We source all-beef hotdogs from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, outside of Asheville. The farm partners with about ten growers who raise grass-fed cattle according to specifications and share the brand name. This model helps the small farmers function; in particular, different farms are able to harvest their cattle at different times of year. (The farmer in cold Boone, for example, harvests in the summertime, while in warmer climes the farms have the grass to finish the cattle in winter.) Working together, the farmers of Hickory Nut Gap Meats maintain a year-round supply.
The force behind the grass-fed beef is Jamie and Amy Ager. Jamie grew up on the farm, which has been in his family since 1916. He attended Warren Wilson College, where he and Amy met. While there, he visited Joel Salatin’s farm and became interested in his grazing concepts, thinking, “This is something we can do at home.” At the time, none of the family was making a full-time living from the farm. “I was lucky to be able to come back to a piece of land,” Jamie recalls. “I jumped right in. I graduated from college, and then started to… build fence that afternoon. I came home and built a fence.”
The land of Hickory Nut Gap Farm is jointly owned by several family members, and is in a conservation easement with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The farm is beginning to diversify with pick-your-own berries, a newly-planted apple orchard, and pigs. They also host birthday parties and field trips. The farm’s mission is “to connect sustainable agriculture practices, our family history, and our customers by sharing the family farm experience and serving as an example of healthy land stewardship while providing high quality ethically raised meats.”
The farmers rotate the cattle around the farm, keeping them on small pastures for short periods to prevent overgrazing and concentrated manure, which also protects the nearby springs and creeks.
Calves receive their mother’s milk for months, followed by forages for the rest of their lives; the healthy diet eliminates the need for antibiotics. (A sick animal would be treated and removed from the meat supply.) They don’t use growth hormones, and they practice low stress handling methods and use the nearest processors, who are Animal Welfare Approved.
Watch a video of our visit below. Read more about Hickory Nut Gap’s beef on their website.