Stephanie and Brian Oaks of No 9 Farms, along with their two children Tyler and Abigail, work together on their family farm to produce organic locally-grown herbs, berries, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and value-added products such as high-mineral seasoned salts and hand-crafted teas. Their 40 acre farm in Ashland City, TN, is flourishing into its second year and ever-evolving with added farm products available for every season. No. 9 Farms also provides organic gardening and seasonal cooking classes for members of the community to take a break from the city and learn more about farm living. The Oaks are dedicated to a nutrition-focused, sustainable lifestyle that is reflected in their products, and possess a tenacity for perseverance and hard work that makes the impossible possible.
In 2007, the family left their home in Seattle, WA, and bought a house in East Nashville where they quickly became a part of the community. They installed an edible backyard landscape, began growing food themselves, and purchased fresh local produce at the East Nashville Farmers Market. “Walking to the market every week was a big highlight for us as a family,” says Stephanie. “We could purchase what we didn’t grow ourselves, and we really enjoyed it.” But as the kids became teenagers and the family began running out of space, Brian and Stephanie began to shift their focus from East Nashville to outside the city. “We wanted to teach our kids how to work,” she says, so the family purchased land in Ashland City in 2013.
It began as 40 acres of predominately woodland area, yet it was transformed into cultivatable land through Stephanie and Brian’s perseverance and hard work. “We really laid the infrastructure the first year,” says Stephanie. The couple cleared acres while slowly improving the soil and built a low-energy sustainable home with the help of members from the community. Through their first year, the Oaks’ farm slowly took shape, and by the second year, No. 9 Farms introduced pick-your-own berries, gardening classes in the field, and cooking classes in their certified kitchen.
Arriving at No. 9 Farms today is like happening upon a farm oasis in the woods, with a sparkling creek running along its border that serves as cool respite for the family after a hot day in the field. A rasp of guinea fowl beside a wood-crafted hen house greets you as well as a greenhouse full of seedlings surrounded by rows of berries and herbs. The Oaks harvest fresh, organic parsley, fennel, dill, and a variety of basils, and sell them at the East Nashville Farmers Market as well as local tea companies and breweries. Customers are also welcomed at the farm by reservation to pick-up customized boxes of organic herbs, seasonal produce, and farm eggs.
“We wanted to create a place where people could come and make memories with their families away from the city,” says Stephanie. For her, the goal for No. 9 Farms was to educate—to teach the benefits of organic farming, living, and seasonal and healthy cooking to her community. This drive came from a personal place for Stephanie that influenced and shaped the family’s lifestyle and diet for years to come.
When her son was young, Stephanie was told what every mother dreads to hear—that Tyler was suffering from a fatal sickness that he likely could not survive. She became resolute—she would not accept that nothing could be done for her son and became staunchly committed to his recovery. She poured over research and studied naturopathic healing. A healthy diet with a holistic approach was the medicine and treatment she chose for her son, and within a few years, Tyler made a full recovery.
Today, as the family forages ahead into new journeys, they remain dedicated to a balanced lifestyle that is heavily focused on nutrition, hard work, and sustainability. “Abigail loves to work in the greenhouse and Tyler loves to build things,” Stephanie says with a smile. Although Brian travels for work as a musician and producer, he plays a very active role on the farm when he is home. “I just cut stuff and move stuff with the tractor,” he jokes.
The hand-crafted teas and finely-ground seasoned salts they produce are not only culinary specialties but nutritional favorites of the entire family. High-mineral sea salts and pink Himalayan salts are finely-ground with farm herbs to perfectly accompany jars of organic kernels of popping corn. The popular Rosemary Popcorn Salt is inspired from Abigail’s love for the snack, but also look for their next creation—a Carolina Reaper pepper salt—created for Brian’s love for spicy food. Herbs are harvested and dried on the farm and hand-blended to make teas meant for boosting immunities and calming moods. All of these beneficial value-added products can be purchased at the East Nashville Farmers Market or through Etsy.
As Tyler and Abigail get older and No. 9 Farms moves through its third season, Stephanie continues to dedicate herself to a life that matters to her most: hard work, healthy living, love and family—the life of a farmer. In the past, the Oaks were one of our East Nashville neighbors, walking to the market to enjoy their community. Today, having them join The East Nashville Farmers Market as one of our vendors is a special sort of homecoming for everyone involved. “It’s neat for the kids and us to be back growing things for our community and seeing all the farmers again, ” she admits. We whole-heartily agree.
For more info on their farm, visit No. 9 FB page.