Franny’s farm

So there I was, enjoying to wake up for my 57th birthday to the sound of crowing cocks, sipping a Trader Joe’s organic green tee, overlooking the beautiful valley in the middle of nowhere near Leicester, North Carolina. If you told me this was going to happen, even two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you!

Franny’s farm was established in 2012 by Jeff, Frances and Zach Tacy and a dog named Blue. It’s a 33-acre organic farm located near Asheville NC, dedicated to family sustainability and for visitors to enjoy. The farm is home to chickens, sheep, goats and a donkey, with vegetable, fruit, berry and flower and bee gardens.

Getting there

We had a long drive from Washington DC. This place is so far off the beaten track that the car rental’s GPS didn’t even know the road – but I bet the GPS map hasn’t been updated in years! So after few missed turns, a beautiful drive through the narrow winding country roads – hey, stay on the road! – and with some help from some friendly “locals”, we found South Turkey Creek road, and arrived just as night set in. Did I mention narrow roads – in this country with the biggest and widest four-wheel drives in the world? We were too tired to still explore where to get dinner, so we settled in with some tea and Patricia’s healthy home-baked good old South African style rusks that we had brought along. We stayed in the barn house, a beautiful wooden three bed-roomed house on the top story of the barn. Beautiful woodwork, high ceilings, big ceiling fans, fireplace, well-equipped kitchen, 2 bathrooms, books, toys, musical instruments, what more can you ask for?

Morning views

The morning was so tranquil to wake up to the farm sounds and the amazing view over the valley.

Farmyard

Once the team was ready, we went to explore the farm, and we met the chickens, goats, sheep, dogs and a donkey along the way (which all have names,but I can’t remember them all).

Unfortunately I don’t have good photos of the two dogs – Cody and Blue. Cody is a remarkable dog – he is totally blind, but he fetches balls from the pond like a pro!

From a sustainability point of view, Franny has vegetables, herbs, some fruits, many berries, honey bees and of course the chickens that lay eggs. We had some interesting discussions about chickens, raised beds, bees and honey, berries, sustainability, hemp production and a few other related topics woven in. Franny and her staff are so friendly and accommodating – it feels like visiting old friends!

Take a walk on the wild side

After a quick trip to Leicester, some 10 minutes away, to get supplies and enjoy a sumptuous brunch at Wynn’s Diner, we were back on the farm to explore more and a bit wider on the “wild side” of the farm. We went for a walk through the bush track on the top of the farm and had a lovely picnic overlooking the whole valley. They have the most amazing eco-campsites and glampsites up there, with a pristine kitchen and ablution facilities. While we’re battling somewhat to grow blackberries, here they just grow wild in the forest. It’s good to see the natural way it grows – maybe we should try mimic it. But you have to be so careful with bramble berries – you get one thing wrong and they can become a maintenance nightmare. We saw some beautiful butterflies in the forest too.

The afternoon Markus enjoyed kayaking on the pond, while our little farm girl again spent as much time as she could with the animals.

Frannys kayaking

Late night

Perfect day was ended in nearby Asheville. Amazing town with a LOT of live music everywhere – one for the bucket list. We enjoyed spicy tacos and burritos, Oscar Blues local IPA and some great music at the Grey Eagle taqueria and live music venue of note. Unfortunately we were all dead tired, batteries flat after a long day, so we didn’t last until the main act, but at least we heard two or three songs during their warmup. Fortunately the narrow winding little roads kept some of us awake on the way back.

Lessons learnt

Part of the purpose of our visit to Franny’s Farm, apart from enjoying the tranquillity and scenery and meeting new and interesting people, was to see how people in other parts of the world make a sustainable living. We learnt these lessons:

  • Even with 30 acres, it is very hard to make a sustainable living only “off the land”, especially if like us, you have to cover the almost inevitable expenses like schools, cars, surfboards and the odd great holiday. In fact, I think, excluding berries, we have more vegetables and we definitely have way more fruit trees on our two little acres. But selling the odd box of apples and a few bushels of carrots is not going to pay the way. However, Franny’s Farm has got that side covered by hosting events, offering great ecotourism and conventional B&B type facilities. You simply have to have those additional income streams as well. Of course the beautiful setting, the many play and walk areas, their friendly open approach and atmosphere, as well as all the accessible and tame animals are all hits with “tourists” and their children. We have to work out what our “other” streams of income are going to be.
  • Running a 30-acre farm productively and sustainably is a lot of work! Franny and Jeff employ a farm manager as well as an events coordinator and still they work pretty darn hard to keep it all running. Apart from rotating crops, there are always things that need fixing. Having naughty billy goats that jump their fence and eat the granadilla vines just adds to the fun of it all too!

 

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