The Farm-to-Table Movement

By: Natalie Furniss


The concept of farm-to-table began circulating the food scene in the early 2000’s as consumers became increasingly concerned with big industry food production. Products with short shelf lives were being imported from afar and pumped with the preservatives and chemicals needed to maintain freshness despite the long journey. They arrived at restaurants and grocery chains full of bright and tantalizing colors with the guarantee of lasting for weeks on the shelf. As companies innovated in extending the life of a common apple, the taste and integrity started to become noticeably degraded. Any blind taste test would reveal a night and day difference between an imported product and one picked from the vine days before. Consumers took notice and started supporting local with their almighty dollars.  


In years since, the popularity of and demand for farm fresh products has intensified nationally.  Today, more than ever, people are paying attention to labels, food safety, ingredients, and traceability. The story of how and where the product was grown, cared for, transported and packaged became a primary focus and the fewer miles traveled was preferred by many. Plus, there was a bonus: shopping local not only resulted in better quality food, but also supported the economy, reduced carbon emissions from fewer transportation miles, and limited the disconnect between farmers and consumers. 


Why is it so important to care about this process? Humans extract most of the nutrients needed for growth, energy, brain function, body function, and overall health from the food we consume. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 25% of poisonings and 5% of cancer cases, neuropsychiatric disorders, and vascular diseases worldwide are caused by chemical exposure. Each year, 600 million people around the world (1 out of 10) become ill after consuming contaminated food. It’s no wonder why the demand for food transparency has increased; our lives depend on it. 


Over the next 12 months, we are going to break down the barriers between consumers and their food. The focus in January is about “Healthy Eating.” We’ll look at the nutrient cycle from grass to people, why grassfed is gaining in popularity, how to properly cook grassfed and pasture raised meats, and choices you can make in order to feel good about what you eat. Follow along by joining our Facebook, Instagram, or Newsletter and get involved in the conversation. 


It’s a new year, full of hope and possibilities. It’s time to take control of your health, make educated and better food choices, and start to see how one simple shift in thinking can result in big changes. Whether it’s called farm-to-plate, farm-to-fork, or farm-to-table, knowing where your food comes from and that it’s raised with care are important things to pay attention to. We’re paying attention.

Hickory Nut Gap announces the new hire of Ben Brignac as Regional Sales Manager. 


From Asheville and no stranger to Hickory Nut Gap, Brignac’s career history has prepared him well for this position. Skilled in financial analysis, food and beverage, program design, and execution, he most recently he served as Corporate Director of Prepared Foods at Earth Fare and the Regional Associated Coordinator of Prepared Foods at Whole Foods.


“Not only is Ben results-driven and detail-oriented, but he’s personable, likeable, and has tactful problem-solving skills – the perfect combination of traits to execute and achieve our revenue growth targets,” says Jamie Ager, owner at Hickory Nut Gap.


Brignac received a Bachelor of Science from University of Colorado. He enjoys spending his free time with his fiancee, Julia, exploring the great outdoors of western North Carolina and creating amazing food centered around the beautiful selection of products from Hickory Nut Gap.

ASHEVILLE, NC (October 29, 2019) – Hickory Nut Gap announces the new hire of Jean-Paul Lausell as Chief Operating Officer. In this role, Lausell will oversee the sales, finance, operations, marketing, and farm store departments of Hickory Nut Gap.


Originally from Puerto Rico, Lausell comes to Hickory Nut Gap from Fletcher, NC after supervising finance and operations teams at technology companies and private equity firms for the past 16 years, most recently with Black Dragon Capital. In these various positions, he raised capital for companies, ran finance, human resources, sales, marketing, and administrative teams. 


“While I gained a lot of experience in these upper management roles, I always felt like I was missing something, which I realized was working in alignment with my own personal mission,” says Lausell. “I believe that regenerative agriculture and healthy foods are key parts of addressing both climate change and the health crises we’re dealing with in our communities. This position at Hickory Nut Gap allows me to blend my professional skills and experience with my personal interests and passions.”


Lausell majored in sustainable agriculture, which led him to a career in culinary arts in restaurants and hotels. He later pursued finance and entrepreneurship, and now as COO at Hickory Nut Gap, he’s able to apply his experience in finance, technology and operations to his passion in regenerative agriculture and food.


“Through his instinctive ability to recognize, retain, and respect the talent within organizations, we believe Lausell will help our employees reach their full potential through his support and mentorship,” says Jamie Ager, owner at Hickory Nut Gap.


Lausell received his Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Agriculture from Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, a Bachelor of Arts in Political of Science and Sociology from City University in New York, and dual Masters Degrees in International Relations and Business Administration from Yale University. 


Lausell lives in Fletcher, NC with his wife and two daughters. He also has two teenage sons who live in Miami, FL. In his free time, he enjoys cooking,  fishing, and building things in his workshop.

Meet our farm General Manager, Julia Wolfe!

Q: What is your favorite HNG Product? 

Julia: HNG Bone-In Pork Chops!!

Q: Why is it special to you?

Julia: It’s special because of the heritage breeds of hogs we raise.  Berkshire and Duroc are known for the quality of their meat and fat…and because my fiance proposed over a dinner of HNG porkchops.

Q: What is your favorite way to prepare it? 

