Location Matters: Whippoorwill Farm

by Katherine Ehrlichman

Guest blog written by Andrew Kota.

Executive Director of Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina & 2022 Kitsbow Ambassador


Kitsbow moved from California to Old Fort, North Carolina because of its close proximation to Pisgah National Forest, the natural beauty of this part of the country, and some of the best mountain biking in the world.  

Protecting land and water resources around Lake James, the very first in a chain of lakes along the Catawba River in both North Carolina and South Carolina, has been a conservation priority for Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina for more than two decades. Working with many partners, the conservancy has assisted in the permanent protection of over 11,000 acres around the picturesque lake and its watersheds, including the now famous location of the Fonta Flora Brewery at Whippoorwill Farm, where our Copper Mountain Icon photoshoot took place.

In 2016, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina partnered with Fonta Flora Brewery to purchase and permanently protect the historic Whippoorwill Dairy Farm in the community of Nebo, NC.

This beautiful, 50-acre historic dairy farm is a landmark for many in the Lake James area. The farm’s backdrop is the spectacular scenery of Shortoff Mountain, the Linville Gorge and the surrounding Pisgah National Forest.

The conservancy acquired 42 acres of the farm and donated it to the adjoining Lake James State Park, expanding the state park boundary, while Fonta Flora Brewery bought 8 acres that contained the farm buildings and in 2018 opened a farmhouse brewery on their portion of the former dairy. The conservancy and brewery are currently collaborating to complete formal conservation for the brewery’s section of the farm.

In 2019, Foothills Conservancy purchased another 36-acre tract of land adjoining the Whippoorwill Farm and transferred that property to Lake James State Park as well. These two state park additions protect a segment of Paddys Creek, a major tributary of Lake James and the Catawba River, and contain an important piece of American history: the corridor for the Overmountain Victory National and State Historic Trail.

Paddys Creek plays an important role in the protection of water quality in the greater Catawba River Basin, which is a primary focus of Foothills Conservancy’s conservation work. By working with several willing landowners in the area, our land trust has conserved a series of tracts around the river including the two tracts that are now part of Lake James State Park, and a conservation easement on a 100-acre farm where Paddys Creek flows out of the Pisgah National Forest into private land before entering the state park.

Our most recent project along Paddys Creek was the purchase of yet another 35-acre agricultural property in December 2020, which adjoins the farmland that we added to Lake James State Park in 2016 and 2019. We are currently conducting a farmland restoration project on this land by implementing several agricultural conservation practices such as the introduction of native cool and warm season grasses, rotational livestock grazing, and exclusion fencing to protect the riparian buffer along Paddys Creek.

Since 2004, FCNC has facilitated the addition of more than 3,000 acres to Lake James State Park, protecting more than 30 miles of Lake James shoreline.