Forest Gully Farms – A Place to Get Away From It All

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One of the Gully Cottages available for a stay at Forest Gully Farm. Photo from their Facebook.

As J.R.R. Tolkien said, “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” Jon and Mandy Giffin do just that at Forest Gully Farms, and they share it with guests, both local and from all over the country. About an hour south of Nashville, this husband and wife team have built a farm using methods from both permaculture and food forestry, adding three guest cabins built into the hillside that look an awful lot like Bilbo Baggins’ home in the Shire. Their goal is to share what they have learned from living closer to nature and foraging for food from the land.

On their 29 acres of land, they have built two homesteads, one for themselves, and one for those hoping to get away from it all and explore this unique lifestyle. For $375 per night, with a two night minimum, up to eight people can stay in their “Gully Huts” and learn all about foraging and living off farm fresh food. This includes collecting your own eggs from the chicken house and cooking them over an open campfire in a skillet.

Depending on the season, they advertise egg gathering, berry picking, taking advantage of their vegetable garden, and learning to find edible foods from the 15 acres of land that the rental unit sits on. What is being rented is three huts and the natural spaces that surround them, including farm land, walking trails, and waterfalls.

There are two sleeping huts and one kitchen hut provided as part of the rental, and for an additional $135 per night, a gypsy wagon can also be rented for additional sleeping space. About 100 yards from the huts is a bathhouse, as there is no running water in the huts, but there is electricity to provide air conditioning and heat, lights and kitchen appliances.

“The huts are constructed of white cedar throughout [by Wooden Wonders out of Maine], which is rot resistant and they have bamboo flooring,” says their airBnB site. “With a retaining wall around each hut, our underground location allows for natural earth insulation and drastically reduces effects from outside temperatures. [Although,] each hut has a separate hvac system, so no matter the season, [guests] will be comfortable.”

People have lost connection with food sourcing, and Forest Gully Farm offers a chance for families to reconnect with nature by turning off the wi-fi, putting away the phone, and spending time learning about how a farm works and where food comes from. They even provide a scavenger hunt as a way to explore the grounds. And they offer some of their family recipes made using items from the land, like Mandy’s sumac lemonade.

“Man oh man, the sumac berries are looking good this year,” says their Facebook page. “All this rain has our winged sumac trees producing loaded branches. This is [how] we make lemonade…out here… [I]t’s as simple as grabbing a bunch of these berries, soaking [them] overnight, straining [them], and adding sugar to taste…[They make] a delicious foraged summer drink.”

According to a blog written about them on the antiquearchaeology.com website, the farm is located down a one-lane road through the woods. It was established in 2013, and became a successful operation “once [Jon and Mandy] quit their 9 to 5 jobs.”

Once a photojournalist, Jon now takes breathtaking photos of the land, the plants and the animal life to place on their Facebook and Instagram sites. Jon told antiquearchaeology.com, “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!”

They also have two beehives on the property, and they sell the honey. It’s one thing that guests will not experience. Mandy is the experienced beekeeper.

Mandy and Jon understand the experience that they are giving to their guests because they lived in one of the huts while their personal home was being built. They have created homey spaces, while being very earth-conscious. They have done things like use old burlap coffee bags as curtains and fabric scrap quilts on the beds.

Forest Gully is a popular place to stay, and they are often booked a year out, especially during the summer months. People have been married on the property and they have had home-schooled students come learn about farming, while having a little hobbit fun. From December through February they have special rates and the two-night minimum disappears.

As one guest said, “There are no words!! Forest Gully is very, very special. We hiked, picked fresh berries and wild flowers, made s’mores, and ate farm fresh eggs. We enjoyed a campfire. Played card games. Star gazed. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Forest Gully. We’ve already booked our next trip.”

Forest Gully Farm is located at 6016 Fly Hollow Road, Santa Fe, Tennessee. Their number is (615) 509-0533. To learn more about the property and book a night, click here. They also have a webpage at https://www.forestgullyfarms.com.

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