Come Together: Bluestem Hollow Farm's Vision for Food

Owners of Bluestem Hollow Farm Christopher and Shona Burger pose with their two dogs at their Tennessee farm.

Located in Greenback, Tennessee, Bluestem Hollow is the picture of pastoral perfection, boasting seasonal bounty and farm-fresh goods for their Eastern Tennessean neighbors. Yet, Bluestem is more than an outpost for the locally-grown vegetables, pasture-raised eggs, and grass-fed beef — all of which are must-haves in your kitchen, by the way. Bluestem Hollow is an invitation to participate in a sustainable, community-centric vision for the future of food.

To learn more about this vision, we chatted with Christopher and Shona Burger, the husband and wife duo behind Bluestem Hollow. Here, they elaborate on the importance of locally grown foods and extend a unique invitation to join them in their mission. Hint: it involves getting your hands a little dirty.

Rows of lush, green Tennessee vegetables on Bluestem Hollow Farm.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: Thanks for sitting down with us Christopher and Shona! Let’s start at the beginning. How did you two get into farming?
The story starts when we started educating ourselves about the functional consequences of our world’s dependence on fossil fuels. It became clear that the agricultural industry — on whom we all depend on for food — was frighteningly dependent on fossil fuels. It inspired Shona and I to create greater food security for our family and our community, greater health for ourselves and the environment, and better treatment for the animals we depend on for nourishment. And that’s where Bluestem Hollow comes in.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: Before we dive into the specifics, what inspired the name?
Big Bluestem and Little Bluestem are types of grasses that are native to East Tennessee that have been replaced by another grass, Tall Fescue, in the vast majority of pastureland. On our land, we’ve reintroduced Big Bluestem and Little Bluestem. The name is a nod to our commitment to revitalizing the health and biodiversity of East Tennessee’s native meadow ecosystems.

A flatlay of Tennessee-grown vegetables, including carrots, lettuce, romaine, and squash.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: How does this work functionally?
Healthy soil is the foundation for strong food, farms, and families, and our mission is to strengthen the community through regenerative agriculture. We envision farms as cooperative workspaces where energy is transformed into food.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: For the uninitiated, what exactly is regenerative agriculture?
Shona: Well, as the name suggests, it’s the literal regeneration of soil which improves the ecosystem and delivers high productivity and high-quality food while helping fight climate change and restore lost biodiversity. 

The Scout Guide Knoxville: Got it. Focusing on the food… what farm-fresh offerings do you produce?
We produce fresh seasonal vegetables, pasture-raised eggs, and grassland beef – all sustainably grown and locally raised. We also have a large commercial kitchen on our farm where we prepare food for the meals we host and cater. This is also where we prepare our dry-cured charcuterie and all kinds of other preserved gourmet goods.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: Having tried your offerings ourselves, we can give our enthusiastic stamp of approval! As for day to day, what does life look like at Bluestem Hollow?
We tend the garden in the morning when it’s still cool outside. Once the sun is high in the sky, the cattle lay down to relax in the shade, and that’s when we move the paddock fences so that the herd can return to fresh pasture each day. Then, while the harvest crew is gathering eggs and packing the CSA boxes, our culinary master, Chef Robert, is overseeing artisan butchery and preparing for our next fine dining event. During the spring, we have a host of seasonal tasks to additionally tend to like burning pastures, planting, and putting up hay.

Bluestem Hollow's kitchen featuring a table set with Tennessee grown food.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: It’s clear that farming is no small feat. What keeps you motivated to pursue this vision of local, sustainable farming? Or, in other words, why is it so important to take on these challenges?
There are a few factors – the most important being food security. Current food systems are heavily consolidated and rely on centralized points or large distributions that often fail causing a lack in consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: What are those other factors you mentioned?
Well, our carbon footprint for one. Our industrialized food system requires 10 calories to deliver every single calorie that we eat. The average calorie of food travels over 1,000 miles before it is consumed. Supporting local farms decreases the energy needed to maintain our food system making it more secure and sustainable.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: That’s a staggering statistic. Of course, opting for locally grown foods has a positive impact on the environment, but what about our tastebuds?
Without a doubt – the difference is huge! When it comes to livestock, stress is a huge factor in the health and hardiness of the animal, and this directly translates to the taste and quality of the protein. Transporting animals long distances and finishing in crowded feedlots with no pasture – this causes intense stress that stimulates the release of lactic acid in muscle tissues, contributing to low-quality and poor-tasting meat.

Dozens of free-range chickens on Bluestem Hollow Farm's grounds.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: So what are the best ways to support local farmers and growers?   
CSA or community supported agriculture – so becoming a sustaining member of a local farm. You don’t need to spend every one of your food dollars locally, but the ones you do spend will most certainly recirculate within your local economy, increasing the long-term prosperity of your community. Another option is workshare. Come help us at the farm and we’ll pay you in food! It’s great exercise, incredibly rewarding, absolutely fascinating, and a practical ancient skillset every Earthling should have.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: As for the CSA, what exactly is it and how does it work?
Shona: It’s is a way to belong to your local farm. Basically you give the farmer seed money (in the most literal way) at the beginning of the season, which will then be used to grow your food while establishing a steady customer base and more consistent income for them. The consumer benefits from knowing that their food is grown in a thoughtful, transparent way, without the use of harmful chemicals or methods that degrade our soils and ecosystems.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: What’s included in Bluestem Hollow’s CSA program?
During the month of April, we offer sign-ups for our vegetable CSA where members receive 27 weeks of fresh, seasonal produce from our gardens in a weekly (full share) or bi-weekly (half share) capacity. Members will also receive weekly emails with video recipes from Chef Robert and updates about the farm. They also have first dibs on add-ons such as eggs, beef, and honey, as well as early access to our dinner tickets on the farm!

Farmers handing off a bowl of ripe, locally grown Tennessee cherry tomatoes

The Scout Guide Knoxville: And the workshare? Can you expand on that too?
Absolutely! Very simply, your food is discounted based on the work you provide. Come work in the gardens at Bluestem Hollow with our experienced gardener where you’ll learn to grow seasonal produce. Members will receive produce that they had a hand in growing through each step of the process. It’s a fantastic way to have access to fresh, healthy food that is not dependent on a larger supply chain.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: It must be exciting for both you and your members when the fruits of their labor – or vegetables, should we say – have paid off, and they are able to harvest what they’ve had a hand in growing.
That’s one of the reasons why we do it at Bluestem Hollow! Community involvement is essential to our mission. Our farm is the product of over half a century of collective dedication by our team to the craft of growing food through fostering healthy, vibrant communities and ecosystems.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: One last thing – we know our many of our readers will be disappointed that they missed the opportunity to sign up for CSA. What are other ways they can support Bluestem Hollow?
We always have new ways to get involved! We host multiple fine dining events throughout the year where you can taste our food deliciously prepared by Chef Robert. We will also be offering memberships for those that want to exchange regular monthly financial support for the finest and healthiest foods available! Our Instagram is the best place to stay up to date on our newest offerings.

To learn more about how you can support Bluestem Hollow, host your next event on their idyllic farm, or sign up for future fine dining events, go to and follow along with them on Instagram for the latest updates from the farm.