The farm wasn’t our original plan, it evolved. Greg and Stacy started looking for a place in the mountains in 2010. They did it in the way most Atlantans look for a second home:
“We wanted a place in North Georgia to get away to on the weekends. I wanted to be at a high elevation and Greg wanted to be on a river. It’s a hard combination as rivers usually run in valleys. Somehow it was a campground in Western North Carolina that met our requirements.” – Stacy
For the first few years, they used the property for extended weekend trips, as originally intended. They had dreams of a small garden, maybe some chickens but since they didn’t live at the property full time there was little they could maintain. So they started with bees. Greg attended the Macon County Bee school in 2014, there he met Michelle. A few months later they would convince Michelle and Ezra to move into the apartment they had created in the space of the old camp store – just to help out around the property.
“Within a year we had chickens (in the campground bathhouse) and then our first sheep (on the septic field).” – Stacy
The original campground property is 15 acres; however, most of it is terraced with tree cover for the previous campsites and RV hook-ups which presented a problem when wanting to start a garden. In 2013 Greg and Stacy were able to purchase five adjacent acres of relatively flat clear ground. After more than a year of re-clearing the overgrown property the team planted the first garden on what was to become Winding Stair Farm.
They sold their extra eggs to friends and family. Michelle and Ezra figured out how to shear the sheep. And they sought advice from families who had generations of knowledge about farming in this area. Greg and Stacy still thought of the farm as a way to sustain themselves until the year after Ezra started working as the Farm Manager at Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, NC.
Ezra’s success at the farms in Highlands opened up the possibility to transform our little farm into a sustainable business. The growth of the local food movement in both direct retail and restaurants created a market for the food we were already growing. This, combined with Ezra’s passion for vegetables and Michelle’s deep care for the animals, made a great start. But their combined dedication to the long hours and relentless optimism is the spirit of Winding Stair Farm.