To get to Blackberry Farm, you'll drive down a quiet paved road, dotted with farmhouses and lush green pastures. You'll pass a small white church that I'm sure has seen many potluck suppers, community gatherings, and country weddings. I believe it's the drive that prepares your senses for the beauty that awaits. Beckoning you to a part of our country that is, undoubtedly, at it's finest. Preserved by those who tend it for the pure enjoyment of it's guests.
I was fortunate to be able to take a private tour of the gardens, led by Blackberry Farm's Garden Manager, Jeff Ross. We met in the potting shed where he began sharing their philosophy and efforts in production, preservation, and education of the garden. Mainly, their passionate preservation of organic, heirloom varieties of produce and the history behind them.
Jeff also has a passion for cooking and holds culinary demonstrations, where he occasionally prepares meals on the wood burning stove or outside in the gardens. The hand-crank mill is for grinding pencil corn into grits for the chef, Joseph Lenn (James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast 2013), which is done on a per-order basis.
From there, we proceeded to walk through rows and rows of vegetables, where I learned about new-to-me varieties such as Bronze Fennel and Calico Crowder Peas. And was able to taste herbs and vegetables picked right from the earth. The diversity of their crops was astonishing.
While we were there, a chef was out in the garden picking radishes for our cocktail reception later that evening...
And I learned about one of their latest projects, cultivating Black Perigord Truffles. They've planted an orchard of hazelnut trees, their roots dipped in truffle spores before planting, to allow guests and chefs to farm their own truffles right on the property. It takes 7-10 years to produce truffles and in the meantime, they are training Lagotto Romagnolos, aka "Truffle Dogs" to hunt for them at nearby orchards.
And I was introduced to the state tree of Tennessee, the Tulip Poplar. Which was absolutely gorgeous!
From there we hopped on a golf cart to head over to see the menagerie of farm animals, where the East Friesian Sheep captured my heart. We were instantly greeted by their baa, baaa, baaaing. I'm positive they are used to guests and farmstead managers bringing them treats.
The heritage breed hens were already tucked in for the night in their mobile coops. They are allowed to free range all day, giving the farm, fresh, organic eggs, and in turn helping with the compost for the gardens.
We then headed back, so I would have time freshen up before our garden cocktail reception and dinner in the barn.
And I couldn't image my day getting any better. Truly.