Story and photos by Belle Crawford
A lifetime of experiences in sustainable agriculture, homesteading, animal husbandry, education, construction and business administration has culminated in a local family farm that teaches, inspires and entertains.
Frances Tacy—together with her husband, Jeff, and her 21-year-old son, Zach—has been building Franny’s Farm in Leicester for five years. But the vision for the farm started long before that.
“My favorite childhood memories are of spending time on my dad’s cattle farm in Tennessee,” says Frances, who goes by Franny. “I did everything from riding horses and mucking stalls to building hay bale forts and interacting with all kinds of farm animals.”
Jeff also came from a farming family. “At the age of four, I lived on a homestead with a garden, pigs, chickens, geese and a family horse,” he says. “A few years later, we upgraded to a full-scale dairy farm. We milked 150 head of cattle twice a day and put up thousands of hay bales per year.”
The Tacys moved to Asheville in 1999 and began building their dream farm from scratch. “In 2012, we bought land overgrown with brambles,” says Franny. “We’ve now turned it into a paradise that we get to share with others.”
The farm is home to a large flock of heritage Barred Plymouth Rock chickens, sheep, a donkey named Abigail, two Red Waddle heritage hogs named Dumpling and Donut, and a variety of goats and bees. “Our chicken and sheep flocks are diverse and relatively small in size,” says Franny. “This allows us to develop high quality breeding stocks for other farmers and homesteaders.”
Last year, Franny’s Farm was awarded a Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) grant to expand humane farming and make welfare improvements. “I am a huge proponent of good farm management practices,” says Franny. “Animal Welfare certification is transparent in a society where there is so much consumer confusion about labeling.”
In addition to raising animals for breeding and meat consumption, Franny’s Farm uses them to teach farm skills and animal care to children in the farm’s summer camp programs. “Animals are the best teachers,” Franny says. ”They teach compassion, nonverbal communication and the responsibility of having dependents. Each day of farm camp we focus on learning and interacting with a specific animal. Kids get to watch eggs hatching, learn what a ruminant is, groom a donkey and inspect what each animal eats and why.”
New to the farm’s educational opportunities this year is a primitive skills camp for young girls. The mission of the summer program is to empower young girls to learn self-sufficiency, to get their hands dirty, plant, harvest and cook their own food, tend to farm animals and learn basic wilderness survival skills like plant identification and fire starting.
Franny’s Farm also hosts weddings, private parties and the annual BARNaroo Music Festival. It has four rentable eco-cabins, a rentable custom barn house and campsites nestled in 33 acres of beautiful sloping landscape surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains.
Franny’s Farm is located on 22 Franny’s Farm Road in Leicester. For more information, see frannysfarm.com.