7th is an opportunity to come and shop for something truly unique for holiday gift giving at their Holiday Market. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be ready for photo ops, along with dozens of local crafters and vendors. Entry fee is a donated item to Children First Charity.

Be sure to check out all of the specials, upcoming events, and menu by visiting Hickory Nut Gap Farm’s profile on Dig Local.

Below you will find one locally curated Scoop chosen for each day this week — but make sure to check out all the Scoops this week on our Dig Local Scoop Calendar.

Monday, November 4

$2 Off House Cocktails
at Casablanca Cigar Bar
$2 off house cocktails all day every Monday!
More details.
More to do Monday
Tuesday, November 5
Posey Royale Plays 1940's Swing
at Antidote
Grab yourself a drink and hit the dance floor with Posey Royale, a piano-driven ensemble that is dedicated to reviving the prolific swing orchestration of the late 1940’s.
More details.
More to do Tuesday

Wednesday, November 6

Chai Pani "Give Back Night" for Food Connection
with Food Connection
Come get your spice on and join Food Connection for dinner at Chai Pani from 5-9:30pm where 10% of food sales will be donated to help reduce waste and ease hunger!
More details.

More to do Wednesday

Thursday, November 7

FED Talk: Made in Asheville
with Rhubarb

Meet the founders of Asheville's popular food brands and enjoy a one-of-a-kind tasting of the products that made them famous! The tasting will be followed by a discussion on Asheville's food culture and what life was like in the early days of these award-winning brands. Beer and wine will be available for purchase.
Tickets and more details.

More to do Thursday

Friday, November 8

Live Music Friday with Adi the Monk
at Rustic Grape Wine Bar

Head to the Rustic Grape for another amazing evening of local music with Adi the Monk playing his gorgeous jazz tunes!
More details.
More to do Friday

Saturday, November 9

Cooking with Local Wine
at Asheville Mountain Kitchen

Appalachia is home to some amazing wineries and vineyards. Using local wine in this class, different varieties will be used to make an array of dishes such as steak with red wine reduction, potato gratin with white wine, and pears cooked in wine with perfumed ice cream.
Tickets and more details.
More to do Saturday

Sunday, November 10

Fall Stroll: River Arts District
with The River Arts District Artists, Inc.
Two days of special events November 9-10 that include open studios, demos and creativity in Asheville's River Arts District!
More details.
More to do Sunday
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