Historic Land, Heirloom Seeds

Farm Manager Michelle Ruigrok and Josephine, an Icelandic lamb

Golden Wyandotte chicken

Bush beans seedlings

Squash Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin - One of the best tasting pie pumpkins you can grow

Tripp, an an Icelandic Ram 

Winding Stair Farm, west of Franklin, has had many incarnations over the years.

Owners Greg Mullins and Stacy Bredendieck were told by the Army Corps of Engineers that the name of the stream, Trough Branch, on the edge of the farm came from a history of early settlers moving animals through this valley and the stream was a natural place to provide water.  

As they started clearing overgrown acres, they were surprised to uncover remains of polytunnels where flowers were grown for a local florist many decades ago.

“It’s a rare piece of relatively flat ground in what is otherwise a steep mountain valley,” Bredendieck says. “So I’m sure we’re not the first to farm this land. But the land had been dormant for many years and we had to start from a point of re-clearing the land, setting up fencing and paddocks, and adding buildings.”

Winding Stair Farm is about five-and-a-quarter acres, mostly devoted to pasture for Icelandic sheep and many breeds of chicken and other poultry. It sits on the Nantahala River, just below the headwaters. An acre is set aside for vegetable production, as well as a glasshouse where almost all the produce is started from seed.

Farm managers are Ezra Gardiner and Michelle Ruigrok.  They grow a diverse range of vegetables and herbs, from artichokes to tomatoes and kohlrabi to cucumbers. Their garden is no-till, and the focus is on unique or historic varieties of things that we all know and love, through developing healthy soil. 

“All of the seeds used for our vegetables are organic heirloom varieties, and un-patented when possible,” Gardiner says. “We also bake artisanal breads and offer goods from our animals, like eggs and Lopi yarn.”

You can find Winding Stair Farm at the Franklin Farmers’ Market year-round and they offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) memberships, delivered to Highlands and Franklin weekly. 

They can be found on Facebook at Winding Stair Farm or at WindingStairFarm.com, where anyone interested can sign up for a weekly newsletter that details what they’re offering that week, stories and photos from the farm, and information about deadlines for the CSAs. If you’d like further information, email them at ezra@windingstairfarm.com, michelle@windingstairfarm.com, or stacy@windingstairfarm.com.