Creating Your Own Paradise – NC Farm School Stories
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Sometimes to capture a little piece of heaven, you have to build it yourself. Without a doubt, there is no shortage of creativity at Little Peak Creek Farm. Artists Lisa and Stephen Willingham, together have literally carved out a small corner of paradise on an untouched piece of acreage in Ashe County.
Lisa and Stephen envisioned this property for agritourism, a destination that combined farm life, art and community.
“The desire to have an agricultural tourism farm fit us well as we love creating places for other to enjoy that include creative and artistic influences that include animals and plants of all kinds,” revealed Lisa Willingham. As you tour the property, every part of the landscape has been laid out thoughtfully, deliberately and creatively.
The Willingham’s are well-known regionally for their creative contributions. Stephen Willingham’s art is found throughout West Jefferson, most notably the metal cows at the famous Ashe County Cheese. Lisa Willingham, an interior designer, manages the couple’s art gallery in West Jefferson, the Artists Theater.
Inspired by old mountain lodges, Stephen Willingham designed and built the couple’s home, complemented by a guest cabin, a smoke house, old apple trees and a terraced garden. As the landmark pieces of their property came together, they needed to sustain the dream with strategic execution. The husband and wife team enrolled in NC Farm School to guide their agritourism plans for their property. “We attended the farm school to develop a good farm plan and learn what plants and animals that may be profitable. It helped us focus on creating a long and a short range list of goals in order to be successful,” expressed Lisa Willingham.
Opportunities to visit other farms through the NC Farm School program opened the couple up to the idea of raising sheep and pigs, as well. Meeting other farmers and seeing other property helped the Willingham’s identify the priorities for their farm.
Adding to their farm landscape, the Willingham’s cultivate blueberries, rasp-
berries, herbs and a vegetable garden. Lisa, who is also retired teacher plans on using the farm as a destination for school field trips as an experiential learning opportunity for children. “We have a lot of animals as we especially enjoy sharing our horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, turkeys, geese and dogs with our visitors,” smiled Lisa.
Recently, the couple added 25 acres to their property on which they built a unique tree house cabin. The post and beams were made from pines harvested from the farm. Original art and custom furniture designed by the couple grace every nook and cranny in the tree house. For many visitors, Little Peak Creek Farm is a magical corner of the world, but for Stephen and Lisa, they have not yet reached their final destination. They plan on adding a vineyard and root cellar, a general store, and more animals, just so heaven is a little more complete.