Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gordon McAnally

By April Richardson
Visitors to Gordon McAnally's stand at the Jonesborough Farmers Market often remark on how unseasonably early his tomatoes are available. Some may even suspect that his tomatoes can't possibly be local, but McAnally has a way to bring local tomatoes to the table weeks before others can harvest.  His secret:  “They're not in the field—they're in the greenhouses.”

McAnally specializes in growing ‘Empire’ variety tomatoes, and using greenhouses enables him to plant his tomato seeds in December and begin to harvest in May. 

McAnally Farm is in Grainger County, a locale well-known for its tomatoes, so it only made sense to McAnally to raise them himself. “Lots of farms in Grainger County have hothouses, so I decided to give it a try,” said McAnally.  “I built one and then two greenhouses, at first, and now I've got four.”

While many farms in that area are quite large, McAnally Farms is a smaller, family-centered operation. “While I've got my four greenhouses, my neighbor on one hill has 20, and my other neighbor, he has 20. I'm just a little farm,” said Mc Anally.

With both in-ground and greenhouse produce growing, McAnally can certainly be considered a professional farmer even though he also works at a separate full-time job in manufacturing at Clayton Homes. “I've got a full-time job, and other guys do [farming] for a living,” said McAnally. “I get up and go to work, and they get up and go farm. Mine is more of a sideline, I guess. I’ve just always liked farming.

“I got started a long time ago,” said McAnally. “When I was about 20 years old, there was a friend of mine who I would help. I'd grow some tomatoes with him, and then I'd sell mine with his. I just liked doing it.” 

After the greenhouse tomatoes are finished, McAnally’s field produce will be coming in.  “I've got tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and squash. I have corn that's tassling, and I'll have okra later on in the season,” said McAnally.

“A lot of people have gardens, so my demand goes down once the greenhouse tomatoes are gone,” said McAnally. “But, farming is about like anything. You can have a good or a bad year. With the season we've had, a lot of people may not have bothered with a garden.”

McAnally takes pride in offering the Jonesborough area some of the freshest produce around, often picked just hours before arriving to the table at the farm's market stand. “I try to pick the squash and broccoli Friday night,” said McAnally. “It's just picked—it's fresh when it's there. You want to sell good produce. That way you keep people coming back.

While still days and miles fresher than many supermarket foods, McAnally’s produce does travel a bit to get to the Jonesborough Farmers Market. “It's about 76 miles from my driveway up to Jonesborough,” said McAnally.  Every week, Gordon makes the long trip to the courthouse square to sell his tomatoes and other produce from the tailgate of his truck, because Jonesborough Farmer’s Market provides a welcoming atmosphere for vendors and consumers alike. “I just wanted a place to sell, and it's been nice. A lot of people I get to know and recognize,” said McAnally. “There's a lot of good people who come to the market.”

Empire Tomato Salad

While the rest of the meal is on the grill, toss together this cool steakhouse salad.
SOURCE: Martha Stewart Everyday Food

3 T red wine vinegar
3 T olive oil
2 tsp capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 shallot, minced
3 ripe Emire or other greenhouse tomatoes
Coarse salt and ground pepper

    1. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar and olive oil.  Stir in shallot and capers
    2. Core tomatoes. Cut each into 8 wedges and place in a serving bowl.
    3. Drizzle tomatoes with dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Emily Peters & Patrick Linkous: Stoney Slope Farm

