Feathers & Fruit Farm in Soddy-Daisy Offers Fresh Local Eggs

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Feathers & Fruit farm

Jessie Gantt-Temple and her husband, Robert Temple, bought their Soddy-Daisy farm in 2014; Photo by Jeff Adkins

On this crisp, sunny morning, Jessie Gantt-Temple climbs the gentle slope, past the weeping willow and the small orchard, to the chicken pen. The “girls” scatter and cackle as Jessie, a first-generation farmer and Farm Bureau member, tosses out chunks of two-day-old, locally baked marbled rye. Great Pyrenees sisters Sadie and Sentry, along with Hans and Franz the guard geese, look on, and J.J. the tabby and a six-toed cat named Mewtant roll around in the grass as the hens devour their breakfast.

Jessie, 39, readily admits that she had no farming experience when she and her engineer husband, Robert, discovered the 18-acre “as-is” property in Soddy-Daisy on Craigslist and moved here in late 2014. Robert, who grew up on a farm in Maryland, yearned to return to his roots, but Jessie was a city girl who by day did freelance writing and social media marketing and at night competed with the Chattanooga Roller Girls, the derby team Robert refereed.

Jessie throws loaves of bread to her hens at Feathers and Fruit Farm in Soddy-Daisy; Photo by Jeff Adkins

Feathers & Fruit

The dilapidated farm, which they named Feathers & Fruit, came with a greenhouse, six blueberry bushes and an overgrown mess beneath power lines.

“All this land was fallow,” Jessie says, sweeping her hand toward the field. “Grass to your chest, if not taller. We got goats to eat down the grass, the wild blackberries, the wisteria. The goats were our natural lawnmowers.”

See more: Farm Facts: Eggs

Grinning, she confesses that she had no idea what she was doing. “I always liked digging in the dirt, but I wasn’t good at it,” she says. “I’ve killed oregano. I can’t grow mint. I’ve sunburned aloe. I’ve burned hardboiled eggs. I am just not a homesteader by nature.”

She was, however, a good researcher, so she and Robert read up on how to raise egg-laying chickens and asked for advice from seasoned farmers.

Robert built the chicken houses and the couple acquired 30 Barred Rocks, then assessed the demand for eggs in nearby Chattanooga. Today they tend more than 200 Barred Rocks, White Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Production Reds, Asian Blacks and Ameraucanas, which lay blue eggs. They also grow figs, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, flowers and herbs.

Feathers & Fruit farm

Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

Challenges and Rewards of Farming

Unpredictable weather has been the greatest challenge, Jessie says. When extended rainy periods make it impossible to get a tractor up the hill, she has to carry the 50-pound bags of feed, which she mixes with food waste from local restaurants. Extreme heat bakes the grassland. And birds of prey can wreak havoc. Not long after they bought their first batch of chickens, a hawk killed six of them, prompting the couple to painstakingly create a gigantic net “circus tent” over the pen.

Despite the hurdles, the couple enjoys farming so much that they are considering purchasing 200 acres in another town, where they will “go all out” and raise 800 to 1,000 chickens. Jessie also wants to build and maintain a YouTube channel about farm life.

See more: Spring Chickens at Moss Mountain Farm

Photo by Jeff Adkins

“The best part has been growing community, which is what I’m good at,” she says, noting that she no longer has time for her roller derby activities. “I’ll burn hardboiled eggs, but I can grow community,” Jessie says.

Feathers & Fruit has found an outlet selling its eggs to hometown favorite Lupi’s Pizza Pies, which uses the local eggs in its lasagna and desserts. The farm also sets up at the Main Street Farmers Market in Chattanooga every Wednesday afternoon, connecting with locals looking for farm-fresh ingredients.

“I’m a people person, and to be surrounded by 200 chickens is fun, but (I love) reaching my customers with happy chickens’ eggs and connecting with farmers who have similar struggles and successes.”

Feathers & Fruit farm

Photo by Jeff Adkins

Feathers & Fruit

Location: 9320 Dallas Hollow Road, Soddy-Daisy

Phone: (843) 503-3836

Website: feathersandfruit.com

Where to Buy: Find the farm’s eggs, berries, flowers and figs at: Main Street Farmers Market, Chattanooga, Wednesdays 4 to 6 p.m. Chattanooga-area Lupi’s Pizza Pies restaurant uses Feathers & Fruit’s fresh eggs in lasagna and desserts.

See more: Get 5 tips for raising backyard chickens from a Jessie Gantt-Temple here.

2 Comments

  1. Amy Triplett

    March 6, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Would love to purchase in area where they live……

  2. Solar Panel

    May 25, 2020 at 1:22 am

    Nice post. Thank you for sharing this.
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