Mountain Hollow Farm Visit

Not far off the four-lane highway north of Tazewell, Tennessee, down a tree-lined gravel road, a once forgotten family farm and business is slowly coming back to life.  It took a move of faith and a twist on farming to make it happen.
Beth Bohnert at
Mountain Hollow Farm
A mission trip once took Beth Bohnert away from her comfort zone in Pennsylvania and south  into the hills of Appalachia.  When she returned home, Bohnert told her husband she'd like to move there, and they ended up buying a few acres just a few miles south of the Kentucky and Virginia borders, an hour north of Knoxville, in Northeast Tennessee.  Mr. Bohnert's truck driving career gave them the flexibility to relocate, and soon his wife started building her dream farm in the little hollow where they resettled.
Grover Rules the Pen as Elder Buck
Linda Mahoney looks on as
Cohleen Dentler Holds a
2-Day-Old Kid

"I love what I'm doing," exclaimed Bohnert when she gave us a tour.  "I just feel like God has given me my childhood dream."  My daughter and I joined several members of the Gibson Hall Family and Community Education Club during their tour of Mountain Hollow Farm.  The locals appreciate that the farm rests on the site of the historic Vancel Mill property.  Although the mill is gone, a circa 1931 general store has been restored for use as a store and studio.  An old barn next to a livestock pen gets daily use now.

Course Guard Hairs Intermingle with
Fine Cashmere Fibers
Everyone on the tour gets the chance to meet the cashmere goats up close, as well as llama, sheep, an angora rabbit and a few fowl.  Each spring, the goats prized for their delicate undercoat get brushed until the finest fiber comes out.  On the educational tour, school children and adults can see how the wool is carded and spun into yarn.  They also learn that most of the cashmere is sent away now for mechanized separation of the cashmere from the courser guard hair and to be turned into yarn. 

Cashmere Goat Mother and Kid
Bohnert admits the learning curve was steep for preparing to own livestock. She took classes and studied animal husbandry for a year before getting into farming.  At first, several of the young did not survive, "That first year was pretty heartbreaking," said Bohnert.  Then, even the cautiousness of a retired business actuary couldn't prepare her for the flood that washed out the pasture fencing.

Today's sustainable methods of farming include letting Khaki Campbell ducks forage in the pens for parasites that might otherwise infect the goats.  There's still fence to be built so the goats can have their pick of more green pasture.  A pavilion just went up to host large groups.  Plans are even underway for gardens that feature native plants.

Peek inside the old general store...