Magpie Hollow Farm is about rooted agrarian life and regenerative local economy in the Southern Appalachian bioregion.

In the spring of 2020 we purchased a small neglected hilltop farm in the Brushies, a spur range of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwestern corner of North Carolina.

This photo was taken during the evening of April 1, 2020, before we lived on the property full-time. You can’t tell from the photo, but the farm buildings - a hunter’s shack, a couple of small sheds, a single-wide trailer - were well into advanced dilapidation and decay. Much of the property was strewn with all manner of junk - bits of fencing, rusting and broken tools and yard work equipment, household items, trash, electrical wire, building materials, old computers and fax machines, just about anything imaginable - and all of it overgrown with noxious scrub, hateful thorns, and poison ivy. It was a real dump. I took the photo from this vantage point because the beauty of the place was evident and you can’t see the mess. But a helluva mess there was.

We’ve been laboring since to clear the junk and hateful thorns, rehabilitate the farm structures, repair fencing, clear overgrowth and fence in new pasture land, and plant fruit and nut trees and berry bushes and vegetable gardens.

We’re restoring the property to functional beauty and biodiverse productivity, aiming beyond “sustainability” towards dynamic and adaptive ecological enhancement.

We have a small flock of sheep and goats and a couple of livestock guardian donkeys. We raise chickens and ducks for meat and eggs, and have a family of pigs enjoying the silvopasture life.

Our goal is to meet much of our own consumption needs from the produce of this land while developing options for income generating farm micro-enterprise projects tailored to our region and context.

There are a couple of broad purposes for this newsletter and website. One is to connect (virtually) with like-minded people around the world and share tips and advice, project ideas, stories, experiences, lessons learned, and laughs. The other is to provide an online hub with a local/regional focus to announce events going on at the farm, sale and trade of farm products and services, and for collaboration in local agro-entrepreneurship opportunities.

The format will be mostly written pieces accompanied by photos with the occasional audio podcast or video clip. The content will be some part practical how-to (or just as likely, how not to…), announcements about farm activities and products for sale locally or by web order, as well as periodic “why do we do this/think like this/live like this?” explainers.

The main site content will be free for the foreseeable future. (In time we’ll likely add sections of paying subscriber content - for example, of specific interest to CSA/farm share members.)

We hope you’ll subscribe and join us on this awesome journey!

About us

Josh Kearns: Farm Manager, Resident Renegade Scientist and Hillbilly Engineer

Josh is an environmental chemist and engineer who pioneered the use of biochar in low-cost D-I-Y water treatment for removing toxic chemicals like pesticides. He’s currently writing a book on the topic you can learn more about here.

Josh grew up in a town in West-By-God-Virginia but has lived and worked and studied in places all around the country and world. Oddly, perhaps, it was while living with Thai farmers and Hill Tribe villagers in SE Asia many years ago he began to feel the pull to eventually return to Appalachia and start something like, well, like Magpie Hollow Farm.

Josh helps with daily farm chores and care for the animals, stockpiles firewood, and spends much of his days trying to figure out where the hell that water/oil/fuel/coolant/hydraulic fluid/bad smelling stuff is leaking from. He likes to cook, is an enthusiast for sauces, marinades, and all things grilled, is a veteran crockpot commando, and makes killer enchiladas. His most important roles at Magpie Hollow are scrapin’, scroungin’, reclaimin’ and repurposin,’ tearin’ old stuff down, buildin’ new stuff up, fixin’ broken stuff (x100), makin’ compost, and bonfires.

Rachael Kearns, DVM: Resident Veterinarian and Livestock/Poultry Specialist, Responsible Adult, Accountant, Brains of the Operation

Rachael is Director of Livestock Cuddling and Diagnostics. She designs custom nutrition plans for all the animals and treats the sick and injured. She bottle feeds, deworms, shears, sutures, trims hooves, squeezes eyeballs to determine aenemia by some form of black magick, samples faecal material, and reaches into hoo-has whenever called upon by the circumstances.

Rachael helps with demolition and construction projects and pays special attention to painting, staining, and weatherizing vulnerable surfaces. She keeps on top of vehicle maintenance schedules, manages household and farm finances, and determines wherever and whenever a lean-to shall be constructed on the farm by you-know-who. You can turn her loose with a string trimmer and no lie she’ll be out there for hours making some swath of intractable hillslope look like a damn golf course. She’s also in charge of humane and stress-minimizing poultry and meat rabbit processing ops.

Rachael’s a great cook and especially baker-of-pies. She grew up on a little farm near Appomattox, VA where she skipped over learning to ride a bike and went straight to driving a four-wheeler. She did eventually learn how to ride a bike and now loves shreddin’ the berms at our local MTB trail park.

But there aren’t any magpies in Southern Appalachia

Incorrect. There are two. Josh and Rachael met at a bluegrass jam in Colorado where there are, in fact, lots of magpies. Rachael was already a talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist at the time, and Josh practiced the mandolin real hard in secret for a while until he could pull it it off and impress her.

They played lots of gigs as The Magpies Duo and The Magpies & Friends and backed up singer-songwriter types out west and in the southeast after moving to North Carolina.

So these two magpies are a simultaneously home-grown and exotic species in this little pocket of western NC.

But don’t worry, they have plenty of holler cred. Rachael and Josh are such unrepentant hillbillies they built a composting outhouse for their wedding.

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A regenerative small farm in Southern Appalachia


"To rescue for human society the native values of rural life."