Full-Time, Full-Service and Fierce… From Empty Nest To MAKING A REAL-ESTATEMENT

Written by Becky Andrews

Photos by John Brown Photography

If you were to follow her around on any given day, remember one thing; be prepared to keep up. “Some days can be pretty laid back, and that makes it easy to catch up on paperwork at the office, but that’s the exception, not the…hold on; I need to grab this.” This is the first of many phone calls and office intercom pages for Anita Tate during our conversation. Anita is the owner and Principal Broker at Century 21 West Main Realty & Auction in Lebanon. She’s busy, but on an overcast winter afternoon, the exception happened, so she was able to sit down and share her story.
In the more than two decades she’s been in the real estate business–nearly 13 years as owner of her own real estate firm–Anita has sold upwards of 100 million dollars in real estate, helped shape legislation to protect buyers, sellers, and agents, taught continuing education classes, and baked more cookies, cakes, and casseroles for clients than she can count. She learned early on in her career that attitude is the key to success. “As the owner of a company, when you make the biggest commitment, work the hardest and run the fastest–your energy becomes contagious, and everyone around you is inspired to double down and make it happen.”


ABOVE: Anita cuts up with Rick Bell as they survey progress inside a space at the new Hamilton Springs mixed-use development. Rick and his brother Jack Bell are the developers while Anita is the listing agent on the project.

The road from her childhood in Madison, Tennessee has been filled with twists and turns. “My father died when I was 14 years-old, so my mother was left to raise me and my sisters by herself.” Anita continues, “We had to do our part around the house. Nothing was just given to us, and I’m so thankful for that. I think it’s rare these days that parents expect kids to do their share in a household.” It was her experience growing up the youngest of five girls, that she became accustomed to a busy environment. So, when her only child, Lesli left for college, and the hum of teenage activity fell silent, she found herself searching for something to fill that space. “You could say my real estate career started out of boredom, something to keep me busy while I adapted to becoming an empty nester.
After I got my real estate license, the first house I purchased was in the college town where Lesli lived. She and her husband, Trent had just married, so that house turned into our first flip. Lesli and Trent did 99% of the work themselves.”

Anita purchased and flipped one more property before Lesli and Trent decided to move to Lebanon. Not
long after they started a family of their own.
The side hustle of flipping properties coupled with an unapparelled dedication to assisting buyers and sellers, eventually lead to Anita being recognized as one of Middle Tennessee’s most respected, highest selling and hardest working agents in the industry. But she’s quick to point out that her success is a team effort. “I work with some amazing agents every single day in my office. Plus, I have the bonus of working with Lesli who has been a licensed real estate agent for 15 years. Because we are family, it makes it a natural fit to work together.” Anita continues, “There’s no one else I’d rather work so closely with than her.”
Lesli and Trent are responsible for giving Anita the title she cherishes most; Gammy to 17-year-old Talor and
8-year-old Jake. “I can’t get enough of those two! I loved being a mom to Lesli and still do, but being a gammy…it’s totally different.”

Below: Anita and her husband John pose with their grandaughter Talor, grandson Jake, Lesli and Lesli’s husband Trent.

When she’s not assisting buyers, sellers or mentoring affiliate brokers, or volunteering for local non-profit
organizations like Wings Over Wilson* you can most likely find Anita in the kitchen. “I love to cook. Baking is
something that is very therapeutic, but it’s also been an excellent way to spend time with Lesli and my grandkids. It’s something we can do together without the expectation of anything besides what we are cooking. I’ve discovered that this time together creates a relaxed environment where conversation just kind of happens. That’s the good stuff.” 2018 is filled with adventure for Anita and her family. In fact, she will no doubt experience a little Deja Vu as she looks on while Lesli helps Talor prepare to leave home for college in
the fall. “Talor will graduate in May. College is next. ”She trails off and looks towards her daughter’s office across the hall then adds, “It won’t be easy for Lesli. That’s life though. Getting to the good stuff is never easy.”


1. She’s been married to Dr. John Tate for 15 years.

2. She has two grandchildren; Talor, 17 and Jake, 8.

3. She obtained her realtor license in 1995.

4. She opened her own brokerage in 2005.

5. 2014 Realtor of the Year, Eastern Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors.

6. 2017 President EMTAR.

7. Professional designations- GRI, SRES, ABR, and CBR and is a State of Tennessee licensed auctioneer.

* Wings over Wilson is a faith-based women’s charity group that helps support needs inside Wilson County.

