Fall must be the most gorgeous season in East TN. This year is no exception. The vibrant colors of the changing leaves stand out, whether it is a blue sky and white, puffy cloud kind of day or a grey and overcast day threatening rain. Lakes and ponds are cast over with mist from the cooler night temperatures, and geese form their ‘V’ to head further south. Outdoor parties and festivals become more tolerable with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s instead of the 80’s and 90’s. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.
Last weekend, Nourish Knoxville continued celebrating their 20th anniversary and invited supporters, volunteers, and market vendors to Strong Stock Farm for the annual Friends and Farmers appreciation event. Having never been to the event or Strong Stock Farm, I looked forward to it and was not disappointed. The first impression was a welcoming sign announcing the farm and a long gravel drive that takes you past pasture after pasture with cattle, horses, a turtle pond, and fun, animal-themed art on many of the fenceposts.
Strong Stock Farm was established in 1791 and is a land grant farm on 1,000 acres. Albert George Kern, III., and sister, Martha Strong Kern, are the seventh generation to run and manage the farm. Martha and her husband, John, live on the farm in a home originally built in 1820. This white farmhouse with a wraparound porch surrounded by large old trees and beautiful shrubs and flowers is as picturesque as it sounds. While it is their private home and a working farm, the family enjoys hosting events and supports several local, downtown nonprofit organizations this way.
As an avid Hallmark movie watcher, especially in the fall and holiday season, I instantly fell in love with the farm and its magnificent views. Only 15 minutes out of downtown Knoxville, this gem took my breath away. Rolling hills, changing leaves, water, horses, cattle, the cutest ducks I’ve ever seen, red barn, aging farm tool décor, music, lights, firepits with smore’s fixings, I felt like I was on a movie set for my favorite network. There was even a cakewalk. It was enchanting and nostalgic in the best ways.
The day was brisk in the shade and perfect in the sun with a nice breeze, except it prevented them from having the scheduled hot air balloon rides. They offered horseback rides for kids and adults and had a unicorn disguised as a miniature pony for petting. (😉) Horse and buggy rides took guests around the farm to get a broader view of the acreage. Following a path further back on the farmland took us to a red party barn and an old granary where the Tennessee Sheiks treated us to their joyful sounds. With views of the Smokies and House Mountain, you could enjoy your cakewalk winnings while sitting on a blanket on the hill, watching people laugh, dance, and take in the season.
The relationship between Strong Stock Farm and our downtown community extends beyond hosting parties. Their grass-fed beef is sold at Three Rivers Market, and restaurants like Good Golly Tamale use it daily. An event like this one is significant because it allows the farmers and those who support them through Nourish Knoxville to continue building relationships in a relaxed setting. Those relationships sustain their business and the community.
It’s no secret that we have access to nature out every door in Knoxville. Strong Stock Farm is only one example of East TN’s natural beauty within a few minutes drive of our downtown area. Ijams Nature Center is free and requires no invitation to visit. Knoxville Botanical Garden boasts a new look every season. If you don’t want to drive, you can visit rooftop bars like Five Thirty Lounge, Preservation Pub, or Radius Rooftop Lounge to get some awe-inspiring views of mountains as they change their colors and settle in for a long winter’s nap. I hope you will take a few minutes this weekend after visiting Market Square Farmers’ Market and walk around downtown. Take in the beauty and share your favorite views with us.