8 WNC Farms to Table and Homesteading Institutions

When it’s done right, food photography is primal. You see the garden fresh vegetables with colors bursting and something clicks in your mind. Or maybe it’s a golden pour of bourbon.  Or a platter of barbecue so intense-looking you can smell smoke.

Food photography also puts you in touch with the right people (i.e. the ones who can feed well.) They’re inevitably the ones doing the most interesting work, especially here in Western North Carolina.

Since moving here, photographer Erin Adams has helped tell the visual story of  the region’s radical rise of food culture. She provides professional photography for restaurants’ social media, websites, and advertising. Her images capture the nuances and textures and vibe: both the restaurateurs serving local farm fresh ingredients and the chefs and farmers and homesteaders behind it all. She’s also been promoting the whole farm to table tourism sector that’s rapidly developing around our community.

Bison Farm

It’s the kind of work that couldn’t come from someone who didn’t truly support local food culture. As someone who lives close to Fairview, Erin’s own personal cooking is a reflection of her time with all the family farmers in the area.

We asked Erin to highlight some of the people and businesses she’s most excited to work with and share with visitors.


ASAP, short for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, helps “local farms thrive by linking farmers to markets and supporters, and building healthy communities through connections to local food. They’re a great resource for organizing visits to local Asheville area and Western North Carolina farms.

East Fork Farms

East Fork Farms is a small family farm in Madison County, NC with a gristmill for stone ground corn, pastured poultry, and grass fed lamb. They have several cottages available for a truly unique stay in WNC, as well as an apprenticeship program for people wanting to learn about organic farming firsthand.

East Fork Farm

Doctor King’s Bison Farms 

Most Americans don’t know the story of our National Mammal, the Plains Bison. Once the most numerous herd on earth, Bison were slaughtered almost to extinction in the late 1800’s, even though their meat far more nutritious than beef. Based in Leicester, Dr. King’s Bison Farm is a great place to come visit and learn about this iconic animal as well as other animals, including elk, camels, yak, and Whitetail deer.

Ashley English

Ashley English is among the leading figures in the Asheville and Western North Carolina homesteading community. She’s the author of the, Homemade Living book series (Lark Books) which “showcase a variety of topics related to small-scale homesteading, as well as A Year of Pies, Handmade Gatherings: Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations & Potluck Parties, and Quench: Handcrafted Beverages To Satisfy Every Taste and Occasion.

Farmer’s Hands

For those wanting an amazing local food experience, The Farmer’s Hands is both a cooking school and dinner club run by real deal homesteaders Sebastiaan and Ariel Zijp.

Flying Cloud

Flying cloud farm in Fairview has one of the most classic spots in WNC: a true roadside vegetable stand that’s all on the honor system (leave cash or check). Flying Cloud grows berries, veggies, and flowers all with sustainable farming practices. They also have an amazing CSA.

Hickory Nut Gap 

Right down the road from Flying Cloud,  Hickory Nut Gap is a WNC institution for their grass-fed meats, which supply many of Asheville’s best restaurants and are also available for CSA. It’s also a classic Fall family spot with their corn maze, cider, pumpkin patch, and tractor rides.

Looking Glass

Fairview’s Looking Glass Creamery is just 15 minutes away from downtown Asheville, but (like all of these locations) has an awesome mountain feel that makes a great day trip for the family. Their cheese is among the best in WNC, and their resident “goat ambassadors” are awesome for kids to learn about where their food comes from.

Harmon Dairy Farms

Western North Carolina’s great Food Story: Edible Asheville

Food writing may be the last form of journalism that doesn’t divide us.  Obviously, people will take sides when it comes to Piedmont versus Western North Carolina barbecue or the most poetic preparation of Raviolo al Uovo or Shrimp and Grits for that matter. But then those are healthy divisions, the kind that somehow actually bring us together. And this because good food always reconnects us to the land and to each other. And good stories about food remind us of that connection.


“When the snow glistens on the mountaintops and the wood stove brightens the darkest corners of my home,” writes Edible Asheville Managing editor Jen Nathan Orris, “I turn to pasta for sustenance.”

Who doesn’t share that sentiment?  If not for pasta, those “layers of lasagna dotted with ricotta” she describes, then for some other soul-bolstering dish—say good old proletariat collards and black-eyed peas with plenty of Frank’s Hot Sauce and a fat goblet of Malbec?

