by Laura Johnson
When Holly Whitesides and Andy Bryant found the land in Zionville that would become Against the Grain farm, they knew it immediately. “We found this place and felt right away that it was home,” Holly said. “We know that this is our place and we’re not going anywhere. This is it.”
After farming together on rented land for a few seasons, Holly and Andy realized that they wanted a place of their own. “We wanted more of a long-term commitment to really invest in the soil,” Holly explained. “We wanted to be able to invest in a place and put roots down.”
Having farmed together for six seasons, this is their third summer in their place at Against the Grain. They own about 20 acres but farm approximately 25-30. They grow mixed produce, sorghum for molasses and dry corn for grinding into cornmeal, and they raise pigs, chickens, ducks, goats and Thanksgiving turkeys. Their products are sold at the Watauga Market, directly to local restaurants and through the New River Organic Growers cooperative and the High Country CSA.
“We wanted to be able to invest in a place and put roots down.”
Holly, Andy and their farm interns employ organic and biodynamic practices, aimed to improve the vitality of their land holistically. “The purpose of biodynamics is sort of looking at the farm as a whole organism,” Holly explained. “So trying to balance what goes out and what comes into that organism; it’s not just constantly being depleted. And thinking about having a relationship with that farm as an organism.
“I feel like places have kind of a feel to them, a spirit to them in a way,” she continued. “It’s just like going to your favorite place that you like to hike – you like it because it has a certain feeling, a connection in some way, and this farm really resonated with us. So we’re engaging in farming with a little bit of that perspective in mind.”
In sharing their food and, during the Farm Tour, their farm with others, they hope to pass along some of this sense of connection. “I just think it’s so important to really be connected to your food,” Holly said. “We as farmers are connected to our farm and have that sense of home here, and for communities and people to start to have that, even if it’s just a little bit, through some of the food they eat - I think that's a really powerful thing.
“As humans we gather around food,” she went on. “We get together for potlucks, we get together for holidays, we eat you know. And when that food is not only fresh but connected to where we live…it just makes the whole experience that much more, it adds so much to it.”
2014 marked Against the Grain's second year on the Farm Tour, and they plan to continue highlighting their farm, food and practices through the tour. “I think it’s a really cool way for people to connect to individual farms,” Holly said. “I’m excited to keep participating in the Farm Tour as our farm changes and grows and becomes a little more settled in who we are and what we do here.
“I hope visitors have a better understanding of where their food comes from…I think it’s just a really cool way for people to connect.”