It’s the intersection of local culinary delights and affordability.
“I knew we wanted to build a menu around what was available from local growers and producers. And I knew we wanted to make it affordable and approachable for everyone,” said Miki Kilpatrick. She’s the co-owner of HomeGrown, a farm-to-table culinary hot spot in North Asheville.
“We talked to farmers. We knew they had produce that the fancy places weren’t buying: yellow squash and collard greens that grow easily and abundantly here, ugly tomatoes or little bell peppers that taste divine, but don’t meet the visual standard,” says Kilpatrick. “We knew that farmers were leaving tailgate markets with a half-bushel of this or that. We knew those farmers would love to sell all their product rather than take it back to the farm. We listened to what our customers wanted. We listened to what worked for our farmers, changing as we went, but staying highly loyal to our big chalkboard menu that could change daily depending on what we had available. It all came together.”
Kilpatrick started HomeGrown as way to branch off their initial business, Saffron Fine Foods, a locavore catering service that offered 100-mile radius menus of ingredients. Opened in 2010, HomeGrown was another option, or alternative, to higher-priced farm-to-table restaurants. More importantly, it was an idea Kilpatrick was determined to see to fruition.
“We don’t dispel the myth that local produce does cost more,” she said. “That being said, we work really hard to keep our prices affordable, and we do that by being smart about how we utilize the product. We work closely with our farmers.”
“We listened to what worked for our farmers, changing as we went, but staying highly loyal to our big chalkboard menu that could change daily depending on what we had available.” —Miki Kilpatrick, HomeGrown
Asheville and greater Western North Carolina has an agricultural history as rich as its soil. Because of that, the farm-to-table movement has taken off in spades over the last decade and a half. Countless locally-sourced restaurateurs all wander into and pick from dozens of local farmers markets and open air markets. And with this increasing awareness of the personal and economic importance of buying and consuming local produce and meats, comes the need for more affordable and accessible ingredients.
“Now that we’ve been at this a few years, some of our farmers even ask us what we want them to grow for us the following year. That means they know they have a market for what they are growing and are able to specialize in one crop. It’s cheaper for them to produce,” Kilpatrick said. “Of course, there are challenges. We have to closely watch our price point. And if it’s a bad year for something, then we just don’t have it. This is a little different than the way most restaurants work, especially those on the higher end.”
Working with folks like Whisperholler Farms, Green River Picklers, Yellow Branch Cheese, Ashley Farms, and Hickory Nut Gap, HomeGrown will find ingredients from seemingly all corners of Western North Carolina.
“We work with Whispersholler Farms quite a lot. While he does grow some stuff for us, he works more like a broker for a bunch of smaller farmers,” Kilpatrick said. “So, he has a guy out in Candler who raises chickens and supplies our eggs to the tune of about 90 dozen a week, he gets us tomatoes from a family over on the south side of Buncombe County, and so on.”
Growing up in nearby Madison County, Kilpatrick was raised around fresh produce. It’s an experience that remains a key component of a normal childhood here.
“We always had a garden. Mom canned and froze veggies for the winter. It was just how you lived,” she said.
Now a resident of Asheville, Kilpatrick has maintained her ultimate enjoyment of this area.
“It’s beautiful. I’ve been here my entire life, and I’m still constantly in awe of the beauty that surrounds us—it’s so dang easy to get outside,” she said. “There are a ton of great hikes, walks, vistas all within a 30-minute drive. The art and music scene is incredible. Oh, and there’s that whole culinary scene, too.”