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Deep Roots

This Lebanon farm, well over a hundred years old, has been in the Crowell family since 1916

By Laurie Everett

Photos by Jana Pastors (Kindred Moments Photography)


There’s a certain spot Chris Crowell can stand and overlook his Lebanon family farm. As his gaze soaks in the sloping hills, rolling pastures, woodlands and meandering streams, images in his mind turn like the pages of a well worn, yellowed antique family album. Memories of this century farm are part of Chris’s psyche.

26501480051_80eb0e793b_zWhen Chris—now the third generation owner of the family farm—was growing up, this lovely parcel of land tucked along Leeville Pike was his playground, along with his sister’s and brother’s. They were 13 and 10 years older, so soon the vast, magical place was his alone to explore and conquer. He built dams in the creek, gathered stones, and climbed trees.

“I would build what now I know were very crude tree houses and forts, but back when I was a kid they were quite something!” he said with a laugh. And while his tree house marvels are no longer suspended in mighty trees, and his dams washed away decades ago, they were most likely replaced by his children Maggie and Ethan, who also grew up on this piece of heritage.

There’s been plenty of work on this farm over the past century. Sawing down the trees to erect the first buildings, the cycle of planting and harvesting, chopping firewood to keep the house warm, and endless chores—and now the boarding of horses, raising chickens, tractor hayrides, gardening, as well as general farm maintenance.

25964579863_f6d8278e92_zOver the past hundred years, many things on the farm have changed, but many things have stayed the same. There is still one family whose heartstrings hold on to their heritage and love their land with a fierceness that ensures it will stay in the family for perhaps another century.


Land as a wedding gift

By day Chris and his wife Amanda are in their business suits, conquering the corporate world. They fell in love and married in 1991 and made their home in Lebanon in 1993.  Chris is Vice President at Liberty State Bank and former Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board. Amanda is an attorney and partner with McBrien, Kane and Crowell. They have two children, both of whom loved growing up on their dad’s family farm. Maggie is 19, and Ethan is 15. Maggie, who was Valedictorian of her high school graduating class, just finished her first year at Washington & Lee University in Virginia. Ethan will be a sophomore next school year at Lebanon High School.

26567594295_16b3e52b53_zIt’s rare indeed that a wedding gift manages to last a hundred years. The few that survive a hundred years are so rare and special they are handled with great care and pride. Chris’s family farm was originally a wedding gift to his grandparents, Terry (T.H.) and Frances Eatherly in 1916 from Terry’s father, Timothy Eatherly, Chris said.  Timothy Eatherly owned the house that is now the home of Ligon and Bobo Funeral Home on West Main Street in Lebanon.  He and his mother-in-law had raised his three children there after the death of his wife at the age of 28 of typhoid fever.

“The gift was 250 acres of land and a modest home,” he said. “The original home on the farm was built in the 1880s and was added on to, to make it a two story structure with a porch.”

Chris’s mom, Terrijean, along with her three sisters, grew up in the house. Chris and his parents and siblings also lived there.

That original home was remodeled in the 1970’s, and my mother still lives there,” he noted.  “She’s 85 years old.” The land has been a “working” farm of various degrees through the decades.

20521537964_37554a871d_z“Some years it was more active than others,” Chris noted. “There has been cattle farming, hog farming and sheep farming. Tobacco and wheat have been produced here. There have been share croppers, and tenant farmers, as well, who worked the land.” Terry Eatherly was a gentleman farmer who not only farmed, but was a part owner of the arcade on the Lebanon Square as well as a trustee on the Board of Directors for Middle Tennessee Electric when it first came into existence.  He was instrumental in convincing his neighbors to agree to have electricity in their homes and bringing electric power to the area.

When Chris’ grandparents passed in 1966, the land was put up at auction. Chris’ parents, Terrijean and the late Gentry Crowell, bought the house and 50 acres. Today, Chris and Amanda own 26 original acres, and his mother still owns the original home.


Living in the present, relishing the past

In 2005, Chris and Amanda built a home on the property.

26567595575_4cce5f775e_z“It’s a Georgian style colonial, and has influences of both of us,” Chris noted. A short walk down the hill is the original homestead where his mom lives. He visits daily and it gives him peace to know his mother’s golden years are spent in the very home she grew up and flourished in. Sometimes it hits Chris in the gut when he drives the roads around his farm. There are hundreds of homes surrounding his little piece of paradise.

“It’s very bitter sweet,” he admitted. “I still have the responsibility to maintain our family’s principles. To maintain our family history as best I can. I want to preserve our memories.”

And while he knows he can’t live in a bubble, when he turns into his driveway he is transported back to simpler times, and he vows no matter how many offers he has on his place, he will hold onto it with a vice-grip.

