Front gate of Forest Gully Farms
Front gate of Forest Gully Farms

A tasty Tennessee hideaway where you can hang your hat when you hop off the Two Lanes.

Fly Hollow Road is incredibly narrow as it cuts through a two-mile stretch of Tennessee back country about an hour south of Nashville. It’s just wide enough for a car to squeak through the thick cedar and oak trees, but if you make your way through, you’ll find yourself at a field gate with a wood sign which reads “Appointment Only” and just inside and at the end of a dirt road is a giant metal bell. If you’re a Two Lanes traveler who made reservations, give it a ring and soon you’ll see Jon and Mandy Giffin riding down the hill on their ATV to welcome you to Forest Gully Farms.

Entrance to the farm
Entrance to the farm

This incredible 29-acre organic, self-reliant permaculture farm and homestead in Santa Fe, Tennessee is sure to be one of the most unique finds on your travels. After a day of active exploring or quiet escape,  you’re certain to find solace and simplicity at Forest Gully. Unlike other getaway rentals, which give you just a room, an overpriced minibar, and squeaky pull-out sofa, Jon and Mandy offer you 15 of those acres full of u-pick produce, a waterfall, and the opportunity to sleep in your choice of three underground hobbit houses or “Gully Huts”. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Forest Gully Farms was conceived as a place where travelers, locals, and families could stay for a weekend, learn about the food on the farm, and detach – no hotspots or wifi needed or wanted. Disconnect from the digital world and re-connect to the real world at a bed and breakfast where you pick and cook breakfast yourself.

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Jon picks elderberry in the Fire Garden

Established in 2013 by  Jon and his wife Mandy, the farm is an honest offering to anyone who wants to experience the natural and edible beauty around them. It all fell into place once they quit their traditional 9 to 5 jobs.

“I’m a self-taught plant man who went to school for photojournalism, a wedding photographer who recently hung up his camera,” chuckles Jon. “But I am proud of the way I am learning to make use of the land and work with it instead of against it. You won’t see anything on the property growing in beautifully manicured rows. Mandy and I see this farm as a laboratory for alternative farming where we don’t fight nature, but rather allow nature to tell us where plants should grow. In doing this, we are finding new foods all the time. Most recently we had elderberries pop up!”

And plants are definitely popping. The property is abundant with intentional and unintentional fruits, veggies and herbs. Paw Paw trees (the largest native fruit-bearing trees) grow wild in the company of persimmons, mulberries, and magnolias (an homage to Mandy’s Mississippi roots).

Peanuts and peas
Peanuts and peas

Other produce abounds: cilantro, parsley, basil, carrots, red onions, peanuts, English peas, celery, Brussels sprouts, watermelons, field peas, beets, muscadine grapes, radishes, hazelnuts, turnips, tomatoes, habaneros, cayenne, and jalapeños. There are also two bee hives on the property – admire but do not disturb!

Walk over the hill a little ways and you’ll find a picnic table under a tree with a large red cedar chicken coop beside it. Jon built the coop to house the 16 chickens Mandy calls her “golden girls.” On the way over to collect your eggs for breakfast, pick some clover and dandelions for the “girls.” They will love you forever.

Ethan and Mandy feed the chickens clover in the coop
Ethan and Mandy feed the chickens clover in the coop
Chickens sitting pretty
Chickens sitting pretty

“Jon and I wanted to give to others in a more fulfilling way,” explains Mandy. “We’re so proud of the food we grow and what’s already growing. What’s important to us is to educate. We want to help families and explorers alike successfully identify edible plants in the woods on their adventures. Things you think are weeds, like oxalis, are actually tasty sour snacks! That’s why we had the Gully Huts built. We want folks to saturate themselves on the farm. Take a grazing tour of the land: walk, eat berries, smell the fresh herbs, and let your mind wander . . . it will help you decide what type of meal you’d like to prepare for the day.”

Which brings us to the place to prepare your bounty . . . meet us at the bottom of the wood staircase.

The Gully Huts
The Gully Huts

At a first glance, these the Gully Huts look strikingly similar to the ones in the hills of the shire in Lord of the RingsIt’s all part of the appealing plan. Tucked into hills of oregano and thyme, the huts stay cool year ‘round. They were built by Wooden Wonders, a company out of Maine, and collectively, they sleep up to eight people, with plenty of room for everyone’straveling gear.

