The Holder Family Farm is a treasure of our region. Nestled at the foothills of Smoky Mountains, the view in any direction is astounding. Talking to Mom, Wilma, and son and daughter, James and Teresa you quickly sense the living history of the family and their land.
What used to be 150 acres of planted fields is now primarily used to raise cattle. However much of the land is still farmed much as it was 100 years ago. Wilma, at 93 years old, rides the tractor each spring to prepare for planting and walks the yards and fields (some days barefoot) to make sure everything is doing ok. She also pots and propagates flowers of every color and succulent plants in the greenhouse.
James plants and grows rows of many fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce and green beans to name a few. Because they collect and use their own seeds year to year, plants like their green beans are now considered heritage plants that are difficult or impossible to find anywhere else.
The farm and greenhouse are heated with a rain water catch system and a wood burning furnace that heats the water and circulates it through the farm house and green house to provide warmth in winter months.
Teresa is a beekeeper. She and James negotiate the use of any and all chemicals for the health of both the bees and the plants. This type of land use cooperation is essential to the future of pollinators and farmers. After a lifetime of farming, James and Wilma can casually list of which pollinators are necessary to grow what fruits and vegetables.
When I asked them what had changed in the time since their late father planted the grape vine some 60 years ago, they responded that they used to sell a lot more watermelons and cantaloupes. For years their farm provided these fruits for three White stores in Knoxville. Today, most major retailers buy produce from producers outside of Tennessee. The also mentioned that they used to have a smoke house and each year make a salt cured ham, but that it was no longer cold enough long enough to do that because the seasons had changed here.
After 100 years of farming these foothills, the Holder Family knows the land and brings you the fruit of their labors every Saturday and Wednesday to the Maryville Farmers’ Market. Come see them and find out more about where your food comes from.