“We carry on tried and true traditions still,” he said. “We will still gather hulled walnuts, still play in the creek and hike the woods.” For years the family bundled up on a stark and cold winter day to scout out the perfect cedar Christmas tree hidden in the woods.
26501451191_ab7b56ba83_z“Amanda has a deep love for the family farm,” Chris said. “She realizes the significance of our children growing up with a heritage. They love it. It’s a common bond. We don’t have a large family and it’s so important to hold true.

Amanda said she feels “blessed” to have been able to raise their children on a farm that means so much to Chris and his family, and which contains so much history.

“Maggie and Ethan have been able to play on the same land where their great grandfather, Terry Eatherly, planted a garden and raised cattle,” she said. “They have been able to walk down the hill and visit the home where their grandmother was born and married and where their father was raised. A sense of place has been very important to us as a family, and we are glad to continue the tradition of living on and preserving this peaceful space in Wilson County we call home.”

Chris holds on to the hope the farm will stay in the family for generation. Their son, still at home, has expressed an interest in the farm. Their daughter loves it there, and is immersed in college studies.

“It’s sort of spoken and unspoken,” Chris said quietly. “We want to keep it going. It’s one-fifth the size it originally was, but it’s still going and is still the heartbeat of the family.”


The perils of raising chickens

26501464491_ac1f05bac5_zThere are six horses on the farm, one of which the Crowells own. They also have about 25 chickens. Chris couldn’t stop chuckling when he relayed an incident that happened when Ethan was in fifth grade.

“We bought 25 one-day-old chicks at Easter as part of a program,” he remembered. “Ethan was in the 4-H Club. We had to pick our best five chickens and sell them at a live auction to raise money for the club. When they got around to our chickens Ethan looked at me and pleaded, ‘Dad, please buy them!’”

That tore at his heartstrings.

“I started bidding on our own, bidding against everyone!” he said. “I ended up paying $125, when I could have just paid the nominal fee and not entered any.” But he was certainly a hero that day.

That’s just one tale of thousands about living on the farm. Today, Chris relishes the solitude, memories and peacefulness of the acreage he’s managed to preserve in the midst of explosive growth all around.

“There absolutely is no substitute,” he said. “They are not making land anymore. This piece of land will survive.”




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Empty Bowls Benefit Helps Fill Lots of Stomachs

Empty Bowls Benefit Helps Fill Lots of Stomachs


Empty Bowls Benefit Helps Fill Lots of StomachsBen Spicer (left), Executive Director of the Wilson Country Help Center, joins Vice President Jim Romano (right), President Rick Wittrig (in bowl), and other board members in gearing up for their annual Empty Bowls Benefit November 1.

The “Empty Bowl,” concept of fundraising, has been around for a few decades, according to Wilson Country Community Help Center Board member Pam Tate. “This started back about 1991. An art teacher in Michigan named John Hartom, wanted to find a way for his art students to give back to the community,” she says.

Toler WyattToler Wyatt

The concept began catching on at local help centers, food banks, and hunger relief organizations all over the country. A past president at the Lebanon Help Center, initiated the project here in Lebanon five years ago. Each year, the proceeds from the benefit go to help stock up the food pantry at the Help Center. benefit is to raise funds to supplement the food boxes that the Help Center provides during the holidays, and all year long. “Our donations don’t match what we need to get our food boxes up to their highest level of protein value,” says Ben Spicer, Executive Director of the Help Center. “So we end up having to buy a lot of protein cans, and canned meats and chili, and pork and beans and things like that.This event is where we get the money to buy those, so we can make our boxes a lot more balanced.”

The Empty Bowls benefit will be held this year at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Lebanon on November 1, from 11am until 2:30pm, and includes a silent auction. The event often draws over 300 people. Attendees pay $25 for the lunch ticket.

Stocked Shelves at The Wilson County Help Center
The shelves are stocked now, but holidays can quickly deplete the supply at the Wilson County Help Center. The annual Empty Bowls benefit is the primary means of support for the food pantry.
“The meal is very simple,” says Spicer. “It’s intended to be that way. It’s basically soup, bread, and a beverage, and a dessert.” All of the food that day is donated. Usually we have some sort of entertainment also. Last year, we had a bluegrass band.”

