When large feasts like Thanksgiving were held many years ago, everything on the tables often came from someone the feasters probably knew (or at least could find) who took the time to raise it, grow it, harvest it or hunt it.
That does not happen too much anymore, with everything readily available from the grocery store, though some items may come from a garden or from a successful hunt.
Unless you have a farm.
Thursday at the Hoover family house in Johnson City, everything on their table for Thanksgiving dinner will have come from their Carter County farm. In fact, most of their meals have food from the farm.
“We decided we wanted to make a deliberate decision on how we get our food and the food we eat,” said Heather Hoover. “Our dinner comes from the farm in some way, shape or form at least for some portion of the meal.”
On this year’s Thanksgiving table there will be a turkey raised at the farm, sweet potato casserole, green beans, broccoli, salad with lettuce and tomatoes and other vegetables from their garden, egg noodles made from fresh eggs laid by the chickens, yeast rolls with honey from the beehives on the property and pumpkin and raspberry pies.
Every bit of that came from the Hoover farm.
Hoover is an English professor at Milligan College. Her husband is a doctor. The family lives on the Tree Streets but about three years ago got the 13-acre farm.
Hoover’s husband grew up in a rural setting and knew how to do some of the heavier work at the farm. Her parents always had a garden and canned everything, so she knew how to do that.
“But when it came time to slaughter the chickens we had no idea how to do that, so we had a sharp learning curve,” she said.
They figured it out, though.
Besides chickens, the Hoovers raise goats, pigs, rabbits, bees, all kinds of vegetables, pumpkins, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and herbs.
In the summer the family spends a lot of time at the farm, less in the winter. They have cold frames and a greenhouse. The family makes their own maple syrup, hot sauce, salsa and spaghetti sauce.
By the way, a cold frame is a little glass greenhouse built close to the ground for heartier plants to help extend the growing season.
To make the farming successful, Hoover must plan out how much the family eats and how much to grow and then can for later use.
Hoover does buy some things like pretzels or peanut butter from the store.
Sometimes, she invites her classes out to the farm to study literature. The students help fix meals together and really enjoy the animals, especially the goats. They learn a lot, Hoover said.
“I have a couple of students right now who are looking for internships on farms,” Hoover said.
There is a magical aspect to farming, she said, of planting a single seed and seeing the bounty that is harvested from the plant that emerges. She said farming brings a tangible connection with her faith and how she lives.
The Hoovers’ children will learn about living from what the land can provide and valuing the food they eat.
“There is a value to each life on this farm, whether it’s a bean or a chicken and we want to be worthy of these lives, we want to do them justice,” Hoover said. “I love knowing that my kids can go out in the garden and pick anything off the vine and eat it. I like knowing not only what’s gone into it but that we’ve gone into it.”