Written by Bill Fishburne | Photos by Bill Fishburne & Brasstown Beef
“This land belongs to our people, some of them are living, some of them are dead, but most of them have not been born yet.” – E.J. Whitmire, 1916 – 1998
When I die, I want them to lay me down beneath a shade tree, head slightly elevated and facing south, in a pasture on Ridgefield Farm on the gentle slopes of Poor House Mountain. When the Lord comes and raises me up, the first thing I will see will be a valley of endless pastures and trees, with a single white church steeple that reaches for the morning sun.
I will rise up and walk towards that church, marveling in the beauty of all that God has created. There will be cattle in the fields and a profusion of birds in the trees. I’ll walk by granite springs with pure, sweet water. I’ll cross streams where the brookies just stare at me through the sparkling cold, clear water. Eventually I’ll arrive at that little church where good mountain folk gather in recognition that all they have, all that they love, and all that they care for is a gift from God.
Of course, none of this has been cleared with Steve Whitmire, the owner of Ridgefield Farm, but the tall, extroverted cattle rancher who owns most of Poor House Mountain and the surrounding area is an amicable, God fearing kind of a guy. Who knows? It could happen.
Ridgefield Farm is a 1,000-plus acre farm in the hills just a few miles Southeast of Murphy, NC. Whitmire shares the land with a few hundred Braunvich and Black Angus cattle. The farm is a GAP (Global Animal Partnership) Step 4 (Pasture Centered) farm. The cattle are pasture fed and rounded off with free-choice access to a carefully formulated combination of silage and home-grown corn, dried grain from the Jack Daniels distillery, a special formulation of probiotics and minerals, and a supplement made from cinnamon, kelp and garlic. There are no added hormones, no antibiotics and zero stress in their lives. They are, in every conceivable way, contented cattle.
Writing for Capital at Play for the past few years has taken your humble servant to a variety of locations. We embraced a wonderful new meat flavor when we toured and wrote about the Carolina Bison ranch in Leicester. We renewed old acquaintanceship at the Hickory Nut Gap farm in Fairview featuring grass fed beef. We learned some of the ways bison differ from cattle, the difference between muck and mud, and we watched late-season kale grow in the incredibly rich bottom land of the Cane Creek farm.
The Ridgefield Farm stands out, however, as one of the most beautiful places we have ever been and is operated with the highest levels of science and computer technology.
In addition to the cattle ranch the farm raises its own non-GMO feed corn and has hundreds of acres of timberlands on its steeper ridges. There also is the Brasstown Farm Store on the premises at 1960 Brasstown Rd., offering direct sales of the farm’s beef and pork products.
Ridgefield is just down Brasstown Road from Logan’s Corner country store where the New Year’s Eve Possum Drop draws 3,000 family oriented and mostly sober revelers. It also is the home of Tri-County Race Track, a quarter-mile dirt track that draws young men and women to Friday night short track racing that features the roar of great thumping V-8 engines, the smells of gasoline and oil, and the sky-darkening, life-changing bedlam of turn one on a dirt track.
It’s real. It’s authentic. It’s not diluted with excessive regulations and little biddy ladies who want to protect opossums and don’t like noise on Friday night. This is Brasstown and Steve Whitmire, a prominent member of a culture that is as colorful as a mountain sunset.
(article continues on page 2 and more photographs are at the end)