Spicer says, “Our boxes represent five days and three meals a day. That’s how many meals we can serve with our boxes. And we supplement that with fruits and vegetables. Recently, we had a bunch of head of iceberg lettuce, and we had a lot of cucumbers donated to us from local farmers, so we have been putting those in the food boxes, too.” Spicer adds, “This year’s growing season was really good for us.” 

empty bowls  4Ellie Wyatt with her grandmother Judy Wyatt making bowls at First United Methodist Church.“We have a lot of support from local merchants for the benefit,” Tate says. “Last year, we had tickets to the Capitol Theatre and several stores in the square like Crystal Couture donated items. This year, Rick Wittrig owner of Fire Pit Art, has donated a large fire pit to be auctioned off in the silent auction. Cedarstone Bank, Wilson Bank, and Performance Food Group are helping support the event, too. Sometimes groups and companies get together and get a whole table for 10 to support the benefit.”

“We probably have about 15 different events going on right now where people actually make their bowls in advance,” says Spicer. “Then we bring them back to the help center, where we have a kiln, and we fire them, after they have had a chance to sit, and then we take them back to get painted and fired again. We have a lot of churches that participate in making these.”

“We have raised about $40,000 total over the past four years of the event, but this year, the demand for our food boxes is up, so we have to raise enough money to meet that demand at this event which is the only fundraiser we do for the food pantry,” Spicer says.empty bowls 5Mary Holfsinger putting finishing touches on her bowl.

“Empty Bowls is a wonderful way to give back to the community, enjoy a nice lunch, take a chance on some silent auction items, and then you have that bowl to keep as a reminder that there are a lot of people out there with empty bowls.” For more information about Empty Bowls and The Help Center, visit www.helpwilsoncounty.com

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Notes For Nurses



The second annual Notes for Nurses event, scheduled for Saturday, September 27th, is shaping up to be another wonderful evening of great music, food and fun.

Wilson Living Magazine is one of many proud sponsors supporting the event this year.




Continue reading “Notes For Nurses”

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The Austermillers



Wilson County residents and owners of Austermiller Roofing, Roger and Penny Austermiller, weren’t planning to purchase and devote nearly a year completely renovating a French, country style home located on the west end of Lebanon.

In fact, they were searching for a piece of land in which they could build their dream home……

Continue reading “The Austermillers”

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Joseph's Storehouse

Joseph’s Storehouse Feeds the Hungry


Joseph's StorehouseWhen we think of people who need food, our first thought is of poverty stricken third world countries. It might surprise you to know that right here in Wilson County, a county with the second highest median family income in the State of Tennessee, there are hundreds of individuals and families who would live in hunger, without the help of an area charity known as Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry.

Joseph’s Storehouse began as an outreach by Pastor Bob Evans and wife Peggy, who recently retired as pastors of Love One Another Church. While pastoring the church in the 1980’s and 90’s, the church would clear out their sanctuary, and fill it with boxes of food for families at Christmastime. During this time, Bob also worked feeding the hungry and did mission work in Haiti.

Pastor Bob says, “It was in 1999 that we began to see the need to feed people in our own community. Peggy and I felt led of the Lord to purchase and distribute food. We went to the grocery store, bought a small amount of food, gave it away, bought more, and gave that away. We were utilizing a building that was behind the church for distribution. Soon the word spread and more people needing food showed up, volunteers started showing up, and opportunities to obtain more food came.”

The food distribution operation has evolved over the years, and today Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry is a Joseph's Storehousewell-organized community-based outreach that assists many persons in Wilson County who need food. It operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit, 501-c-3 organization, Love One Another Embassy. Recipients of the food must complete an application process that utilizes the USDA’s regulation for income levels. Often applicants are senior citizens or disabled, who rely on a small social security or disability check, which barely covers housing expense. Leaving them to decide between buying food, paying for their medicines, or medical care. People who are homeless, and unemployed also come in need of food.

I will never forget my own experience at Joseph’s Storehouse several years ago, during the worst of the economic downturn. I was meeting with the Evans, and a young man who appeared to be in his thirties knocked on the door. It was on a day that the center would’ve normally been closed. My heart ached as he explained that he was a construction worker, and the company had no work, so their boss let them go. He had been unemployed for several weeks looking for work, leaving him and his wife with two children with little income. Their landlord had evicted them because he couldn’t pay the rent, and they were camping out at a local campground. I could see he was a proud husband and father, his voice broke as he explained their dilemma. He didn’t ask for money, he asked if we knew where he might find work, and said someone told him he might get food at the center for his family. I held back tears until after our meeting, but once in my car, I broke down. I saw firsthand how people could find themselves in situations to need help, especially food, and how Joseph’s Storehouse was providing it.

