Nicole and Mark Lewis were the initial inspiration for the New American Gothic series. They had posted a selfie with their rooster, Fricassee, that made me laugh so hard, I knew I had to photograph them and THAT ROOSTER! We had such a fun time on this shoot, I loved having Mark’s mom on hand to assist. The only direction that I give the farmers, is that I want them to hold something that represents them and/or their farm and I’m looking for a few pops of red in the photo. Other than those two requests, I don’t “style” their outfits. I may help them chose “this shirt or that shirt” “this prop or that prop” and spread out a wrinkle or brush off a chicken feather, but I want the photos to reflect their personalities (and the personalities of their animals). When Nicole asked if she should put a Bow-tie on Fricassee, I cracked up, because Nicole is known to have a thing about bow-ties (just ask Junior, the cat.)
Nicole and Mark are a creative duo with a flock of chickens, a heard of cats, and a livestock guardian dog named Earline, who I witnessed playing with the chickens like they were puppies. Earline and Fricassee take their protector jobs seriously, sounding an alarm when a predator approaches, allowing the chickens to take cover. I love the way that Nicole described the dog barking and the rooster cackling, “The whole show is quite impressive when you see it working all together…one of the many fascinating things that humans have lost touch with – the instincts and natural functions the Mother has built into its inherent structure.” This level of protection allows the chickens to be pasture raised, inspiring their slogan…happy hens lay healthy eggs.
Like all of the farmers featured in this series, the talents extend beyond the borders of the farm. Nicole is a graphic designer and decoupage queen with an eye for style. Her business Fondue Vintage Homewares specializes in switch-plate covers and lampshades covered in vintage wallpaper. I’m only slightly jealous of her awesome collection of vintage wallpaper. You can see and purchase some of her creations on her Etsy store. Mark plays the guitar, brews beer (with their homegrown hops), cooks a mean cornbread and wrangles chickens in addition to his day job at The Ranch, a world class recovery and rehab facility in Hickman County TN.
Prints from the New American Gothic Series will be on display at Toyzini Gallery (Stop #15) on the Arts & Ag Tour of Hickman County, May 27-28. More info on the tour can be found at the Arts & Ag Website.
Sugar Camp Farm, Bon Aqua, TN, is this week’s featured American Gothic farmer photo. Jesse Higginbotham and Lizzie Wright were great sports to take a break to pose for pictures on a hot August day, during their first summer of farming at Sugar Camp Farm. The couple married in October of 2014, bought 78 acres and a flock of 21 sheep in January of the following year. With a commitment to each other, and to a full-time farm life, they started a market garden in spring of 2015 and have been working hard to grow their farm. In 2016, they began to offer CSA shares and are currently growing for 27families, in addition to selling at the Richland Park Farmers Market every Saturday morning.
With a background in landscape design and management intensive grazing, Jesse has a deep understanding of the impact of overgrazing. Together, they have committed to a style of grazing management that means more work for them, but is better for the land, the animals and for the people who later enjoy the meat on their dinner table. The animals are moved every 1-4 days to ensure that they get the healthiest grass without overgrazing the land, they do this with a series of portable solar-powered electric fences. The pastured lamb meat can be purchased directly from them by pre-ordering before the meat is processed in the spring or at the farmers market. Lizzie’s background includes a Master’s Degree in Forestry from the University of Missouri, specializing in forest ecology and management, which may explain why you’re likely to find her traipsing through the woodlands to forage for edibles. You can rest assured that she will never be guilty of over harvesting or doing anything to harm the health of the forest or the land. The vegetables are all grown using biodynamic and organic methods. All of this sounds like a lot of work? It is, and they’ve been fortunate to get some great farm helpers. Jesse’s dad, Tony, helps out at least once a week, and they’ve hosted a handful of farm interns, volunteers and “wwoofers.” WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a network of organic farms that agree to provide room and board to folks in exchange for help on the farm.
Lizzie is also a talented singer and musician, and they have committed to providing opportunities for others to enjoy music on their beautiful farm. They’ve hosted a series of House Concerts which have brought a wide variety of music to Hickman County, such as Curt Oren, Dana T, Dubb Nubb and Helen Vaskevitch. Join them this Friday, May 13th at 6pm for their first outdoor show and potluck of the season featuring Googolplexia and Matt from Bunnygrunt and on May 22nd for their annual May Day celebration and outdoor farm concert. You can learn more about them at SugarCampFarmTN.com on Facebook or on Instagram.