The Gardeners

Master Gardener

John Coykendall

Walking amongst stalks of corn and rows of pumpkins, Master Gardener John Coykendall explored the world of gardening at an early age with his grandfather, Congressman John Jennings.  Coykendall always knew he wanted to create and care for some of the finest produce in the world.

 Traveling through Europe and across the United States, Coykendall has collected not only great secrets but also seeds from the most successful gardens in the world. He brings the knowledge of decades in the garden, along with centuries old heirloom seeds that he has collected from the region and all over the world.

Farmstead School Manager

Jeff Ross

Jeff Ross grew up among a family of gardeners in Knoxville–his mother and both grandmothers raised many flowers and vegetables, and his great-grandfather was a landscape architect in the 1930s and 40s. While studying history in college, he took a summer job at a family-run nursery and decided to make it his career.

He has worked in propagation, nursery management, garden design and restoration of period and historic gardens. His love for history colors his interest in the lore of the Appalachian region and its plantlife. Additionally, cooking is one of his greatest passions and is what drives him as a grower of organic herbs and vegetables. Jeff has now been working with plants for a living for 19 years. He joined Blackberry Farm in early 2006 on the recommendation of Master Gardener John Coykendall.

Garden Manager

Michael Washburn

Always a student of the earth, Michael Washburn found his way to the garden in 2005 while studying environmental anthropology at Northern Kentucky University. It was during this time that his passion for farming intensified. He put himself through school by working in a local French restaurant and from there he began working for one of the farmers that provided them with organic produce. Michael directed his studies toward traditional farming methods and then followed his undergraduate work with a graduate degree in agronomy that focused on sustainable soil science.

With more than 15 years of experience in restaurants and gardening, Michael has honed in on his relationships with chefs and farmers. He enjoys providing quality organic produce that is unavailable elsewhere. His real passion in the garden comes from the challenge of farming with nature, not against it, and relying on the “old ways” of farming. In Blackberry’s gardens, Michael is responsible for coordinating planting schemes that provide produce for our chefs and artisans as well as managing the day-to-day operations. Michael enjoys working closely with chefs and artisans to provide produce that fits their needs and imaginations. He also enjoys his time with guests discussing the use of sustainable farming practices used here on the farm.

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