What is your background? Have you always been a farmer?
My family has always been involved in the farming community and my father was growing Christmas trees when I bought this farm, so he convinced me that I needed to become a Christmas tree farmer. I bought this farm in February of 1986 and planted my first 1,000 trees in early May. Those trees were donated by my father, he had extra that he didn’t need in his fields that year. He kept telling me, “You’ve got to do something with all that land, you have a farm now!” I didn’t want to work with livestock in any nature because I work a full time job in addition to this farm, so that’s how I became a Christmas tree farmer.
What is your favorite part of being a farmer?
I love dealing with my customers. Many people who come to choose and cut have been coming since I opened my doors many years ago, and now their children are bringing their children and so on. It’s just a wonderful tradition and atmosphere to be a part of. I keep everyone’s name and address who buys a tree and mail them a brochure the following year in case they’d like to come back.
How do you feel tourism has affected you as a farmer?
I think the agrotourism really started with the Christmas tree industry. Several years ago we depended on the ski slopes for our winter industry, that was what brought tourists in to buy trees. However, there were a few years that it never even got cold enough to snow. The people at the Chamber of Commerce realized that even though no one was coming to ski, all the motels were full. That's when the light came on and they really got behind us in the Christmas tree industry.
Did you encounter any barriers? Were they gender related?
I didn’t. It’s in my family and it’s in my blood, so the only barrier I’ve ever encountered is trying to balance this farm with my job as the elected Clerk of Court for Watauga County. Especially during this time of year, when we’re open for Choose & Cut and I’m trying to get the wholesale wreaths ready, I always feel like I should be at both places at once. However, I have wonderful staff at the clerk of courts office. They have experience and I know I can depend on them, which makes it easier to be away. I think I've been able to avoid many problems that other women may have experienced because my family has so readily supported me throughout the whole process.
BRWIA PROFILE PROJECT
Each month we do our best to profile a Woman in Agriculture in our region. These women are diverse - they have come from a variety of backgrounds and include farmers, homesteaders, and activists. They exemplify the multitude of ways women are working to connect with and change our food system.
Female Farmer Profile Project
The BRWIA Profiles evolved out of the Female Farmer Profiles which can be found archived HERE.