Feasting with Farmers

After a long year of planting seeds, harvesting summer crops, and tending to fall greens, many farmers look forward to a holiday feast. It’s a time to share the abundance with the people they love and enjoy the bounty they’ve cultivated all year.

Shiloh Avery from Tumbling Shoals Farm in Wilkes County, North Carolina has been up to her ears in produce since she started harvesting radishes and arugula this spring. 

“We’re actually growing and distributing right up through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving,” Shiloh says. “Then we are done for the winter after that.”

There are still winter tasks, like wholesaling any fall crops that are still thriving and planting cover crops to replenish their soil for next year. But for Shiloh and her farming partner Jason Roehrig, the last few weeks of November are a time to relish the flavor of their vegetables.

“Carrots and celery and spinach are absolutely Thanksgiving crops for us. We make sure we still have those things. Then, if we’re lucky, we probably have some salad fixin’s,” she says. 

During a typical year, Shiloh and Jason bring some of that fall produce to their families for a holiday feast. Everyone is grateful for the fresh vegetables, but some dishes are more popular than others.

“My family’s not big on green salad for Thanksgiving. They’ll take a few ‘no thank you’ bites and fill up on all the rest of the stuff. Now, my in-laws are very adventurous and my mom will try anything. My father’s more of a food introvert. What we do is totally lost on him, but that’s OK. We love him anyway,” she says.

Jon and Brittany Klimstra from TK Family Farm go straight to the kitchen when they want to show their families some love. 

“Both Jon and I come from cooking families. That’s our way. I think that’s just probably Southern, but that’s our way of showing love—to cook and share food with each other” Brittany says.

Their high-density apple orchard in Polk County is the perfect place to pick ingredients for a delicious dessert.

“It’s funny, my family has more apple recipes on the Thanksgiving table than Jon’s. We have a fresh cranberry and apple mixture that has granola on it. My mom makes a fresh apple cake, but only with Granny Smith. She’s very, very specific about that,” Brittany says.

Of course, those Granny Smith apples come straight from Jon and Brittany’s orchard.

“My mom is the reason we have Granny Smith, actually. We weren’t going to plant that variety and then Jon ended up hunting down some Granny Smith trees that a grower had had extra of and he could add on to the order. So we call them Wanda’s Granny Smith because she’s really the reason we have those. That’s her favorite apple,” she says.

Over at Candy Mountain Farm in Murphy, North Carolina, you won’t find a turkey on Frances and Stephen Juhlin’s holiday table.

“We’re vegetarians. I don’t make the traditional Thanksgiving meal whatsoever. I did the turkey thing for a long time when my parents were alive and the kids were at home. But come to find out, nobody wanted the turkey after the first day. My mother would always take it to make soup because she could eat chicken soup every day of the week. Now I’m done with this turkey stuff and I’m done with the meat thing. We’ve been vegetarian for 20 years, so I just prefer the vegetables and I’ll make some homemade cornbread,” Frances says.

Luckily, they have an abundance of vegetables to enjoy this time of year. Winter squash are plentiful and there are lots of vegetarian ways to prepare them. “You can do risotto. You can do curry. You can do so much with pumpkins and winter squash soups,” Frances says.

As you gather ingredients for your fall feast, consider celebrating the season with local produce, pasture-raised meats, or baked goods featuring the bounty of the mountains. Roadside stands and farmers markets may have different dates and hours this time of year. Visit ASAP’s Local Food Guide — www.appalachiangrown.org — for details

Aired: November 23, 2020

Sign Up for Our Newsletters