By Kasey Jones
In her early twenties, Emily Peter’s nursery job involved working with pesticides and wearing a lot of protective gear to do so. Peters began to wonder, “If I have to put on this much protective wear to spray this on plants, then how safe is it for me to actually eat those plants?”
Since that time, Peters and her partner Patrick Linkous have been growing their own food at Stoney Slope Farm using natural methods, and selling the excess at area farmers markets. 
“We just wanted to know where our food came from. There’s a real detachment that people have now with food and when people go to the grocery store, they aren’t thinking about how its grown.” said Linkous. “It’s important for us to be confident in what it’s grown with and how it’s grown.”
Linkous, who is originally from the Knoxville area, and Peters, who grew up in the Johnson City area, met through a mutual friend.  They are now in the fourth season of their produce partnership. Both have a passion for growing food naturally and educating others about what it means to eat naturally grown foods.
Stoney Slope Farm is located on the farm that was Peter’s childhood home in Gray, Tenn.  She and Linkous raise an assortment of produce that includes: lettuces, squash, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, peas, okra, beans, corn, sweet potatoes, peppers, radishes, melons, berries, spinach, herbs, as well as cut flowers.
 “We’ve been able to turn my childhood home into what I always thought it could be,” said Peters.
“I took a botany class in high school and that was really what set all of it off. I’ve always loved plants and flowers and growing things,” said Peters.  That love, combined with her years of nursery work and first-hand experience with chemical pesticides, has informed her conviction about growing food with care.
Linkous shares Peter’s love of gardening naturally.  “I’ve done gardening in different capacities for probably 10 years off and on in different places,” said Linkous, “but never so much for the market as we have in the past four years. I’ve grown up around it. My grandfolks had gardens and I used to help them when I was younger. It’s been a part of me to do the naturally grown. It’s something we’re really passionate about — to not apply chemicals and things of that nature.”
Locally grown is also important to Peters and Linkous.  “We realized that a lot of the area farmers markets don’t always have the actual people who grow doing the selling,” said Peters. “The Jonesborough Market is where we found our home because everything that is sold here has to be grown by the person who grows it.   This keeps it local.  We only live about 11 miles from Jonesborough, and considering that some food travels thousands of miles, 11 miles is really close.”
Peters and Linkous’ ¾ acre garden is ever expanding. They are working to incorporate more fruit trees and berry bushes into their plantings. Linkous describes these plants as “an investment.” While it will take about four or five years for the trees and bushes to produce fruits or berries, the plants will last for a number of years, so they will not have to replant them each year.
In spite of the fact that their garden is continuing to grow, Linkous and Peters continue to maintain it using all-natural methods.
“There’s a lot of hands-on work,” said Linkous, “picking insects off by hand and coming up with creative ways to manage pests. It takes a lot of time between the weeding, watering and the harvesting to come to the market. It’s a labor of love, but we get so much back from the customers and the support we find at the market.”

Natural pest conrol:  Kaolin Clay Insect Deterrent 
Here is one the natural pest control methods used by Stony Slope farm:
Kaolin Clay is a naturally derived clay. Linkous and Peters mix the clay with water in a pump sprayer. The mixture creates a film that can be sprayed over plants. (Linkous and Peters order Kaoliln clay from Johnny’s Select Seeds). 
The clay particles may attach themselves to insects, which agitates the insects as well as creates an environment that is unsuitable for laying eggs. The spray generally discourages insects from eating the plants.   Rain rinses the film off of plants.

Recipe:  Sautéed Baby Squash with Basil and Feta
This simple preparation yields delicious results in a versatile side dish. Use pattypan squash or substitute four cups of thinly sliced zucchini or yellow squash. You will find all ingredients but oil, salt and pepper at the Jonesborough Farmers Market!
From Cooking Light Magazine
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups baby pattypan squash, halved (about 18 ounces)
  • 2 cups sliced leek or mild onion (about 2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat; heat 20 seconds. Add squash and leek/onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in salt and pepper. Transfer squash mixture to a serving platter. Sprinkle with cheese and basil.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Louise Nuttle: "Only the Finest" Alpaca Fiber Consortium

