Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 17, 2021

Flat Top offers fall beauty, produce in Soddy Daisy

Diane and Terry Hughes, the faces of Flat Top Farm. - Photos by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Flat Top Mountain in Soddy Daisy is known for its scenic views of quiet creeks, shadowy hollers and far-off mountains. It’s also the home of farmers who coax crops out of fertile soil and tend the land for the next generation.

The Hughes family has farmed its 600-acre sprawl of Flat Top Mountain for eight generations, says its 67-year-old patriarch, Terry Hughes, a retired commercial tomato farmer who can trace his family’s homestead back to the grandson of a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War.

“My family has been here since 1820,” he says. “My fourth great grandpa is buried in our cemetery.”

Although the Hughes have farmed their patch of Flat Top Mountain for more than 200 years, this September and October will mark the first time the family has shared its autumn harvest with the public.

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 17, and continuing each weekend through the end of October, the Hughes family will open Flat Top Farm for several family friendly activities including hay rides, an 8-acre corn maze and haunted (but not too scary) nocturnal expeditions.

Visitors will be able to pluck red, yellow, purple, pink and white zinnias from their stems and take them home in Flat Top Farm budvases and wander sun-kissed patches of sunflowers and pumpkins, all ripe for the picking.

With nine kinds of pumpkins growing at Flat Top Farm, chances are someone will encounter a variety they’ve never seen. If they’re lucky, Gus, Hughes’ 10-year-old grandson and the family’s resident pumpkin expert, will be there to identify it.

“This one is an Apogee,” Gus says, pointing to the largest pumpkin in an assortment of nine near a table where the family is selling green beans, tomatoes and honey on a Saturday morning. “This is a Conquest, this is a Moon Whisper and this is a Benchmark.”

As Gus points his way through the pile, he stops and thumps a Daybreak, which he describes as “the one with all the cool colors.”

Guests also will be able to browse an assortment of locally made products in the shelter of the family’s oldest barn. Hughes’ daughter Tera says she expects homemade sheep’s milk soap and other unique goods will be available for purchase.

She also predicts the fresh air, flower picking and slow crawls through the pumpkin patches will stir up appetites, and is planning to have kettle corn, barbecue and other edibles on hand.

But the real attraction will be the farm, which Hughes’ wife, Diane, says extends “as far as your eye can see.”

“On a clear day, you can see Big Frog Mountain and Cherokee National Forest,” she says as she squints at the distant mountain, the peak of which appears to be hovering in the blue sky like a light gray cloud.

Hughes can see his family’s cemetery from the shade of the towering red oak under which he’s standing. He can also survey the hills where he now grows green beans and smaller crops of tomatoes.

A column of blue smoke is rising from a distant grove, where Hughes is burning brush near the stream where an earlier generation operated a grist mill.

Each dip and curve in the landscape seems to hold a story that either Hughes or his wife can share.

“My husband and I were married where a Civil War captain’s house once stood,” Diane says. “He was family.”

Speaking of houses, there are none in view. Rather, the homes where Hughes’ three children and seven grandchildren live are nestled out of sight between the rolling hills that surround the heart of the farm.

Tera says the rich soil that makes up these hills has kept the family there. The land has also drawn them back when one of them has left, she adds.

“I’m drawn to this place. When my husband and I first married, we moved to Georgia so he could go to school. I went on the condition that we’d come back,” she says. “People often say, ‘You’re living the dream,’ and I am.”

Living on Flat Top Farm might be a dream for Hughes’ family, but it’s not without its demands. As Tera scans the corn maze, she’s thinking ahead to when she and her dad will harvest it.

“I raise pigs, and dad and I share a herd of cows. After all the fun is over, the corn is going to feed the animals,” she explains. “This is a working farm.”

It’s also a place where Tera hopes parents will bring their children for a “genuine ag experience” this fall.

Flat Top Farm will be open to the public Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. through the end of October.

The cost of admission will be $10 per person for the hay ride and corn maze and an additional fee for picking flowers and pumpkins.

To learn when the Hughes will be hosting their haunted experience, follow the Flat Top Farm Facebook page