Steven and Tiffany, the heads of the household, graft fruit trees and care for 200 chickens. Their children, Alyssa, Morgan and Daniel, help with chores when not at school. Even Chubs, a white-and-black, long-haired cat, keeps the farm free of mice and rats.
“It’s a labor of love,” Steven said Friday on A Different Chick Farm and Orchard’s 6 acres. “There’s certainly no financial gain to it.”
Six years ago, Steven and Tiffany bought the house and land on Antioch Road, straddling the Johnson City line.
Moving from a cul-de-sac in a subdivision in the Stoney Creek community in Carter County, they downsized their house and upsized their plot, hoping to become more self-sufficient.
“We just loved this place,” Tiffany said. “We knew this was where we knew we could do as much as we wanted as a family.”
The couple met in church, and said it was love at first sight. Mostly.
“Well, it was love the first time I saw her,” Steven said. “It took a little while for me to convince her.”
The kids enjoy life on a working farm to varying degrees. Alyssa took to some of it, but Morgan likes it all, she said.
The other students at University High School are impressed by her agricultural home life, but Morgan says it’s just routine for her.
Steven said it was important for the children to learn about the source of the foods they eat.
The two founded the farm with chickens and goats, but the nosy goats tended to butt in where they didn’t belong. Now the farm only has one goat.
For the birds, the Stanleys focused on rare heritage breed chickens.
A Different Chick is one of the few places in the country to offer Pavlovskaya chickens, an old Russian breed.
Through its website, the farm sells and ships seven kinds of chickens, Muscovy ducks and Sebastopol geese.
“You should see the looks I get when I go to the post office with live chickens,” Tiffany said. “But they have a special live bird box, and they get it where it’s going surprisingly well.”
A few years ago, Steven started grafting fruit trees and laying out an orchard.
Though it’s a significant time investment up front, he eventually plans to expand to have hundreds of trees where customers can come and pick their own fruit.
Along the road at the bottom of their property are rows of young apple trees, again, mostly heritage varieties. At the top of the hill are the peaches, and near the horse field are the cherries.
Steven also works with apricots, plums, pluots, nectarines, figs, pecans and hazelnuts.
Out of the dozens of grafted trees potted and dotting work tables and ledges outside their house, about half will be planted and half will be sold.
The plan, Steven said, is to grow varieties that ripen at different times, from spring all the way through late fall. That way, they can be a year-round source of food and income for the family.
“It’s more an obsession than anything,” Steven said. “Nobody in this area is really doing anything with heritage fruit. We wanted the community to be able to see and enjoy what we have to offer.”
With larger orchards in the higher elevations of Roan Mountain and in North Carolina, he said the Johnson City area is ripe for a mom-and-pop farm nearby.
“We want other people to enjoy it,” Steven added. “It’s about helping the community.”