Melissa Rebholz is a prime example of how farmers must be Jacks & Jills of all trades. With a collective ten years of farming experience, Melissa and Severian run Riverhouse Farm on a few acres in Eastern Tennessee. In 2017 Tater Tats helped fund a pump so they could utilize the Nolichuckey River, their farm namesake, to irrigate their fields.
You can reach River House Farm at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us about your project, what do you do?
At River House Farm we grow 2-3 acres of organic vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs. We operate a small, 10 - 15 person CSA and sell mostly to restaurants in Asheville, NC and East Tennessee. We host farm-to-table dinners on the farm, teach cooking classes to at-risk teens through a local non-profit, run an Airbnb out of a tiny farm cabin, and MORE!
How did you get into working in food?
I began farming after attending culinary school and managing Farmer's Markets in NYC. I cared so much about the quality of ingredients, the farming practices, and eating seasonally but financially, it was out of my reach, at least in New York. If I couldn't afford to buy it, I thought, I'd be the one to grow and sell it!
What are you most excited about right now? What are some of your future goals?
Right now, I am excited to be entering our second season as a head farmer. Last year was the first year farming on my own farm. Going into the second season with a list of what worked (and what didn't) is really helpful. There is no possible way this year can be as tough as last, and that is truly relieving. We are hoping we can apply all that we learned from our mistakes and have even more success. Future goals include having our produce in more local restaurants, offering more cooking classes, and building a community of folks in East Tennessee that want to put money back into their own economy by supporting small farms and eating seasonally.
What frustrates you most about your work or the current food culture at large? What do you wish to change the most?
I get frustrated at the common perception that food should be very cheap. I see people cutting corners when it comes to putting whole, healthy, local and organic meals on their plates but buying a lot of throw-away crap at big box stores. I'd like to just keep leading by example on social media and in real life in hopes that I may inspire folks around here to consume less, spend more time outdoors, put cell phones away in exchange for face time with neighbors, and cook real wholesome meals from scratch for their families.
Any recent moments of optimism? Things you see changing for the better?
For the most part I am feeling very optimistic right now, despite the current political climate. I think we are at a tipping point. I see a backlash against technology and highly processed foods on the horizon. I think people want to reconnect with each other and feel good again.
Favorite vegetable to eat, grow or wear?
Well, I love to wear flowers in my hair, if that counts! Fennel and onions are tied for my two favorite vegetables to grow and eat. I love everything about these two--but especially how drastically the flavor changes when in crisp and thinly shaved raw salads vs. insanely sweet caramelized slices on pizzas and sandwiches. Even if you don't get to picking them in time, their flowers and pollen are almost more delicious than their bulbs!
Anything else you want us to know? Anything you want us to help you spread the word about?
I just want everyone to know that we really do vote everyday with our food dollars. We don't manufacture a lot here anymore in America but there are a ton of amazing local farms. If you can't afford American made shoes, appliances, cars, or clothes, BUY LOCAL FOOD! The grocery store doesn't need your money to keep their lights on or hire an extra employee, but a local farmer does.