On this day before the holiday dedicated to giving thanks and enjoying a wonderful meal, we meet a family that makes food a top priority. And good food at that.
Acre upon acre of rolling farmland. Livestock grazing in the fields. A hayride filled with big smiles. It's just another day on the Niceley family farm in Strawberry Plains, Riverplains Farm.
And this is quite the family operation. "There's four generations and everybody does something different. Sometimes it's a little chaotic," says Mathew DeBardelaben, Jennifer Niceley's husband.
State Senator Frank Niceley, his wife and his brother Bill, Frank's mother-in-law, his three daughters and their kids. Yes, add that up and it's four generations on the farm. This farm came into the Niceley family many years ago.
"My grandfather, Jake Niceley, bought this farm in the '40s, but he was really familiar with it already. He worked here as a young man. He really loved spending time here," says Jennifer Niceley.
It started as a commercial dairy, but after 20 years that closed. "In the 90's we basically leased out all the bottoms so there were huge tomato operations going on down there," says Jennifer.
The Niceley sisters grew up on this farm, but they left to pursue other passions. They eventually longed for this way of life and decided to come home to farm the way it used of be done.
"Jennifer and her sisters convinced them to do non-GMO, no herbicides, no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers," says Matthew.
This is the case for the meats, the spelt flour and the corn. "The corn we grew this year is actually an old Indian corn, it's non-GMO. It's really high in protein. It's beautiful. It's delicious for grits and cornmeal," says Jennifer.
The food Jennifer grows goes straight into her sister Anna's hands."We're trying to kind of bring back an old way of cooking, the traditional way of cooking in which you do things by hand every single step," says Anna Niceley Barreiro.
And all the farm fresh food is sold on The Mister Canteen Food Truck.
"I think I'm very blessed that I have found people I can work with in such tight quarters and that would probably only be my big sister and a woman who I feel like is a sister," says Anna.
Anna and Jennifer teamed with their friend, Misty Travis Oaks, on the food truck. And Misty brought her family history into the mix too.
"I was looking for a theme for the food truck and I just kept thinking of all the food trucks I'd visited growing up overseas being a Navy brat. We started thinking about giving the truck a Navy theme," says Misty.
Together these ladies helped bring the taste of Riverplains Farm to Knoxville. Folks also have the opportunity to visit the actual farm. Every now and then the family invites friends and fans over so they can enjoy everything from the horses to the home cooking to the hometown feel.
"Probably the thing I'm most grateful for is that it really is still a family farm. That this land is still intact and that we aren't divided in some way where the farm is just a memory," says Jennifer.
"We were raised on the farm and we had an incredible childhood and I didn't realize how special it was until I left," says Anna.
Riverplains Farm, farm life at its best and a family working hard to make a difference.
"Every single day for better or for worse, we're out here doing stuff and we're all trying to make it better in one way or another. We're all trying to make it more sustainable and more profitable," says Jennifer.
One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.
The Cooking Channel recently shot an episode of Eat St. with Mister Canteen Food Truck that should be airing soon.
For more information on Riverplains Farm call (865) 300-2583 or visit their Facebook page. For information on Mister Canteen Food Truck, their Facebook page is under Mister Canteen.