Firefly Farms is a part of Sundress Publications, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and the home of the Sundress Academy for the Arts, an artist residency program and workshop series.
Purchased in the winter of 2013, this 45-acre farm is located just 20 minutes from downtown Knoxville on a wooded ridge in Tobby Hollow. When founders Joe Minarick and Erin Elizabeth Smith originally took over the house, it had been left empty for three years, leaving it open to the weather and vandals. The three-acre pasture next to it had grown up with seven years of young tree growth. The pond had broken its dam and flooded, and the natural spring was stopped up with old beer cans and garbage.
Now, the house has been completely remodeled from the ground up by the founders and a host of good-hearted volunteers. Keeping the 60-year-old ranch house's original wooden floors (lumbered from the plentiful walnut trees growing on the land) and paying homage to the fact that house was built by hand by the original owner, the new main home on the farm plays with a mix of the old and the new focusing on contemporary farmhouse decor.
Local artists have begun to make their mark on the space by painting original murals on the walls in the two residency rooms, and the common room features contemporary paintings from Knoxville artisans. We also feature a library of contemporary and classic literature, including work from our residents, staff, and The Wardrobe
In the meanwhile, the front pastures have been cleared for sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, and even a donkey named Jayne. The front gardens have been seeded with a host of organic herbs, and within the next two years, we hope to be a fully functioning farm featuring free-range livestock and regional produce.
Up on the ridge, the stream has been cleared and the pond has been re-dug and with the spring rains, should be filled by summer. We'll also be overrun with black raspberries in June and walnuts in October, along with a host of forageable foods from our plentiful woods.
Firefly Farms is also home to a number of creative retreats and workshops hosted by the Sundress Weekend Workshop series. Attendees to these workshops are also taught a skill outside of the literary arts—including pickling, beer-making, crochet, baking, archery, foraging, etc. We feel that these skills will help to broaden the experiences and vocabulary of the writer, by keeping their writing engaged with the outside world. Our motto is "If you have to write what you know, you should probably know more."