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Opossum Hollow Farm: A 'Green Acres' plot playing out in Carter County

Nathan Baker • May 6, 2017 at 10:10 PM

Does it bother anyone else that Eva Gabor’s character in the opening credits of “Green Acres” didn’t want to give up her swanky metropolitan life and move to the sticks?

She enjoyed the stores and the penthouse view and even had seasonal allergies, but because her bigshot lawyer husband had a midlife crisis and wanted to fork hay in a three-piece suit, she was dragged into the “American Gothic” painting.

Anyways, unlike Mrs. Douglas’ unwilling lifestyle shift, both Savannah and Ryan Smith were ready for a change when they moved from Atlanta to the end of Opposum Hollow Road (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) in Carter County three years ago.

“We were sick of the city,” Savannah said from the kitchen on Opossum Hollow Farm, where the couple cans and pickles produce and she bakes loaf after loaf of chocolate chip banana bread. “It’s like we’ve defied the odds. You should see the looks our friends gave us when we told them we were going to go and start a farm.”

The two took up residence in the small cottage on 18 acres of ridgeline property previously used by Ryan’s family as a vacation property and set to work transforming it for agriculture.

The two didn’t have much farming experience — Ryan produced stage lighting and Savannah worked for a tour bus company before moving to Atlanta and becoming the “Laser girl” who produced laser light shows for Ryan’s company.

But with a lot of trial and error and some luck, Ryan built chicken coops and rabbit hutches and tilled the property’s steep slope for a garden.

About a year after moving to the hollow, Ryan and Savannah started selling canned and pickled goods from their garden and breads and pies made using the eggs their rare breed chickens laid.

Now, they hand deliver products to the Tri-Cities, Knoxville, Nashville and Asheville on a rotating weekly schedule. They started offering a handful of items, but have grown in two years to sell 40 different products throughout the year, now using online order forms.

They also care for more than 100 chickens and dozens of rabbits, the latter of which provide meat for their personal consumption.

Demand for their relish, pesto, sauer kraut, pickles, jams, fudge, banana breads and pies outgrew their small garden plot, and this year they decided to source their produce from local farmers to maintain quality consistency.

They bought two milk goats this year and plan to sell cheese and soap made from their milk next spring.

But the goats aren’t the only new residents on Opossum Hollow Farm. A year ago, their daughter Opal was born, and the two hope to raise her on the land and of the land.

“She drives me to work harder every day,” Ryan said, glancing at “Opie” cooing in Savannah’s lap. “I want Opossum Hollow to be a household name, and I want her to learn about the world from it.”

The small business doesn’t allow them a life of leisure. On pickling days, the two blow through a bushel of cucumbers in a single day, working from sunup to sundown.

When baked goods are in demand, Savannah can bake as many as 100 loaves in one long day out of their household oven.

“When we get busy, and with a 1-year-old, you can say goodbye to sleep,” she said. “We’re busier than we’ve ever been, and we’re very excited.”

Still, using their adapted old country recipes, Ryan says Savannah makes the best loaf of banana bread he and most customers have ever tasted, and their jalapeno jam surprises even skeptical buyers who claim their mountain-weathered grandmothers have made the best pepper jelly for generations.

With deliveries booming, the Smiths now hope to get their products on store shelves in the area. They’ve talked with Jonesborough’s Boone Street Market to use its larger kitchen, and they hope the market will stock some of their goods.

They plan to keep a small vegetable garden to feed their small family, but this year will grow flowers to sell locally.

And they’re always looking to expand their product offerings. Ryan said he’s perfected a kimchi that will soon be added to their order forms.

“There was a really steep learning curve to get things going,” he said. “But now that we’ve got things going how we want them, we’re ready to keep the momentum going.”

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