You might be wondering as I did, “Where does the food come from?” Many stores, restaurants, distribution centers and other food outlets send their overruns, maybe food with damaged or outdated packaging, etc. to Joseph’s Storehouse for distribution. The Evans describe it as miraculous favor. Unlike many food closets in area churches, their warehouse is filled with freezers, enabling the organization to accept large donations and preserve the food, including meat, something many food ministries cannot supply to the needy. Financial donations are also used to purchase food, and the charity partners with other agencies like Second Harvest Food Bank.

Joseph's StorehousePeggy said, “In November and December (2013), more than 1,000 families were provided a supply of food. That’s the months we see the largest need, but we feed on average 500 or more per month every month.” And when she says they “feed” people, it is not a single meal or a small bag of food. Joseph’s Storehouse provides them a wheel barrow full of food and other items, which could sustain the person or family with much of what they need for a month. They estimate they provide more than two million pounds of food, paper goods, and other personal items annually.

The Evans are quick to note that this massive undertaking could not be possible without the many volunteers who regularly work at the center, sorting and organizing food and other items as it comes in, getting it ready for the monthly distribution, then helping to get it into the vehicles on distribution days.

Volunteers also help with office work, mailings, and some offer spiritual support and prayer for those who request it. There are only a few employees, one of whom they say was a “Godsend”, Warehouse Manager, Robert Billings. Said Peggy Evans, “He showed up one day and said he wanted to help us. We had been praying for someone with the skills to manage our warehouse operation, and in walked Robert.”

Billings said, “Somehow, the food just keeps coming. We’ll get a call from someone with food, and I’ll go get it orarrange for transportation. We never know what we are going to get, or when, but at the end of the month, we always have food for distribution.”

The greatest need of Joseph’s Storehouse today is funds to build more warehouse space, so they can accept additional food donations and distribute more Joseph's Storehousefood. The request from the community for assistance is everincreasing. The organization has already begun construction on a new 10,000 square foot addition, but approximately $25,000 more dollars are needed to finish and furnish the building. They are committed to remaining debt-free as they complete construction, so financial donations are the best way to assist. The hope is to increase partnerships with area churches on an ongoing basis, because Joseph Storehouse has the facilities and distribution structure, and additional funds for operation expenses like utilities, transportation costs, and food purchases would greatly help serve more of the community.

As Bob Evans summarized the goal, “We want to help all of the hungry people in Wilson County that we can.” Every month, they are fulfilling the scripture Isaiah 58:10, “Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day.” Love One Another Embassy through Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry is true to the organization’s motto: “Ambassadors of love, reaching out with loving arms to hurting people.”


If you would like to contact Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry, call (615) 453-5777. Tax deductible donations may be sent to: Love One Another Embassy, Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry, 1960 SE Tater Peeler Rd, Lebanon, TN 37090. Volunteers are also welcome. If you know someone in need (Wilson County residents only),the food is distributed on the last Saturday morning of each month, and the Thursday prior to the last Saturday for the disabled. Applications are taken on the food distribution days.

Also visit www.JoeStoreHouse.com.

Joseph's Storehouse

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Watermelon Moon Farm

Watermelon Moon Farm

WLM Ladies Day Out at Watermelon Moon Farm


Watermelon Moon FarmL-R: Becky Andrews, Sue Siens, Donna Neely, Angel Kane, Denise Moore & Elizabeth Scruggs

Watermelon Moon FarmThe long, wide front porch is a perfect spot for serving or dining, or simply relaxing in the porch swing and rocking chairsIt’s not often that the group of the busy ladies who contribute to Wilson Living Magazine, and our fearless leaders, Becky Andrews and Angel Kane, get time for a ladies day out lunch, so we were thrilled with our excursion to Watermelon Moon Farm. 

Watermelon Moon Farm is a lovely two story home on Trousdale Ferry Pike, about half-way between Lebanon and Carthage at the Wilson County/ Smith County line. Our group of six was graciously welcomed to join two other groups of ladies visiting that day, with the same idea in mind: an afternoon get-away with friends for some fun, in a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere, delicious food, and shopping for neat finds amongst the beautifully decorated dining rooms and gift shop.


The Farm is owned by Emily Steinburg-Cash, who returned to the area after living in Florida for many years.Watermelon Moon FarmThe “Summer Kitchen Suite and Peacock Room” (available to rent) was formerly the historic home’s summer kitchen. The cozy suite includes a full private bath, cozy bedroom, separate sitting room, and view of the garden. Emily and husband, Harold Cash, have lovingly restored the home to its former grandeur. Emily’s style and creativity shines throughout the dining rooms, with nature inspired décor, whimsy, unique art, antiques, and collectibles artfully displayed. It’s simply gorgeous, and compliments the historic home. To our delight, much of it was also available for purchase! We had time to relax and chat with one another, something we rarely have time to do, and then browsed the collection of home décor and gift items.

