In 1939, Mrs. Florida Lasier of Chicago snagged her silk stockings on a wild blackberry bramble while exploring the idyllic Smoky Mountain foothills, and the name Blackberry Farm was born. Thirty-six years later, the Beall family invested their hearts and souls in the same romantic site that has become their family home and lifelong passion.
The Bealls transformed the home and small inn into a hotel, which became a relais chateau in 1994. Sam Beall, the current proprietor, purchased an additional 600 acres across the road, expanding the farm with more garden space and a dairy, creating a pastoral escape for guests and growing more fruits and vegetables in the process.
What began with a desire to provide better ingredients for the kitchen grew into a collection of handcrafted products — nut butters, preserves and pickles, to name a few. In the summer, the garden is home to a bounty of tomatoes, with over 50 different varieties. The spring season saw ramps, which were pickled in the farm’s larder. Recently, they have harvested corn, beans and peas and turned fresh basil into homemade pesto.
Blackberry Farm’s dining venue, The Barn, uses all of the ingredients grown on-site to create multi-course seasonal dinners for guests. Chefs walk down to the garden for corn and tomatoes at 5:30, in preparation for the evening’s dinner service.
The rest of the farm’s fruit and vegetables make it into Blackberry Farm preserves. The preservation team works right on the heels of the restaurant, canning everything possible. The team is proud to make products that stay true to southern traditions, while still creating foods everyone can appreciate, from home cooks to chefs. In other words: there’s a nod to granny, but also to people cooking on a higher level. Using all-natural ingredients, the foods are made through tried and true processes, letting the fruit speak for itself.
Blackberry Farm is also committed to supporting the community of farmers in their native Blank County, sourcing blueberries two driveways down the road.
A typical day on the farm begins at 7:30 am, when the sheep are fed and the gardeners are working among the plants. Cooks in the preservation department and the larder are busy making cheese from summer milk and preserving vegetables and foraged ingredients from the field. Lunch takes place out on the veranda; farm-fresh salads are paired with crisp wines. After lunch it’s time to check on the bees, and by 4 p.m. the team is preparing for service in the dining room and kitchen. In the meantime, guests enjoy kayaking, fly fishing and horseback riding, or simply reading books on the veranda.
“Our goal is offer guests an experience that they simply cannot find anywhere else, so at Blackberry Farm we want the food to represent the very land that we sit on.” says proprietor Sam Beall. “This allows the guest to have a true sense of place. The majority of the food that hits our table comes from our property — if not our property, our neighbors’, and certainly our region. So you are tasting what an East Tennessee tomato tastes like, just like winemakers do trying to represent the terroir through their grapes.”
Southern hospitality is part of the culture at the farm, just as warmth is part of the local culture. The team always takes the time to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.”
For Blackberry, their partnership with Williams-Sonoma is one of like-minded people who appreciate good culinary products — and a good story to go along with them. The end goal is always to gather around a table with fresh, delicious food to share.
About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.