Catheys feed community from the farm
Tara and Joseph Cathey are young farmers with old souls. Their compound off Raccoon Road is a spectacular study of seeds, flowers, vegetables, paths, rocks, old buildings and new ones that look old. More seeds and vegetables thrive in historic Cathey dirt in Bethel.
"He's about as Haywood County as it gets," said one visitor to the Catheys' recent farm-to-table banquet, as Joseph Cathey talked to Knoxville's Suzanne Ott and others about Cathey land in Bethel which the family has owned since before the Revolutionary War. The Catheys grow produce on their Waynesville farm and on their property in Bethel.
"We don't use anything but heirloom seeds. We search for seeds and we save them. It's hard to find seeds now that are not genetically modified. Corn is almost always genetically modified," said Cathey. "Organic food doesn't ship well so the big growers build that characteristic into it. They left the consumers' taste buds out. We don't care about shipping. We sell locally."
Growing up, Tara Cathey rode her bicycle on the streets of Hazelwood. She became a farmer when she married Joseph Cathey.
"We are protecting our heritage," she said. "And we're trying to give back to the community."
The Catheys have a CSA (Consumer Supporter Agriculture) program with a waiting list. Folks can buy shares in the Catheys' gardens and come by once a week to pick up their fresh produce. Joseph Cathey's mother Mary buys half a share.
"It's just my husband and me, so that's all we need," she said. "But it's wonderful."
The entire Cathey family pitched in to host the outdoor farm-to-table gala. The long buffet table sagged under such local treats as Sunburst trout, Dick Ott's mushrooms, Vicki Hyatt's Sunburst beef and the Catheys' vegetables. Caterers Becky Gaddis and Lynn Presnell cooked it.
"It's exciting to cook the Appalachian food we grew up with for people who may not know about it," said Gaddis.
The onion casserole surprised guests, said Presnell.
"Some of them thought it was potatoes and shied away from it when they found out it was onions. But they came back for seconds," she said with a chuckle. "Visitors were asking us how we cooked the squash. They said they'd never had it that way. It's just the way we've always cooked it."
Dessert was simple and sumptuous — hot biscuits topped with berries Tara picked just hours earlier on the steep hillside.
Newcomers, summer visitors and old Haywood County families gathered under trees and beside creeks at tables abloom with homegrown flowers in pitchers and Mason jars.
Ernie Edwards' family owned and operated Garrett Funeral Home for decades and he knew everybody. Now a resident of Charleston, the dinner brought him down from his summer home at Cataloochee.
David Rainey is a developer whose holdings stretch into the Qualla Boundary. He knew almost no one.
"I thought this would be a good way to get to meet some people," he said.
A dozen or so Kiwanians arrived early on.
"We're the Spelling Bee committee," said George Dixon with a laugh.
They were there to support the Catheys and to get some tips for their own Harvest farm-to-table event scheduled for Aug. 29 which will be a fundraiser for the Kiwanis International neo-natal anti-tetanus project.
While enjoying dessert, folks listened to bluegrass and country music played the way it's supposed to be played. The popular Darren Nicholson Band treated an appreciative audience of about 60 to acoustic mountain music. Planned mini-seminars about growing organic foods were scrapped.
"People are having a good time. We're not going to interrupt that," said a smiling Tara Cathey.
The Catheys hope to make farm-to-table outdoor dinners a monthly event. The next dinner is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12 at Walnut Grove Farm. Tickets cost $60 each.
For more information or to reserve a ticket, call 400-0115 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.