Speaking of shopping, as you can see from our photos, there is something for everyone: jewelry, candles, art prints, collectibles, gourmet foods, and all sorts of specialty decorating items. As I say, “cool stuff!” Meanwhile, Emily, Harold, and friends prepared and then served us our delectable lunch plate: Harold’s bacon corn chowder soup, hot ham and swiss croissant, Raven’s Nest veggie dip on pita chips, bed of salad greens, country dressed egg, raspberry-orange-cranberry salad, broccoli peanut salad with red wine dressing, plantation fruit tea, and supermoist iced carrot cake with coffee for dessert. Yum!

The 25 ladies from the “Tea and Friends” group from Goodlettsville Nazarene Church, and the six high school friends from the 1973 class of DuPont High School who regularly meet for lunch, shared our enthusiasm.

 “We love Emily, and Watermelon Moon. Her food is fabulous,” said Paula Christianson from the church. “Our group comes in the fall, and usually again in the summer also,” she added. 

Karen Hedges of Mt. Juliet said, “A couple of years ago, our group of friends from high school re-connected, and now we get together for lunch about once a month. We have loved coming here,” she said.

Watermelon Moon FarmFor a relaxing get-away, you and your guests can enjoy a stay at the farm’s bed and breakfast cottageEmily and Harold open Watermelon Moon Farm seasonally, kicked off with an annual open house in the spring, and ending each season with their Christmas events. The farm is not open to the public daily, so all events both public and private do require reservations. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, numerous events are held, including an Easter luncheon, popular Mother’s Day luncheon, open houses, and other events. The home and grounds are used for parties, luncheons, receptions, weddings, church groups, baby showers, birthday parties, Red Hat ladies, clubs, and family and friends who simply want to get-together. Watermelon Moon Farm is also available to rent as a Bed & Breakfast. Emily also offers workshops throughout the seasons on a variety of arts and crafts, and the use of herbs in cooking.

Emily has a long career in hand-painted art and hand-crafted décor, and is an accomplished instructor. She says she learned southern cooking and her hostess skills from her mother, but had to learn gardening and taking care of farm animals after purchasing the farm.

The farm will be closed to the public until Spring 2014, while Emily and Harold prepare and decorate forWatermelon Moon FarmFriends from Dupont High School enjoy lunch at Watermelon Moon Farm next spring season.

Now is the time to plan your visits and make reservations for next year. To view the calendar of events, workshops, and learn more about the farm, visit their facebook page, or webpage at www.watermelonmoonfarm.com. You can also email wmmoonfarm@yahoo.com, or call (615) 444-2356. Emily and Harold might be out tending to the garden or taking care of their many farms animals, so be sure to leave a message on the phone so they can call you back.

Our WLM ladies are excited about our next trip to Watermelon Moon Farm, and we look forward to meeting you and your friends there too!

History and Folklore of Watermelon Moon Farm

Watermelon Moon FarmThe farm’s beautifully restored historic home, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Wm. Washington Seay House.” It was built by William Washington Seay between the years of 1835-1845. Built as an exact replica of a Louisiana plantation home, the quality craftsmanship is believed to have been influenced by his many trips to New Orleans, where he admired the ornate woodworking and stone masonry.

William Washington Seay married Ann Stanfield in 1825, and in 1828, his father John Seay soldWatermelon Moon Farm him 350 acres of his land for “five dollars and love and affection” on the condition that William could not sell the land, and his father could take timber from it. The entire Seay family farm was more than 1,000 acres. Their vast estate remained in the family for more than 150 years. Among father John Seay’s gifts to his sons were also slaves, who later helped to build the grand home. It is said that the slave who skillfully built the stone chimney and cellar was granted his freedom. Legend has it that following the Civil War, many of the freed slaves continued to make their homes at the farm as workers.

William Washington became a successful tobacco trader and businessman, which led to his trips to New Orleans for trading and exporting. It was following these trips that he built the grand home. During their marriage, William and Ann had nine children. Sadly, the Seay family also saw their share of tragedy during and after the War Between the States. Their son William Aurelius died during the Civil War, while serving in the 24th Confederate Tennessee Infantry in a battle in Perryville, KY. His father William took a team of horses and wagon, and claimed his son’s body, returning it for burial in the family cemetery not far from the mansion. One week following their son’s death, their daughter Cinderilla died following childbirth. Matron Ann Seay died in 1872, and William Washington Seay died in 1874. The home then became the property of his son, Thomas. In 1884, Thomas’s wife Lelia committed suicide, hanging herself in the doorway of the downstairs bedroom, believed to be overcome by the death of their only son Sidney. In 1890, Charles Seay, Thomas’s brother, was shot and killed on the front porch by his sister’s son during a family argument.

