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VOL. 37 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 04, 2013

Glen Leven to continue its role in serving guests

By Hollie Deese

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Capitol Grille chef Tyler Brown tends his crops at Glen Leven Farm. Produce grown there is served in the Hermitage Hotel restaurant.

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The Hermitage Hotel has a new farm in Dickson County, but there are no plans to abandon its original heirloom garden at The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Glen Leven Farm.

Capitol Grille chef Tyler Brown and hotel managing director Greg Sligh are intent on getting operations up and running at the Double H farm, but that could take up to a year. Even when the cattle ranch and farm in Dickson is in full production, the Glen Leven garden, about five miles from the downtown hotel, will continue to provide fresh produce for diners at the hotel’s award-winning restaurant.

“I think the proximity to the hotel is really good because Chef Tyler Brown is able to come and garden and get to work,” says Liz McLaurin, the Glen Leven Director for The Land Trust. “And he really does work in the garden.”

And since the initial goal for the new farm is to develop and increase the herd of grass-fed cattle, they will maintain what they have started at Glen Leven. Diners at the Capitol Grille have been eating the cattle that once grazed at Glen Leven. But with the increasing demands of the restaurant and plans to sell the Double H Farms brand of beef to other interested restaurants in Nashville, more land was needed.

“At Glen Leven, we were just not able to meet the needs we would have on a regular basis because of, thankfully, how much business we do,” Brown says. “This farm will really fill that need and give us the opportunity to grow and raise a ton of cattle. In a perfect world, we will be able to go national with it.”

Brown works with cattle expert Blair Myers, who has been putting in the rotational grazing system at Glen Leven.

McLaurin says she is impressed with the care Brown and crew have given the land and considers it a shining example to landowners who may be on the fence about land easements.

“The cattle and the garden are both beautiful examples of the right way to do this kind of agriculture, and the Land Trust can really show this as a model to our land owners,” she says. “Their garden is stunning. Absolutely stunning.”

The Glen Leven legacy

It does cost quite of bit of money to maintain such historic property.

In 2006, Susan McConnell West left Glen Leven to the Land Trust in her will.

“Glen Leven is 66.63 acres on Franklin Pike with numerous historic structures, a barn, smokehouse, farm office, carriage house, and then this magnificent 1857 home on the property, and she left all of it to us,” McLaurin says.

“We do not typically own the land or own historic structures. Land conservation is obviously the mission. To own something that is so iconic and major is very unusual.”

They are currently working through a $1 million dollar stabilization campaign for the home to prevent further decay, hosting fundraisers and occasional admission days at the home that was once the Thompson family home, held since a 1790 Revolutionary War land grant.

“The property came without any funds to support it,” McLaurin says. “What we are really moving towards is for it to be a place where people can come for educational opportunities and to really understand the value of land conservation.

“We are now allowed through a new ordinance within the city of Oak Hill to also offer up the place for corporate gatherings and field trips.”

Glen Leven has an arboretum that showcases about 15 different types of heirloom daffodils, some dating back to 1830, as well as the second largest American yellowwood tree in the United States and a flowering dogwood tree with papers to prove it was inspected in 1883.

“It is really this incredibly rich landscape and now we are able to share it with people, and we are excited about it,” McLaurin says. “It is as if you are taken back in time.”