Chestnut and Corner Kitchen, partner with many local farmers and vendors. Featuring local products like, jams, honey, mustard, gluten free desserts, meats, microgreens, milk, cream, cheeses, eggs, hot sauces and so much more is incredibly important to us. Why? Because it stimulates our local economy and it tastes GREAT!
This month we are showcasing Imladris Farm.
A message from the Owner, Walter Harrill!
1. Give us the “origin story” for your operation
My paternal grandfather planted the first u-pick blueberry orchard in WNC back in the fifties. While I grew up a suburbs kid in South Asheville, I spent many summer days both at the blueberry orchard (picking and selling berries was my first job) and at my maternal grandparents farm six miles away. That all essentially ended when I left for school, supposedly destined for a career in medical laboratories.
When I returned to Asheville years later as a successful medical technologist, my grandfather was in his eighties, and reaching a point where he couldn’t keep up with all of the orchard chores. I offered to help him out on my days off (I was working nights), but insisted that, while he could keep the money, we weren’t working that hard for the $.90/lb he’d been charging for decades. As an alternative market, I started taking berries to the new Fairview Tailgate Market, where I met Jamie and Amy Ager of Hickory Nut Gap Farm and Annie Louise and Isaiah Perkinson of Flying Cloud Farm. After just a few weeks of great sales there, I realized that we were going to run out of berry season long before the market season was over, and Wendy recognized the value of jams/preserves to fill that void.
2. What is your list of products (within reason…)
Products: 6 preserves available year round (Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Berry Best Jams, Apple Butter, Smoked Ketchup). At any given time, another seasonal flavor, apt to change every few weeks/couple of months. A line of sustainably grown, coppiced forest products (primarily locust staves) for local rustic furniture makers. And ongoing relationships with local chefs where we produce their product under their label, everything from hot sauce to elderberry syrup.
3. Where is your distribution range? Asheville? Regional?
Distribution range is regional for restaurants, grocery stores, and gift shops. National via internet sales for retail.
4. Who are the important people in your organization and any anecdotes about them?
My crew are the backbone of this operation. This isn’t a “one idea guy drives it all” business – the value of the business is in the day to day hard work that happens over and over again, throughout the year. From delivery personnel to jam makers to farm hands, the expectation/prerequisites here are that you be able to think on your feet, make hard decisions and stand by them, and know when you’re over your head and need to call for help. I’ve been exceptionally fortunate over the years to find great folks that thrive in this environment, and my business truly relies on them every day.
6. What’s next for you and your company?
What’s next? Who knows? After 17 years, the only thing I think I’ve learned is that what worked last year won’t necessarily work this year. We’re working on adding an AirBnB cabin at the blueberry orchard, a place of solitude, nature, and peace. We’re adding new co-pack clients regularly, as well as expanding markets for our own label.