Keep­ing ’emon the farm

With fine cui­sine, spas and out­door ex­er­cise, Black­berry guests never want to leave.

Los Angeles Times - - WELLNESS TRAVEL - By Amanda Jones travel@la­

WALLAND, Tenn. — Black­berry Farm sits on the bor­der of Great Smoky Moun­tains Na­tional Park, the most vis­ited in the na­tional park sys­tem.

Out­side the park’s bound­aries you’ll find towns with the at­ten­dant at­trac­tions — the Ri­p­ley’s Be­lieve It or Not mu­se­u­min Gatlin­burg or the Dol­ly­wood theme park in Pi­geon Forge.

But Black­berry Farm, set on 4,200 acres of work­ing farm­land, is a shel­ter from that com­mer­cial storm. Its es­tate rooms, cot­tages, guest suites and luxury houses are spread across the prop­erty, and each room comes with a golf cart that guests can use to nav­i­gate the grounds.

In Fe­bru­ary, a friend and I stayed in the two-mas­ter­suite Singing Brook Cottage, which was spa­cious and dec­o­rated with a Provence-meets-Man­hat­tan sen­si­bil­ity (arm­chairs, linen throw pil­lows and vin­tage pho­tos).

We had just spent four days in Nashville lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, eat­ing fried food and see­ing friends. Now it was time to atone for our sins, eat health­ful food and ex­er­cise, so we drove the three hours to Black­berry. (Knoxville is much closer to the farm — about a 25-minute drive.)

Well­ness is em­pha­sized at Black­berry Farm, which is why peo­ple re­turn year af­ter year to re­cal­i­brate them­selves with spa, gy­mand out­door ac­tiv­i­ties such as fly­fish­ing, horse­back rid­ing and bik­ing.

Be­sides yoga and med­i­ta­tion classes, you can find spa treat­ments, in­clud­ing a Chero­kee-style two-handed mas­sage and an ap­ple stem­cell age-de­fy­ing fa­cial.

The Deep Heal­ing Woods pro­gram is based on stud­ies from Ja­pan that show that “for­est bathing,” or spend­ing time among trees, ac­cel­er­ates heal­ing, in­creases men­tal fo­cus and fights stress.

That part might not sur­prise you, but this might: For­est trees are said give off phy­ton­cides, or scents, that in­crease the good im­mune cells in our bod­ies that kill off the bad, can­cer-caus­ing cells. Black­berry Farm will take you deep into un­touched woods to med­i­tate, do yoga and hike.

If you are cu­ri­ous about the science be­hind some of th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties, the Well­house, Black­berry Farm’s well­ness cen­ter, of­fers Life­style Lec­tures, which ex­plain why the woods are good for youor the the­ory be­hind aro­mather­apy or why you should juice.

Black­berry Farm is con­sid­ered a gas­tro­nomic des­ti­na­tion within culi­nary cir­cles. The food is what owner Sam Beall calls “foothills cui­sine.” That means far­m­grown in­gre­di­ents, a soupçon of Ap­palachian tra­di­tion (okra, red peas, chick­weed and lots of pork prod­ucts) cou­pled with the hefty in­flu­ence of global fine dining.

Black­berry Farm sources most of its in­gre­di­ents lo­cally, much of it grown just feet from its kitchen. It also pro­duces cheeses, pre­serves, char­cu­terie, honey and choco­late, and it butch­ers its own meats.

Fine dining takes place in the Barn (a James Beard Award win­ner), and more ca­sual fare at the Dog­wood, in the main house. I chose the Barn, lit­er­ally a huge, stylishly ren­o­vated barn for our first night of what I would call stylish com­fort food.

For afi­ciona­dos, Black­berry Farm hosts cooking schools and epi­curean events with guest celebrity chefs such as Alain Du­casse. There are also daily cooking demon­stra­tions, where a chef or “food ar­ti­san” — the cheese maker, the preser­va­tion­ist (pickles and jams, not art) or the butcher pre­pares a three-course mid­day meal.

I’m not much of a foodie, so I headed to the Well­house for a pri­vate TRX class, some­thing I had al­ways wanted to try (TRX is a work­out us­ing hang­ing straps in­vented by a Navy SEAL, but I needed in­struc­tion to save em­bar­rass­ment and in­jury).

I fol­lowed this ex­haust­ing but fruit­ful ex­er­cise with an in­dul­gent Heal­ing Herbs & Flow­ers mas­sage. My TRX clenched mus­cles were slowly re­leased and then treated with heated herbal poul­tices.

We re­luc­tantly left Black­berry Farm, but de­cided that for our men­tal and phys­i­cal well-be­ing we ought to re­turn here an­nu­ally.

Pho­to­graphs by Jon Whit­tle

THE BARN at Black­berry Farm, with its chan­de­liers, el­e­gant chairs and sil­ver ser­vice, fea­tures fine dining that owner Sam Beall calls “foothills cui­sine.”

THE BLACK­BERRY FARM sta­bles have horses avail­able for­many types of rid­ing at all skill lev­els.

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