This is what Edible Asheville does so well.  Their tagline— “The story of food and drink in Western North Carolina”—puts the narrative nature of food front and center. For a town and region that has such a white-hot culinary and bar scene, it would be easy for our local food magazine to just showcase the latest breweries and restaurants. But Edible Asheville reminds us of what really matters, which are the connections, traditions, and people behind the ladle. At times it feels almost like a conversation you’d have out on the porch on a June evening, remembering the past generations of farmers, foragers, and homesteaders, the agrarian culture that’s deeply rooted of these mountains.

One key is the editorial direction led by Jen Nathan Orris. For example, the winter 2018 issue dives deep into fresh pasta- and sauce-making not just as a window into some of our local culinary schools (The Farmer’s Hands) and beloved local restaurants (Vinnie’s) but as stories of time-honored traditions. The articles lean in the best direction — inward — finding the connections between Sunday gravy and “an effort to recapture a time that’s lost, when families came together every week to share stories and laughter and joy over a great meal.”

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The other key is the vibrant work of photo editor Erin Adams. She’s credited by Jen as with her ability to “take a kernel of an idea and turn it into a visual experience for readers” as well as her “incredible ability to capture beauty, from portraits to styled food shots and everything in between.”

As you can see from this brief interview, Erin is super modest, preferring to let her photos speak for themselves. But over the past several years, perhaps more than any other photographer in Asheville, she’s amassed a body of work that truly captures the visual story of the Asheville food scene, not to mention the people behind it, with powerful images of the chefs, homesteaders, brewers and teachers behind the scenes.

As with the written approach to Edible Asheville, you get the sense that the photography is a labor of love. Indeed, Erin mentioned, “It’s not about money. I just want to support the agriculture community here in this area.” 

Check out the Spring 2018 Edible Asheville on newsstands now.

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Q + A with Asheville Commercial Photographer Erin Adams

Meet Asheville Commercial Photographer Erin Adams

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Among leading creatives in Asheville you’ll find a certain pattern. They’ve grown up somewhere in the South. They’ve gone off to build their careers in LA or SF or NYC. And then something — be it family, friends, the opportunity to have studio space — pulls them to Asheville. And in this small town they find community support at a level that’s unheard of in a town this size (or maybe any size). 

Commercial photographer Erin Adams fits right in. She grew up in Savannah, then established herself as a commercial photographer in Los Angeles before moving to Asheville. “I'd sensed the strong community while visiting friends in Asheville, and [when I moved here] I felt it,” she explains. “I didn’t fully trust it in that initial time, but as I’ve lived here it’s proven itself to me time and time and time again. I’ve never lived anywhere that really cares this much about keeping a healthy sustainable community going, which is awesome.”

Erin took a few minutes out of her busy schedule (she was on her way to a shoot at Harmon Dairy) to answer a few questions. I learned quickly she’s not someone to get into elaborate discussions about her process or approach to work. Instead, she likes to let her images speak for themselves. 

Harmon Diary Creamery

DM: How do you approach a shoot?

EA: The thing is, every shoot is totally different, though the first step is always listening to the client's story. You know, I was meeting with this catering company yesterday and I thought it was so endearing when they said, “you know, we have to charge the bigger markets — Raleigh, Atlanta — more so we can help the smaller Asheville folks.”  As a caterer, it costs her the same. But she quotes it differently because she has a heart. Things are changing so rapidly in this small town, with so many people visiting from afar, that businesses keeping services affordable for the locals who've called Asheville home before the hype is commendable.  And I’m that way in my business. 

But I hate talking about money. Because at the end of the day it’s not about money. 

DM: No. 

EA: Like today’s shoot. I just want to support the agriculture community here in this area. 

DM: It’s about the relationships, isn’t it? 

EA: Yeah. I mean, if we can all just support each other and do what it is we do well…

DM: Do you see yourself staying here? Does Asheville really feel like home?

EA: Yeah, it’s home.  It is a beautiful place to call home and close to my family in Savannah and Charleston.

DM: Do you travel much for photography?

EA: The first year I lived here I went to LA a lot. And over the years I’ve assisted other photographers on some bigger shoots.  But I can’t think of anywhere exciting recently. I mean, I went to Spartanburg [laughs]. I guess we [my partner and I] don’t travel enough as we should as people with no kids. We are heading to Sun Valley, Idaho in July and planning a trip to Switzerland/Europe at the end of Summer. Not for work but will shoot for inspiration. Also, in the beginning stages of a book project that will take me near and far this coming year.

