After decades of working with small businesses, it still excites my story senses when I run across people like the native Kingsporters behind Holston Beef Company - a new local resource for native beef, pork, lamb, and you heard it here - bison. More importantly, these new entrepreneurs are young - the replacements, and they inspire me about the next generation here in East Tennessee.
These days, we seem to idolize corporate, tech, and entertainment professions, but the farmer, in many cases - is a calling. That's true, especially in the mountains, because it takes hard work. There's global competition in shipping meats to local grocers; it takes a lot of work to compete at that scale. But Tyler Nunley and Mike Ingles are sensing opportunities for a pasture direct supplier for local meats.
Tyler's wife, Alexandria, first called and told me about their vision. She was excited about taking care of her newborn baby Jackson while young Australian Shepard puppies were barking in the background. We set up a meeting to hear about their vision and where they wanted to go.
When they visited the office, they rumbled onto my parking lot in a big black Dodge dually. Tyler introduced himself with one of those handshakes toughened by hard work. Mike is a straight-talking native whose authenticity has all the character of Will Rogers. They met while working on Tyler's farm, and their love for this business has culminated in the Holston Beef Company.
The highlight of our work was a photo shoot out on the farm. It was a warm Indian Summer morning in Indian Springs, and the sun was rising just over the valley on one of their 800 acres home to their grazing cattle, hogs, and lamb.
Allie was holding Jackson, chewing on a new pair of baby boots. Mike's wife Jessica was there, too, as we prepared to take photos of their family partnership in their pastures.
Not long after that - I was in a hog pen - capturing a little B-roll for some new work. The guys probably have funny stories about the city boy and his newbie curiosities.
Since then, the guys have been meeting people at the Kingsport Farmers Market. All the family gathers together, including Tyler's brother Bryan, who works with them to keep their social media channels glowing with interesting stories along the way.
Mike tells me that they are surprised at the overwhelming interest at the Market. He says, "We're especially surprised at all the folks asking about fresh lamb, which has been a big seller along with their distinctive marbled steaks across every cut."
Together, we worked on a pretty cool website. From there, you can order fresh steaks, pork, lamb and have them shipped anywhere in the world, and you can also order online for local pickup.
The biggest treat so far was the launch party of the new website. Tyler and Allie invited me to the house as they were planning a live Facebook video for the "Holston Beef Company Web Launch."
The farm was glowing in the September twilight, and walking in through the back door, the house was filled with Alexandria's cooking. She loves to make things, and the kitchen was filled with cheeses, appetizers, drinks, vegetables, and the centerpiece of a Prime Rib Roast. They have a lovely home warm with nostalgia and a Yellowstone-inspired decor, all the way down to the matching plates with livestock brands and leather placemats with various cowhides below horns on the wall.
I can't wait to see what's next for Holston Beef Company. They have well-defined goals and are very focused on their farm, their livestock, the products they sell, and the consistency. Their website is already taking orders and is a fine place to rustle up a unique holiday gift. But if you want to experience the best of Holston Beef Company - introduce yourself at the Kingsport Farmers Market and take home the best of our region.