Unplug from your devices and reconnect with nature at Forest Gully Farms, in Maury County, Tennessee.
Owners Jon and Mandy Giffin have created a sustainable food forest and invite you to experience an ecosystem made up of fruit trees and beneficial plants.
“Each season at Forest Gully provides a different experience amongst our ever-changing environment,” Jon said. “Stay underground on our 15-acre farm. Sit by the fire under a blanket of stars. Enjoy walking around, nibbling on some fruit in the orchard or gathering eggs from the chicken coop. When you stay underground, you get this space all to yourself.”
Forest Gully Farms has welcomed visitors since 2017.
“There was interest even before we opened, so we opened earlier than we planned because people wanted to come visit,” Jon said.
The farm is an experiment in sustainable living, said Jon.
“On our farm, we strive for a balance in diversity with our plantings,” he said. “We work with the whole system to produce a holistic edible ecosystem.”
Jon and Mandy manage the farm as two homesteads, each with a vegetable garden, orchard and chickens. One of the homesteads is available for guests to rent and immerse in a unique experience.
“Using methods from both permaculture and food forestry, we hope to keep a self-sustaining ecosystem using our plants, trees, animals and bees,” Jon said.
Visitors can expect a variety of activities on the farm.
“It always depends on the time of the year,” Jon said. “We offer different experiences throughout the year. As a food forest, we try to have a diversity of plants growing…from pawpaw and persimmons to muscadine and blueberries. We always try to have something interesting growing. But it’s really more of an outdoor adventure and a glamping experience than what someone might have at a hotel or Disney World.”
Jon and Mandy changed their career paths to reconnect with the natural world.
“(Before establishing the farm), we moved around a lot,” Jon said. “I was working for newspapers as a photographer. Mandy was working as a recreational therapist. We did wedding photography for a few years. Then, I started working at farms and nurseries to try to get more experience in the horticultural world.”
When their business took off at Forest Gully Farms, Jon and Mandy quit their jobs and focused on the farm.
“The reason we are at the farm, doing what we are doing, is that we wanted to find a different way to live off the land,” Jon said. “A lot of people may have market gardens…but we thought it would be an interesting way to live in the woods, in the country, and to be able to provide for our family. We wanted to find a way to live off the land and share it with other people.”
Jon and Mandy appreciate the opportunity to welcome guests on the farm.
“The reason we got into this was our love of the land and love of being outdoors,” Jon said. “Trying to share our love of the land is something we enjoy the most. We love being able to sculpt and work the land into what we think is something that is beautiful and something that will last. Just the other day, I was digging up and moving around pawpaws for better pollination. That kind of (activity), although it doesn’t seem exciting to some, is very exciting to me. We try to work the land in a way that is beautiful. And hopefully people would love what we love about being outside.”
Mandy enjoys managing Forest Gully Farms and helping visitors reconnect with nature.
“My favorite part of doing this job is reintroducing people to the outdoors – there are so many people that don’t get that (experience),” Mandy said. “We don’t have Wi-Fi and we don’t have TVs. (People like) the immersion into nature and remember what it is like to hike and get dirty and play with chickens. Come and shake modern-day life off and get outside. We also like to teach our guests about different native plants they could use for medicines or food or drinks. We just give people time to relax as they should.”