Following Thomas’s death, he left the home to his sister Eliza. She maintained the home until her death, when it was purchased by Daniel Elijah Seay. It should be noted that the property was originally located in Smith County. Dan Seay, however, wanted to run for Judge, which required a residence in Wilson County. He managed to have a small parcel of the farm, on which the Watermelon Moon Farm home sits today, annexed into Wilson County. The rest of the property remains in Smith County. After Dan’s death in 1957, the entire Seay estate was sold. Emily Steinburg purchased the home and 18 acres in 1991. In 2002, she and Harold married, and the two of them have continued to restore the home to its former glory.

Watermelon Moon FarmWatermelon Moon Farm owners, Emily & HaroldEmily’s Favorite:

Captain Rodney’s Cheesy Bake

1/2 cup Mayo

8 oz cream cheese

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 green onions chopped

6 Ritz crackers crushed

8 slices of bacon – cooked crispy & crumbled

1/2 cup or more

Captain Rodney’s Pepper Jelly

Mix mayo, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and onions. Put in greased quiche pan. Top with crackers and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or till bubbly. Top with Pepper Jelly just out of oven so it melts over the top. Add bacon optional… all good!!!

                                                    Served at Watermelon Moon Farm

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Watertown’s Candy Makers



ToffeeBrad Dawson spreads a super-hot batch of toffee on to a granite slab as the candymaking process moves to the next stagePHOTOS & STORY BY KEN BECK

The sweetest place in Wilson County?

The Walker Creek Toffee candy kitchen inside the former American Hardware Store in Watertown may lay claim
to the title. “We’re the best-kept secret in Watertown, and we’re not a secret,” said Bruce Mott, who created the toffee recipe and produces it with his wife Cathy McCook.

The duo began selling their toffee a few years ago when they made it in their home kitchen in Alexandria, but last January, Mott, who does residential remodeling, replaced the floor in the century-old structure and built a 500-square-foot kitchen and a 250-square-foot packing room.

Thus, one night a week, they handcraft their toffee and caramel candies in small batches right here with a little help from their friends. Mott began making toffee in 1978 and continues to adapt the recipe.

“The toffee recipe is in every cookbook known to man. I’ve taken a similar recipe and refined it to the formula we have today. I have a chef gene,” says the native of Carmel, Calif., who opened Nashville’s first vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Man, in 1975, and has been in construction the past 35 years.

“Toffee is a hard candy to make, and I appreciated the challenge. You have to cook it very hot in order to reachToffeeBruce with caramel maker and wrapper: the machine is a batch roller designed for taking a batch of caramel and turning it into a rope of caramel the perfect temperature, about one degree away from being burned. You can’t leave it alone,” Mott said.

“I will still mess up a batch from time to time. I’ve had to learn a lot more of the chemistry of candy. Ninety percent of the time we get it right, and I won’t put it out for sale when it’s not right.”

“We can’t even put out samples if it’s not right. I’ll just really watch it,” said McCook, who shares samples of their candy during Watertown’s bi-annual milelong yard sales. “Bruce has the eye and nose, and I’ve developed the same senses.”

The couple’s Toffee, Salted and Short Mountain Shine Caramels may be purchased at Nona Lisa Pizzeria and Lulu’s in Watertown and at the Nashville Farmers Market on Saturdays. Or it may be ordered via their Web site. The candy will also be sold at the Wilson Living Holiday Expo Nov. 22-23 at The Mill in Lebanon.

So how good is this toffee, which consists of creamery butter, cane sugar, raw California almonds and Belgian chocolate?

Jason Scott of Jackson, Tenn., who obviously has a sweet tooth or two, sent in this email testimony:

“We recently stopped by the Nashville Farmers Market and discovered your product. My wife, son and myself were blown away with the quality and taste of your caramel and toffee. We purchased one bag of toffee and one bag of each of your caramels.

ToffeeUsing a large wooden spoon, Bruce Mott stirs creamery butter as he prepares to make a batch of Walker Creek Toffee from his own tried and true recipeAfter returning home to Jackson, Tenn., my wife took the remaining candies to work to share. Needless to say they were loved by everyone!!! I now regret sending them with her because I’m out. LOL. You have a wonderful product and we look forward to future orders. Thank you!!”

