Mary Celeste Beall

Blackberry Farm
Walland, Tennessee

Photo: Eric Ryan Anderson

Photo: Eric Ryan Anderson

Tucked into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is a 68-room East Tennessee lodge some consider the best place to stay in America. Named for the blackberry bushes dotting its property, Blackberry Farm includes a collection of rustic yet warm cottages and farmhouses that sit on 9,200 acres of misty mountain magic.

Known for its impeccable service, Blackberry Farm has something for everyone: fitness buffs will love the daily exercise classes and miles of hiking trails, foodies can expect world-class meals and firsthand lessons, spa lovers will want to spend all day at the Wellouse. No matter where your passions lie, Blackberry Farm will inspire you to try a little bit of everything.

And yet even with all that to consider, the farm is probably most famously known as a culinary powerhouse -- complete with an on-site creamery, bakery, and charcuterie, 180,000-bottle wine cellar, and collection of 600 different bourbons, ryes, scotches, and whiskies.

And the woman behind it all? Mary Celeste Beall. Ms. Beall took sole leadership of the farm when her husband, Sam, died unexpectedly in a snow skiing accident in 2016 at age 39. It was Sam who took the reins from his parents in 2003 and ultimately harnessed the farm's potential. Now, Mary Celeste is carrying on Sam's legacy, stepping into her husband’s role as the proprietor and president of Blackberry Farm. She gracefully juggles the day-to-day challenges of being a mom of five and managing a resort that hosts a couple hundred guests around the clock, not to mention weddings, outdoor concerts, and culinary programs. She has also overseen the completion of a major expansion: a 5,200-acre sprawling guest and residential addition called Blackberry Mountain, scheduled to debut early this year.

Ms. Beall shares her husband’s passion for cooking and entertaining; her love of nature; and now continues to grow the empire as an international destination. Like their father, most of the kids have become avid cooks.

“We founded the Farm on an appreciation of great food, wine, and community. Blackberry Mountain is a really exciting opportunity to further weave that into an experience of adventure and a powerful connection with the natural world.”

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Photo: Shawn Poynter

Photo: Shawn Poynter

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Why we (and so many others) love Blackberry Farm

The farm provides more than 500 local jobs.

Additionally, it has created the idea of a luxury vacation built around agriculture, all built on a foundation of simple Tennessee country life as reinterpreted for guests willing to pay a premium to taste its pleasures without any of its hardships.

Their world-renowned Foothills Cuisine is all about local ingredients and old Southern methods.

Every dish is somehow connected to the farm, using seasonal fruits and vegetables such as sugar snap peas, hen of the woods mushrooms, heirloom string beans, and, yes, blackberries. Critics love its cheeses, jam, and beer.

Chefs around the country long for an invitation to cook in the Barn, the farm’s showcase restaurant built in a 200-year-old barn that Mr. Beall had dismantled and moved from Pennsylvania.

Think of Blackberry less as a hotel, more as a home-away-from-home.

"We all laugh about him, we cry about him, and we are keeping his spirit alive — and that's just the closest thing I'll get," says Mary Celeste. "Sam's goal — and my goal — has always been, "How can we carry Blackberry on for generations?" And it's really just our job not to mess it up."

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