By Kasey Jones 
Louise Nuttle can’t recall a time when she didn’t knit. “I’ve always knitted,” Nuttle says. “My grandmother taught me at a very young age.”
Her love of knitting and working with fibers has spun off into a farm, a fiber studio and a key spot at the Jonesborough Farmers Market, where all the products are handmade and locally grown.
Originally from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Nuttle moved to Johnson City in 2005 from Jackson, Miss. “When we moved to Tennessee, we bought acreage for the horses we brought with us,” Nuttle says. “We had some extra space so we started looking into other livestock breeds to graze on the established pastures.”
She also wanted animals that didn’t damage the land, ones that would not cause erosion, and her interest in knitting led her to consider fiber animals as a livestock option. “I figured that with my background in knitting and crocheting that it would be fun to raise the animals that produce the fiber,” she says.  
Raising alpacas has led to a range of new crafts in addition to knitting. Nuttle learned how to spin the fibers from her alpacas so that she could make her own yarn and has learned to weave and felt with the alpaca fibers.
“I learned how to spin because I wanted to make sure that I could take the fiber off of my animals and create yarn,” she says. “At that point, I already knew what to do with it. So I took some spinning lessons from another alpaca breeder and was instantly hooked.  While we let the mill make the majority of the yarns we sell, I still like to make my own novelty yarns for weaving.”
Nuttle has created a fiber studio in the basement of her home in the historic Tree Streets neighborhood of Johnson City. After bringing the fiber home from the farm, Nuttle sorts, spins, dyes and weaves the fiber to create hats, scarves and a number of other fiber products. “We’re coming up with new end-products all the time, thanks to our customers at the market. Felted soap, felted flower pins and the felted bead earrings are some of our most popular items. We’ve also developed several kits for the would-be fiber artists who want to try their own hands at felting. We even commissioned our market neighbor, Bear Anderson (a.k.a. ‘Grizzwood’), to make us some wooden drop spindles to pair up with our spinning fibers.” 
After raising her own alpacas for three years under the farm name Dry Creek Alpacas, Nuttle entered into a partnership with two other alpaca farms – Appalachian Journey Farm and Appalachian Alpacas – to cooperatively raise the animals and process and market the fiber. Sisters Diane and Joan DuPont co-own Appalachian Journey Farm, and Appalachian Alpacas is co-owned by their younger sister Lara and Mike Durham. “We were already traveling together with our animals to alpaca shows,” Nuttle says. “When I was looking for a place to move my animals, they were looking for other outlets for their fiber. It was a natural fit.” 
Nuttle, the DuPonts and Durhams collectively own and raise more than 50 alpacas. When it comes time to harvest the fiber in the spring, they carefully select the best fiber for processing, hence the name of their fiber brand, “Only the Finest.”
Nuttle began selling at the Jonesborough Farmers Market in 2008, very early in her alpaca fiber career. “I was small-scale back then and spinning all of my own yarn.  Being at the market helped me connect with other fiber enthusiasts and also gave me a platform for talking about the animals and their exceptional fiber to anyone who would stop long enough.” 
She is now joined by other members of the “Only the Finest” consortium. 
In addition to the farmers market, “Only the Finest” sells its homegrown fibers, yarns and finished products at regional fiber and art shows. “We’re working on our website,” she says, “but honestly, you have to feel alpaca to really appreciate it.” 
And alpacas, Nuttle says, are not just for crafters. “Between our three farms, we always have a variety of animals for sale, ranging from what we call ‘pet-quality’ or ‘fiber males’ to entry-level breeding stock to show-quality herd sires and breeding females.” 
The 50-plus alpacas on the farm produce another renewable product that is prized by gardeners. The farm offers what it likes to call “Paca-Poo” – composted alpaca manure, which makes excellent garden fertilizer – by the bag or by the truckload.
The farm is open to visitors, although they recommend calling ahead: 423-257-8110.  You can also follow “Only the Finest” on Facebook at where you can find pictures of their latest yarns, cute cria videos, event announcements and more.  Or just come by the farmers market tent on Saturdays!
Note:   Alpacas from “Only the Finest” will be at the farmers market this Saturday (June 15th) next to the Only the Finest market booth.  Come meet them!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Jimmy & Minnie Sentelle: Sentelle's Homemade Sausage

By Paige Campbell

Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, Minnie Sentelle’s great-great-grandfather left his native Missouri to build a new life homesteading in present-day Greene County, Tenn. 

