Biltmore west – the farming part of the estate!

So last week we finally got to visit what is called Biltmore West. This is the part of the estate where they keep all the animals, such as pigs, cows, sheep and bees. It is also here that they grow a lot of vegetables etc.

This year they are also going to start building a big compost area so they can better take care of leftover food etc and use that as a fertilizer in the fields. This area of Biltmore is, just as the rest of it, just beautiful. All the hills, the green fields, vineyards, trees and rivers… Gorgeous! And what I am most impressed by is that it feels like they are way ahead the rest of the US when it comes to trying to be self sustained. I mean, they are making their own biodiesel using leftover vegetable oil from the restaurants, and before covid they also grew their own canola for oil, and once the oil was pressed they fed the leftovers to the animals since it apparantely contained a lot of protein. So nothing goes to waste!

To get to Biltmore West you have to cross the French Broad River by Antler Hill Village on the estate. This part of the estate is in a way open to the public, but it’s a premium package so it costs a bit extra. Once you cross the river, you immediately see the fields where they grow corn and many other things. Back in the days, the soil here was very bad since people had been growing things in it for a long period of time without pausing. So there was no nutrition left in the soil. But George Vanderbilts landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also has designed Central Park in New York City and Washington DC’s United States Capitol Grounds, quickly discovered that the river beds by French Broad (after its yearly flooding) was very rich in nutrients so it didn’t take them long to really take advantage of the floodings.

Behind the fields today you’ll find black angus cows (plus a few jersey cows that are direct descendants of the ones that George Vanderbilt brought in from Europe), berkshire pigs and dorper sheep plus about 100 beehives. Fun fact: all the bee hives are surrounded by electric fences. Why? Wild black bears that very much would like to get to the honey…
The black angus cows live outside all year round and they pretty much live off of grass. The calves actually get to stay with their mothers for at least 6 months which warms my heart. Then they get separated and some are sold off to other farms. The only time they get some extra grains etc is about three months before they go to slaughter to make the meat a little better. There are around 600-700 cows on the estate, so Biltmore are very much self sustained when it comes to meat. The meat that the restaurants don’t need, the employees can buy at discount which is nice. I think they said that visitors also can buy the meat, but I’m not sure. They are talking about selling meat in some way in the stores on the estate but at this point they don’t.

When it comes to the pigs there are about 140-180 pigs on the estate. The piglets stay with their mom all their life, and the pigs also stay outside all year long (accept for when the sows give birth) in big pastures with grass, trees and clean water that comes from the French Broad River.
The animals are processed off state, but then they come back in halves to the estate butcher and I think there’s a good chance that I will get the chance to spend a day or two with the butcher before I go home! I know for sure that I’ll be spending at least one day in the greenhouses to help harvesting etc, really looking forward to that!

The lettuce house!
Our ride for the day!
Finishing off with a nice lunch at the Creamery in Antler Hill Village!

At work things have been boing smoothly. The number of guests are increasing everyday now I’d say. Around 100 covers in one night a few nights a week, plus walk-ins that is. So the evenings now are pretty busy even though we are far from candlelight which is what they call the Christmas season. I’ve been making sorbets, a few small bites, granola, ice cream… You name it, and I am loving every minute of it (accept for Sunday night last week… that was a ”shitty” day, but hey, we all have them, right? Haha…)!

Waffle garnish for our ice cream sandwiches
I didn’t make these, but aren’t they cute?!

I can’t believe that in about a month I will leave the Inn on the estate and continue my internship at Cedric’s Tavern that’s in the Antler Hill Village. Time moves so fast! And in about just two months my husband will finally come to visit. Feels surreal in a way but oh so good. I miss him. But before that I have a concert coming up in Franklin, NC plus the annual employee appreciation dinner that takes place on the south terrace by Biltmore House. And now… well now I am off to throw some axes with a bunch of other interns here… Wish me (and them) luck…



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