“The best part is our ‘rent one, get two free’ policy,” explains Jon. “That’s so you can freely come and go around the grounds without having to share them with others. After living in the red hut for eight months while our house was being built, we feel like we have a great idea of everything you need to enjoy your visit and the space you need to fully relax.”

Hut interior
Hut interior

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Walk inside to drop your bags and you’ll immediately smell the fragrant white cedar that the houses are built from. Old burlap coffee bags hang in the windows as curtains, and colorful quilted blankets cover the beds. And yes, there’s also a copy of The Hobbit on the nightstand, respectfully.

On the kitchen counter, you’ll find some of Mandy’s favorite recipes that feature produce from the garden. The most popular and delicious one we tried was the wild sumac lemonade. (Yes, sumac!)  Also included in the welcome kit are a suggested tour of the grounds, some facts about the chickens, and a scavenger hunt around the farm to help you get familiar with the plants. Just outside the front door is a large fire pit where you can practice your cast-iron cooking!

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LEFT: Ethan Giffin and the family dog play in the red hut. RIGHT: Mandy’s famous sumac lemonade and jam

“What makes the huts so appealing is that they allow you to disconnect and get back to nature,” says Mandy. “Not only that but you get to see how your favorite foods grow. It’s a healthy way to remind yourself that dinner doesn’t need to happen by popping open a bag. Head over to collect your choice of eggs for breakfast. You can’t beat a fresh organic egg in cast-iron skillet!”

After your meal, slip your boots on and hike about 200 yards down the trail to the freshwater spring and waterfall below. The path is littered with wild ginger! Jon and Mandy did a great job of building some wood steps to help steady your descent, but there are still a few little spots where you’ll want to watch your step! The water below is ice cold and the fog lays thick on the moss, logs, and rocks.

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Waterfall Trail

Escaping to places like Forest Gully is an important reminder that we need to think about how we spend the hours in our day. When we’re at home it’s easy to load Netflix and rewatch The Office while you crunch on Cheetos and simultaneously update your Facebook status. Studies have proven time and time again that our brains and bodies are most happy when we’re out in nature. So why not feed that happiness?  Go out for an adventure, learn something cool, and then use what you’ve learned to improve the quality of your life. That’s what Jon and Mandy want you to take with you when you leave Forest Gully Farms, and it seems to be working.

“My favorite thing about this entire experience has been the surprises,” explains Mandy. “A lot of people after their stay have told us that they’ve decided to grow something and ask for help on how to begin their own garden. I always recommend that they start with tomatoes or cucumbers because they’re easy maintenance for beginners. It’s a rewarding feeling when people come out here and then keep the experience alive in their own corner of the world.”

Forest Gully Farms is open year-round, offering fresh fruits in summer, golden leaves in the fall, and the quintessential backdrop for a shire-worthy campfire when the snow falls. They’re already booked up every weekend for the rest of 2017, so make it your Two Lanes mission to visit them in the new year. No special equipment needed . . .  just water shoes, an empty belly, and an open mind ready to be filled with the wonders of real life.

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Jon and Mandy Giffin

Follow Forest Gully Farms on Facebook and Instagram

Make a reservation

Photos by Meghan Aileen

 

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14 Comments

14 thoughts on “Hobbit-Style Gully Huts: Forest Gully Farms”

  1. Lynda Mitchell

    My husband and I love to watch your show and we are small time pickers . We love finding treasures too. Especially pottery and ceramics! Love you and your show. We’re from near Greensboro,Pa the heart of the best antique Pottery from Greensboro,Pa! Love you and your show! I also love your style Danielle! ❤️❤️

  2. Scott STALLARD

    wow! what a great idea put into action.
    Would love to get away from the digital chaos and live simply for a few days,exploring, photographing and gathering!!

    Spring or Fall best for weather and berries?
    Good job,

  3. Carol Locke

    I want to be there now! I grew up in the country (Schnecksville, PA) and sorely miss it. We lived two miles out of the village back a mile on a dirt road. We had a large garden and the best time I had was when I was in the woods. Your place looks fabulous.

  4. David Pokrywka

    Dandelions, Every bit of this weed is edible. Decorate your salad with dandelion blossoms. It is a natural diuretic, good for your entire urinary tract. Roast the roots for a coffee substitute.