DM: What is the photographer scene like here in Asheville?

EA: To be honest I only know a few other photographers here. I don’t feel we compete for work. When I see other photographers bidding or shooting similar jobs, I’m like, “good!”  Everyone has their strengths.

DM: What would you tell that young photographer, that college kid just starting out in the industry? 

EA: You can do it. You must have passion, patience. Be brave and don’t worry if your life doesn’t look like everyone else’s around you. But you must have passion. It’s not easy. It’s not “the norm” per se. 

DM: What’s not the norm?

EA: Just not always being able to feel secure but having faith that you are secure in what you’re doing. And trusting in yourself, trusting that your goals will be achieved: that’s where the demanding work comes in. So, I would say, good luck! You can do it! And relationships are worth more than anything else. 

DM:  What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

EA: I don’t know what I do with my time [smiles]. I don’t watch TV. I don’t troll the internet much.  I read the news and I work. That is the thing about being a photographer that is less glamorous, hours at the computer editing. As soon as the weather warms up I'll be out hiking with my dogs...can't wait for that.

Lifestyle with Dogs
Lifestyle Dog Image

Restaurant Owners, Put Your Best Food Forward: Why High-Quality Images Matter Online

Have you ever had this conversation? “Where do you wanna eat?” “I heard about this newish place downtown, I think called [your name here].” “Hmmm, lemme look them up.” “You check out their website; I’ll look at their Insta.”

According to recent research, 18- to 35-year-olds spend, on average, five full days a year browsing food images on Instagram. And 30% of people in that age group would avoid a restaurant if its Instagram presence were unimpressive. But while many millennials say they check Instagram first when making a dining decision, they also report looking at a restaurant’s website; specifically, not surprisingly, the pictures. * One of the easiest ways to make their decision a “let’s go” for your eatery is professional photos. When they come to your site and your Instagram account looking for mouthwatering images that tempt and tantalize, phone snaps can’t hold a candle to a professional’s and professional equipment. Why? Food Photographers know: All the right angles:

Want to make your already big burger look even bigger? There’s a right angle for that.


Make the restaurant look spacious and inviting? There’s a right angle for that.


A plate to look not just full but overflowing? Yup, there’s a right angle for that, too.

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No need to spend hours experimenting; I can find that right angle from the first shutter click.

How to light the way: Lighting means the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. And while phone cameras have come a long way in terms of quality and resolution, they simply can’t address bad lighting the way a photographer can. I have portable lighting and light boxes just for the occasion—equipment that is more costly to buy than hiring a photographer with the goods and the knowledge to use it to your advantage.

Tricks for banishing blemishes: Leave it up to what you can capture quickly with a point-and-shoot and diners could see a drip here, a less-than-green piece of lettuce there. Professional food photographers are trained to spot the imperfections. And if it’s an issue that can’t just be wiped away or the dish remade, I have the skills and equipment to disguise and detract from the problem. 

In other words, I know how to help you put your best food forward. I shoot in an editorial style, blending stories with marketing ideas. I love shooting food and restaurants because I love how food brings people together, has the power to make people happy, and celebrates culture. 

As a professional food photographer, I’m no stranger to restaurants. I’m a regular contributor to several local publications, including WNC Magazine, Smoky Mountain Living and Edible Asheville Magazine, which assign me to shoot so many great food destinations in and around Asheville Along with several other publications.  

My recent work currently on stands includes: Edible Asheville, Smoky Mountain Living (Recipes by Ashley English), Taproot "Hearth" Issue (Mulling), and The Local Palate (East Fork Pottery)  

Want to see the difference going pro can make for your restaurant branding efforts? Visit my Asheville clients: Nightbell, Bone & Broth, Luella's BBQ online and on Instagram. Be sure to "like" them while you are there!




PS: Once you’ve hired me to deliver a series of alluring and appetizing food and restaurant images, you don’t have to stop at posting them to your Instagram and website. Use them everywhere, from print and online advertisements to signage; any outlet you choose to increase brand awareness and drive sales. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a perfectly-palatable professional photo’s worth thousands more likes—online and in person.

*Source: independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/millenials-restaurant-how-chooseinstagram-social-media-where-eat-a7677786.html