Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Murals painted by Elizabeth McClure
Recently, we made the 30-minute drive to Fairview, N.C.  I was meeting Ken Abbott, along with 7 other participants, in a "photographic exploration" of the historic Sherrill's Inn and Hickory Nut Gap Farm.  The Inn, built around 1840 in the fertile valley of Hickory Nut Gap, was supported in winter primarily by drovers, farmers driving their herds of cattle, pigs, flocks of turkeys or horses or mules from Kentucky and Tennessee to southern plantations.  As a prominent stagecoach stop, during the summer, the Inn hosted a variety of guests coming to enjoy the cooler temperatures in the mountains.

In 1916. the farm was purchased by a couple on their honeymoon, Jim and  Elizabeth McClure.  He was a Protestant minister, she was a French-trained artist.  Not farmers or innkeepers, but they had fallen in love with the property.  They transformed the Inn into their home, and it has remained in the family through the years; currently owned by their six grandchildren, with granddaughter, Annie and her husband, John Ager hosting at the property. 

Eggs in the Spring House
Abbott became interested in the farm in 2004, while chaperoning his daughter on a school field trip to the property.  In 2006, he received an Artist Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council for the Hickory Nut Gap Farm Project.  His exhibition, Heritage and Home: Photographs of Hickory Nut Gap Farm is currently featured at the Asheville Art Museum.  While visiting the Museum, we became aware of the photo experience available with Abbott, and I registered to participate.

Near the Smoke House
On the foggy, cool morning, I met with Abbott and the rest of the group on the home's front porch.  After an introductory talk, giving the history of the home and his work there, Ken gave us a tour.  Then we were on our own to shoot photos, with Ken answering questions as needed.  Alan, meanwhile, planted himself in the garden for a few hours, with his paints and easel to complete a watercolor of the farm house.

Mom feeding a couple of her piglets
After snapping photos around the property, we moved on to Annie's horse barn down the road, and then over to the Hickory Nut Gap Farm retail store (owned and operated by Jamie and Amy Ager.)  Selling grass-fed meats and organic fruits and vegetables produced on the property, the couple has recently expanded their business.  Our visit coincided with the grand opening of their kitchen and butchery.  A wide range of fall festival activities for kids, like a hay climb, a culvert slide and a corn box were offered. 

Ken Abbott switched gears, and was on hand to sign copies of his book.  Take a peek at Useful Work: Photographs of Hickory Nut Gap Farm, if you're interested in looking at or buying Ken's prints or buying the book.  Alan and I, on the other hand wandered into the expanded facilities at the retail store, and enjoyed lunch from some of the healthy offerings on their menu, as well as filling our small ice chest with meats for later in the week.  On our trip home, we stopped at the Flying Cloud farm, a CSA and organic farm a few miles away.  This farm is also owned by a descendant of Jim and Elizabeth.  Fruit, vegetables and flowers are available for sale on an honor system.  Prices are noted, and a metal box is on the counter for depositing payment for the items purchased.  Such a wonderful resource, and we will be back to both farms, many more times before we leave the area.        
Spring provides water for the home

At Annie's stable
Tack room
Small pie pumpkins for sale at the store
Onions and herbs hanging

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