  5. Billy

    Great lifestyle; you are a little short on protein (though peas, beans are good) for a serious veggie who doesn’t eat eggs ( I would call them the chicken abortions that they are, but some don’t get my sense of humor). Very nicely done. There is no reason many more people couldn’t live this way, no matter their clime. Simply, with the earth, and, as you beautiful people say, not fighting the earth; you understand acceptance of time and place, sustainable. Thank you; I have gotten enjoyment just looking and reading about what you are doing, being there is beyond words, for me at this moment, anyhow. Thank You

  6. Pat & Crickett Doogan

    My husband and I have been watching “American Pickers” since your first showing!
    At first I was upset y’all were just looking for mechanical auto, pikes, anything dealing with oil, and signs . However I still enjoyed it as you have also shown other items as toys Frank likes, of course oil cans are his favorite! You have branched out to all things old, antique and worthy of saving for future generations to still know
    Our heritage! That’s a as we also want our generations and so forth to
    See and understand the past, and most of all appreciate how far we have come!
    Why is it that I see something you buy, I am not able to view it on your Web, I have been trying to locate a real carousel hours, to make a table I once saw! Of couse
    I am never able to find out when you buy them, who the person is and where, as I have looked them up in the state and town. No go! This item has been on my bucket list since I was 20 yrs old and I am a young 60ish! I also would appreciate it if you would give Danielle our deepest appreciation for her part in the enjoyment of your
    Program, she’s an absolute doll! Also I must say to Frank, we did not appreciate
    Your mannerisms towards Danielle, and the way you were with others, except the
    Women that tried to attack you LOLFD! Frank this last season you have really
    Changed! Usually are cheap in price to people, however we have noticed that you
    Are following Franks way by telling the owners what you wanted was worth more money than they give you a price! I have to honestly say now you are on your way to
    Our “like” list ! We only want to let all of you know that we are great fans of yours and hope to meet y’all some day! The young lady that works at the Nashville store
    Has really become a Gem in the ruff! She is so sweet and if I went into her store I
    Know we would enjoy her hospitality, so way to go Danielle you certainly know your
    Stuff in hiring! Thank- You All for entertaining us, teaching us about so much, I could not name just one thing, and most of all the wonderful kindness you all are
    To each person y’all meet! I truly believe that is why y’all are such a long running
    Show! Frank we are going to love it when your darling daughter rides along with y’all and discovers her jewels! God Bless all of you and may the roads ahead keep you safe and in Gods hand! With Best Regards Pat & Crickett Doogan

  7. Paul Wadman

    Yep the show is one of a kind, love it. And I’m a bit too. Use to live in Hinesville working at Fortstewart. I thank the time that I spent there, truly a magical place. Not just the South but all of the state’s.

  8. Dennis Lyons

    I just saw that deuce coupe that these guys made from that pile of junk and it really proves that there is worth in just about anything and when you have a vision backed up by money you can have just about anything!!! That car is totally bad ass!!!!! I don’t usually coming on these things but that episode that I just caught the very end of (5 mins.) Has just totally inspired me to go out tomorrow and start working on my old Cutlass that I’ve been wanting to redo!! Anyway thanks guys!!! You guys should have episodes where you show stuff that you’ve had fixed up after you have bought things and other stuff that you guys may acquire that you don’t have on the show n stuff!! And I guess if I see anything that’s really cool in my travels Ill send you a picture and whatever you do with is is up to you. Anyway Thanks for the Inspiration! Your friend Dennis

  9. Dennis Lyons

    I was just thinking about how totally awesome your jobs are!!!!! I used to drive semi trucks and whenever I would do a real long across the country trip which I did about once a month I used to make a point of finding the best steak house that they have in the area like Houston’s in Miami and Mancy”s in Toledo. You guys should maybe feature a really good restaurant hahaha (I guess I’m saying this cuz I just woke up and there was a commercial for Golden Corral on!) anyway feature a different restaurant every couple of episodes to maybe get people to do restaurant pilgrimages haha for lack of a better term and have the restaurants hook you guys up with some cash and a totally mind blowing dinner!!! Couldn’t hurt to check into it!!! Money + Food equals =D !! Any hoooo thanks again!!!!

  10. Pat & Crickett Doogan

    We love the place you have so lovingly placed together. What is the cost? I did not see it! Does the Hobbit huts have refrigerator, as my husband would just love to eat away , however he wants to cook up meat to go with the wonderful delights you offer out on your property! The idea of gathering fresh eggs just teases our imagination!
    Do you have special hobbit huts for Anniversary couple 45 yrs! May we bring our two dogs ?
    Your adorable place is a wonderful idea! I really would like to visit and meet you two adorable people!
    Best Regards , Pat & Crickett Doogan

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