Driving down Banks Pisgah Road in Smithville, Tennessee on a cold and dreary February day, you might be surprised to see tomatoes already in the ground anywhere nearby. But this is what you would find at Food From God Farm. It's no miracle; it's just one of the innovative and exciting ideas Lori Wright and her family members are implementing on their five-acre farm.
Wright, her father (who hails from Kentucky), six of her siblings (there are ten in all), and their families found their little slice of heaven outside of Smithville two years ago, when they decided to move from Arizona to the South to get back to their roots.
"We knew we'd finally found the right place to farm when we heard the name of the road it was on," says forty-two-year-old Wright, one of just three girls in the large family. In the Bible, Moses saw the Promised Land for the first time from Mount Pisgah. And that rang true to Wright, considering that the first plot of land the family purchased in Tennessee was so stone-filled the family jokingly called it their "rock farm."
During their first season they primarily grew strawberries to sell at the Smithville Farmers' Market. Because of the abundance of fruit the plants produced, they're opening as a Pick Your Own operation this year. "Fifteen thousand strawberry plants produce a lot of strawberries," Wright says, laughing. "It was many more than our family could pick by hand for the farm stand."
This year they're also planning to sell tomatoes, and eventually blueberries and raspberries. Using a unique system Wright's father co-engineered with some Amish friends, the Wrights' tomatoes, planted in winter, are protected from the cold with pipes flowing with warm water buried around the roots of the plants. The water is heated by a wood stove. "Through this growing system and the help of hoop houses, eventually we hope to have tomatoes and strawberries year round," Wright said.
With a family of seventeen people all living under one roof for now, everyone has a role to play on the farm. "My father directs things, but we all have our strengths," says Wright. Hers lies in the baked goods she whips up every morning, both for the family as well as for sale. Purchasing their grains from Amish organic producers in Montana, Wright and her sisters use a stone mill to grind the grains into flour every morning. They use these whole grains, along with wholesome, unprocessed ingredients such as seeds, nuts, coconut oil, raw sugar, and honey. They also utilize the fresh produce from the farm they put up last summer.
"Our goal is get as many healthful fruits and vegetables into people as possible, not preservatives," she says. For example, Wright will use the juice of a freshly pressed carrot in place of water to moisten bread dough. She'll also use the flour from ground dried beans like pinto, black, and Great Northern to add protein to their breads and cookies. These are also key ingredients in their best-selling protein bar. "People love our baked goods," Wright says. "Although I'll try not to tell them all that's in it before they taste it. Most people have never had bean flour, and I don't want to jade them."
When asked if she ever thinks about how simple and seemingly idyllic her lifestyle may seem to others, Lori Wright says, "I like things to be simple, and it's really nice to work alongside your family. We lead a simple life and we just try to help people get simple whole foods into their bodies. And that works for us right now."
Produce and baked goods from Food From God Farm can be found at the Smithville Farmers' Market, and at a farm stand at the corner of College and Bryant streets in Smithville (by the Courthouse) Monday through Friday.