Mountain Roots Farm is located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Sevierville, Tennessee, about one hour drive from Knoxville. This was literally the first farm I went to visit when I arrived in Knoxville. Beau and Paul welcomed me into their farm and have been very friendly since. They call themselves a small market garden, less than one half cultivated acre, but they offer a big variety of veggies and herbs (about 50 types of easy recognizable vegetables), specialized in root crops, baby greens and lettuces year-round.
The secret of their success is transparency. They didn't grow up farming so they are very open-minded and quick to think outside the box. They always try different ways of doing things and learn new techniques all the time. Their goal are efficiency and respect of Mother Earth. Their focus is on having soil diversity to take care of their plants. They are very grateful to Nourish Knoxville and Knoxville community support.
Their first season was in 2018, first year as a part-time job until they could turn it into a full job last year. Paul is a tree worker, Beau was a brewer, evolved into a gardener in Colorado while working at a luxury resort. But they've always been curious about farming especially because they wanted to know where the products come from (that's why I love visiting farms too!). They are the proof that you can do what you want if you truly believe in your project. They are self-taught, they learned through books and youtube videos, they worked hard, with dedication, absorbing knowledge from friends and people who like sharing. They developed relationships with other farmers with whom they share tips, information etc. Again, what I really like in Knoxville is this sense of community and helping each other instead of seeing other people as the competition. They try to balance the amount of work on the farm, which is a lot, and family time. Looks like they have found a very nice balance.
The fact that they don't have a long farming tradition in their DNA could be an advantage, in fact the less you know, the more open-minded you are to experiment and make things in a different way. And this is key to them, they try, if it works, good, they will implement that process, otherwise, they will try another way. I really like their approach and their humility.
Mountain Roots philosophy. Produce are chemicals and pesticide-free, they use the help of some beneficial insects instead. The quality of the soil is essential, for example, they like to leave roots in the soil as long as they can, the roots will eventually break down and feed the soil, leading to a healthy and nourished earth. They hope to inspire more people to do small scale farming to avoid depleting the earth as large scale farming does. They try to give back to the earth more than they take away.
Once you try locally grown food, is difficult to go back to grocery produce. The flavor is so different. Of course it takes so much more work and attention to details, and is more expensive, but trust me, it is so worth it!
They work with different restaurants in town like A Dopo, Cook to be Well, OliBea, Simpl, JC Holdway, Wild Love Bakery. One of their biggest thrills is receiving feedback on their veggies or learning new ways to cook them. Where can you find them? On Saturday at the Farmer's Market (look for the stand with the longest line :-)) and on their online store with pick up at the farm.
Next years project? Moving to a bigger farm closer to Knoxville, trying to do a nice rotation with covered crops and others to feed the soil. Maybe a commercial kitchen for fermenting? Lots of ideas on the table.
What did I take home today? First of all two bags full of their delicious veggies, but also 2 big lessons:
1. start small and if you can handle it, slowly grow and expand your business!
2. With work and dedication, you can always reach your goal. You don't need to be a farmer for generations to have your farm. And this applies to everything.