Julia: Salt and pepper and a hot cast iron pan, sear till golden on each side, basting with rendered fat 4-5 min a side.  Take out and let rest on a bed of fresh thyme with a knob of butter.

You may have read about my UL love, my hometown connection to Louisville and that we usually journey here at least four times a year to make sure that everything is relatively the same as it was from the time I was born until I left in my parents car to be dropped off at college. This, oh its so good to be around people who say Louavul everytime, visit has been beautifully balanced. So much so, that rather than feeling like a visitor coming back from out of town, my heart is happy with the feeling of home washing over me. The anchor of our visit was the KY Camp of Champions, hosted by Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, former UL basketball stars gone pro. Cyrus and Nolin didn’t take this opportunity lightly and realized that they have been in the presence of hard work and dedication for the past three days and that this is how you reach your dreams. This is the second year for the camp and rather than last years chips and salsa snack they stepped it up to burritos and hot dogs which was a super welcome boost to the insatiable 1o year old in our family. So naturally I’m thinking that we need to get some hot dogs and ground beef to these people so they are serving up some HNG goodness to 200 some kids each day the camp is happening and have made a note to myself for next year!  It’s a real family affair around the camp though, Russ Smith, Peyton, his wife, his adorable daughter and his father are all there helping out and making these kid’s day while teaching them basketball skills that will come in handy back in NC this winter for the boys. Alot of the team coaches are personal friends and former teammates of these guys and you get the feeling that you too are part of this basketball family during camp.

Russ Smith and the kids

The experience at basketball camp and with the guy who knocked on the door today at my sisters house selling math educational materials for children who is an exchange student from a country in Eastern Europe called Estonia aren’t actually all that different. It’s the connection to each other and to something greater than ourselves that we are all seeking. Its through these experiences that we choose to engage in each day where we find this place to relate.  I think this is what has been so fulfilling this week. It really is the small things, like walking from my parents house to Walgreens and finding that they have local craft beer, West 6th IPA, on the shelf which paired perfectly with 92 degrees and Ohio River Valley humidity and the fact that my sister already had some in her fridge knowing I was coming over when I finished up work.  The fact that my father, both my sisters, and brother in law work within a 1/2 mile radius from each other in what I call the Frey family business (Humana, ha) and that I can randomly call them while downtown to meet up for a Louisville Slugger Museum tour and to see my Dads 23rd floor corner office, is something I truly love. We noticed alot on the river that day out my fathers office window, the locks that help huge barges navigate the Falls of the Ohio where my grandfather once worked on the dam, the train bridge that elevates for the barges, and how the new bridge is going to look.

Gorgeous Day Dad explaining the bridge to the kids

It has taken me 37 years to appreciate this city. Actually, I think Lvl has become a really vibrant place, more so than it used to be or maybe it just skipped a few years between ’92-’96 when I was in high school. In ’78 my dad owned one of Lvl’s first skateboard shops, the Sidewalk Surf Shop, how cool is that! Well it was really cool until I was born and well, as alot of us can relate to, cool is no longer the highest priority once you have kids. Our main activity in high school was hanging out at Cherokee Park, camping at Red River Gorge and B&W photography, everywhere else we tried to hang out ended up not really working out if you know what I mean. Now a days, well maybe because I’m not in high school anymore, there are just so many things to appreciate about this city.  We now have a pop up food truck lot and our own Whiskey Row showcasing the states finest whiskey and bourbons on Main St. but I can’t help find a small bit of irony in the fact that at the end of whiskey row they give you a small souvenir bat after touring the Louisville Slugger Museum so everyone heading back up Main St is carrying one!

My sisters and my brother in law have taken off work this week so I could get two solid days of catch up work time in without kids. This has been huge! I wouldn’t of been able to leave this crazy adventure of a business I own for five days straight without their help, deviation vacation at its best here. The boys have been to the Science Center, across the walking bridge to Indiana on some type of three wheeled pedal cart, slip n sliding, swimming and out for pizza twice.  Friday we are getting fishing licenses and heading to rent a pontoon boat on Nolin Lake and to walk through Mammoth Cave for two hours Saturday morning for the true vacation of the week. I’ve driven the entire length of Wolf Pen Branch to avoid rush hour traffic while admiring all the houses and land I remember seeing from the back of my best friends fathers Suzuki with the top off as a kid when he would take us on a drive “in the country.” I have driven every interstate multiple times a day 265, 71, 264, and 64, literally going in circles to avoid traffic lights, to get my kiddos to camp on time. I have passed houses of old friends and places with many memories that were long buried in my mind and even went to an amazing yoga class with an old friend. I’ve known her since I was 8 years old and we are still in touch, all due to her efforts, as I tend to get lost and overwhelmed with what’s in front of me rather than whats behind these days. I can definitely say this was one of the most refreshing, as she put it, afternoons of my time here in the ‘ville. I kind of like the fact that there is another human being on this planet who has witnessed me as a friend for the past 29 years.  At this point our friendship has come full circle and its pretty amazing to have her in my life.

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I’m loving this connection to my hometown because even though we are settled in Fairview a big piece of my heart is in Lvl, with the rest of my family (seriously, I’m the only one not living here),  all those 600 people that I started high school with years ago, and everyone I have met on the periphery in between.  Family, cousins, basketball, and all this city has to offer will always keep Lvl in my heart as home and continue to deviate me from farming at least four times a year.