Standing on the crest of the hill at Hickory Nut Gap Farm is like stepping into a vintage postcard. Old barns dot the land's gently rolling pastures that cradle herds of grass-fed cattle, pastured pigs, and free-range laying hens. Families gather in the picnic area and children hold newborn chicks in the palms of their hands.
"After spending the day at the farm with the animals - walking through the grass, going to the top of the hill, and being outside in the sunshine - I think people come away with a sense of connectedness with farming and with food and with each other," says Amy Agers, who owns and runs Hickory Nut Gap Farm with her husband, Jaime.
Hickory Nut Gap Farm is both a destination and a source. The farm supplies meat to dozens of Asheville restaurants, and its HNG stamp can be seen on menus at the city's finest farm-to-table restaurants, as well as local neighborhood diners. The farm's meats can be found in several Asheville grocery stores and its friendly ambassadors sell frozen and cured meats at weekly farmers markets.
Jaime's family founded Hickory Nut Gap Farm close to 100 years ago, originally as an orchard and then a dairy. The farm has flourished in recent decades, bringing with it a greater appreciation for sustainable food.
The region's restaurants have evolved with the farm and so has Asheville's palate, due in large part to the visitors, locals, and chefs that are attracted to the city's passionate food culture, Amy explains.
"We have this wonderful collaborative relationship where chefs are seeking our products," she says. "I think eating great food comes along with enjoying life."