Says McCook, who was born in Union City, Tenn., and was working for UPS in Atlanta when she met Mott at the Appalachian Craft Festival in Smithville in the early 2000s, “He made toffee for me before we were married. I had to put it in the trunk of my car so I wouldn’t eat it all.”

Mott is definitely the salesman. “I will walk into a business and say, ‘Hey, eat this.’ I figure once I get it in their mouth, it’s sold,” said the candy man,ToffeeCathy McCook spreads rich Belgian chocolate over the hot toffee who across the years gave his toffee away as gifts.

“People would ask, ‘When are you gonna start selling it?’ We started putting the framework together and another year or so later got a home kitchen approved by the Department of Agriculture,” recalled McCook, noting their candies became part of Pick Tennessee Products in 2009-2010.

“There was a certain ambiance to making it at home,” said Mott. “We were selling a couple of hundred pounds a year and never knew it would grow.”

In 1999, the couple purchased the old hardware store on East Main Street, never contemplating they would one day transform part of it into a candy kitchen.

“The building never had electricity for the most part. We had to rewire it, plumb it, and we built this building within the building. Owning a building like this is an incredible stewardship. We love this old building,” said Mott. As for making the toffee, the steps include preparing and heating the ingredients, pouring it out to cool, covering it with chocolate and almond dust, allowing it to cool more and then wrapping it.

“It’s been done the same way for hundreds of years,” said Mott, who uses a three-foot long wooden spoon to mix the sugar, butter and almonds as the blend heats in a giant copper kettle. “What we’re doing when we’re making toffee is caramelizing sugar with butter,” he said about the cooking process, as the temperature in the kettle rises to around 300 degrees.

The two variables to how the toffee turns out prove to be the almond and butter supplies. “We try to get the same stuff from the same guys all the time but sometimes they throw a curve ball at us. This year we used 50-pound blocks of butter from Purity. It’s more consistent,” the candy chef said.

ToffeeCathy McCook regularly peddles Walker Creek Coffee on the sidewalk in front of the century-old American Hardware Store during the bi-annual Watertown Mile-Long Yard Sale. Here she offers free samples to passers-byThe sweet couple expects to employ four or five helpers this holiday season and have already been teaching Watertown’s Jennifer Folsom and Brad Dawson how to make the candy. “Bruce and Cathy have been family friends for a while and I love them to death. Having the opportunity to work for them fits my family needs and the needs of Walker Creek Toffee, so it was a no brainer,” said Folsom, who makes caramels and does the finishing work on the toffee. “I have helped out seasonally for a couple of years and been a lover of that toffee for as long as I have known about it.

“I think the most import thing about the candy is that you have to learn by doing. You can’t read and know how to do it. It’s more of an art but there is science in there. You have to get in there and make some good ones and make some bad ones and fine tune,” said the young candy maker, whose husband Brad, a chemist at Environmental Science Corporation in Mt. Juliet, began making toffee in July under Mott’s watchful eye.

Let it be noted the candy kitchen is not open to the public, however Mott says, “If we’re here and not in the middle of production, I’ll give people a tour, but when I’m cooking candy at 300 degrees, it’s just not safe.”

Walker Creek Toffee’s primary customers have proven to be corporations that present the candy as Christmas gifts, while, coincidentally, in the Watertown area, Mott often portrays Santa Claus at holiday events.

“We fill lots of big orders. We like for businesses to say, ‘We’d love to give your candy to all our clients. Can you ship?’ Yes, we can,” said McCook. “We’ve grown the company slowly to make candy in a timely manner. Now I want more people to know about us,” Mott said. “We’re real careful to keep the quality where it needs to be. We’re open to some retail relationships, but it’s got to be the right fit.

“My favorite part is when people eat their first bite of the toffee. I’ve seen people’s demeanor change 180 percent. They squeak or perform an eye roll. I think we have a great product. I love introducing people to it.

“In residential remodeling, sometimes people are not happy with me, but everybody is happy with candy,” said the Candy King of Watertown


Made in Watertown, this pure and natural candy is produced in small batches using creamery butter, cane sugar, raw California almonds and Belgian chocolate. The toffee may be ordered online or purchased in Watertown at Lulu’s and Nona Lisa Pizzeria; and at Green Door Gourmet in West Nashville, Art & Invention Gallery in East Nashville and at the Nashville Farmer’s Market (10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays). Also available are Salted Caramels and Short Mountain Shine Caramels.

For more info or to place an order, go online to walkercreektoffee.com or call (615) 295-4137. The candies will be available at the Wilson Living Magazine Holiday Expo Nov. 22-23 at The Mill in Lebanon.

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