His name was William Roscoe, but everyone called him “Tanner Bill,” and his hard work carving out a life on that farm began a legacy, unbroken so far, that has kept the land in his descendants’ hands and continuously farmed for well over 100 years. 

“Up in the house, there’s an old picture of him on a mule with his two six-shooters,” said Minnie Sentelle’s husband, Jimmy. 

That image reminds the Sentelles of the rich history behind them as they take their turn and take on the challenge of farming full time, raising hogs for their new business, Sentelle’s Homemade Sausage Co. “We’ve always raised a few hogs,” Minnie said. “Then Jimmy retired from GE a few years ago, and that’s when we turned it into a real business.” 

The company was officially established in November of 2010. 

The Sentelles are constantly busy.  At times they have had as many as 44 hogs on the farm—currently they have 22.

“There’s been a time or two I’ve thought, ‘Maybe I ought to go back to GE,’” Jimmy said with a laugh. “But to spend the time on raising something that I know everything that goes into it — that’s worth doing.”

Minnie, too, dedicates long hours to the farm in addition to her full-time job as cafeteria manager at Hal Henard School in Greene County.

The Sentelles run the business with help from their son John, a full-time manager at Lowe’s, and his wife, Cassie. Their daughter Ann also pitches in as much as possible despite a brain injury nine years ago that affected her eyesight and compromised the function of one hand.     

Minnie and Jimmy hope that the skills they are cultivating with their children will help the family farm continue to thrive in future generations, just as they depend on skills learned from Minnie’s parents. “Not a lot of people know how to really cure hams,” Jimmy said. “[Minnie’s] dad’s recipe is so good. Any country ham is going to have a bite of salt to it, but his recipe isn’t nearly as salty, and it’s much better.”

The Sentelles use a traditional method of curing meat, which can only be done over the winter months when cold temperatures allow the curing salts to take effect faster than the meat would otherwise spoil. That means, they explained, that when the quantity they produce in a given winter is gone, they can only wait until the next winter to make more.

The farm’s overall production is also on a smaller scale than many others because the Sentelles stock Berkshire hogs, a heritage breed that grows slower than most. “That’s why commercial growers don’t like it,” Jimmy said. But the quality, he said, is superior. “Last year our pork was served at Jonesborough’s Farm to Table dinner, and the chef was thrilled to be able to find Berkshire pork locally.”

“We’re really picky about our product,” said Minnie, “we don’t use nitrates or preservatives, and out of every batch, we fry up a piece to taste test before we sell it. We want to make sure our products are the best they can be.” 

The family’s dedication to their farm comes not just from the legacy they are continuing, but also the personal satisfaction of working their own land and seeing the tangible results. “We always hoped to do this,” Minnie said. “This is our adventure.”

You can find the Sentelles on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon at the Jonesborough Farmers Market. You can also buy direct from them at the farm in Bulls Gap.  Contact the Sentelles at or 423-329-1306.
Recipe:  Perfect Pork Tenderloin
Chef Alex Bomba of Bomba’s Fresh Italian served Sentelle’s pork loin for 160 guests at last year’s Farm to Table Dinner.  Here he describes how he would prepare a 12 ounce pork tenderloin (serves 2).

Soak your cut of pork overnight (but at least 6 hours) in the refrigerator in this brine mixture:
½  gallon water
¼ cup salt
¼  cup sugar
¼  cup apple cider

Remove from brine, and in a hot pan, sear the outside of the pork until brown.
Finish in 350 degree oven until done (145 degrees on a meat thermometer plus 3 minutes rest time).

While pork is cooking, prepare Apple Chutney:
2 apples, diced
½  cup raisins
3 Tablespoons apple cider
½  cup sugar
Cook together on low for 30 minutes, stirring constantly.

Spoon over sliced pork tenderloin.