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Fran and Taylor Montgomery’s NC farm becomes a home, an animal shelter

It started with a cow.

Milly is her name, and if she could tell you, she might be able to claim some credit for her matchmaking and the beauty that came from it. The dogs could say they played a role in this too. And then the sheep would probably want a word.

Montgomery Sky Farm, near Asheville, is a labor of love, an “evolution of blood, sweat and tears,” says Fran Montgomery. She and her husband, Taylor Montgomery, own and run the farm and a nonprofit organization for wayward farm animals that end up there.

Taylor says that when he met Fran, he had a cow but lived in a mansion.

He had an ‘old farm with some land’. A fixer-upper, is how Taylor describes it. “It was just me and the dogs.”

When the couple started dating, he was a chef at a local country club.

“On one of our very first dates… I said, ‘Would you like to meet my cow, Milly?’” says Fran. “I never thought this chef would miss dinner on a Friday night to meet a cow.”

“First time I was ever asked that question,” Taylor says.

Farm work soon turned into building a barn on the property so the couple could get married there.

The 110-year-old house was known locally as “the convict house,” but the Montgomerys were undeterred.

When Taylor became chef at Urban Wren in Greenville, the focus shifted to running a sustainable farm.

“One idea led to another,” Taylor says. “I just started growing produce because it’s expensive to have those nicer, high-quality vegetables and I wanted to save some money in the kitchen. But it grew into more: selling to restaurants and also more boutique stores.”

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Talk to Greenville on the farm: behind the scenes at a fashion shoot

Video by TALK editor Ann Ricker and photos by Celina Odeh. Featuring model Angela and part of the Montgomery Sky Farm menagerie.

During the summer harvest season, the couple sells boxes of produce to the public, with harvest available for pick-up in Greenville. It’s Taylor’s passion. At the beginning of the growing season, he stands in the dark with a headlamp after a long day at the restaurant, tending seedlings and preparing for summer. He tinkers and plants, growing food – often heirloom varieties – that is good for the environment and delicious on the guests’ plates.

But the animals are always there, including Milly. The Montgomerys have taken in the unwanted, from chickens with broken legs to horses suffering from neglect.

And “a few rogue alpacas among our livestock,” says Taylor. “We saved them too.”

Fran was a veterinary technician for many years, and while the farm cannot help every animal in need, the Montgomerys are making a difference for the animals in their care.

The couple recently founded a nonprofit organization to provide for their menagerie, Final Run Rescue.

“It’s not ‘final’ like ending a life, but ‘final’ means forever,” says Fran.

The farm is also teeming with purebred Valais Blacknose sheep, Scottish Highlanders (a previously endangered species) and more, as part of their small-scale conservation breeding program.

“We don’t consume animals on our farm,” says Fran. “I always tell people, ‘you name it, you keep it,’ but as part of an awareness effort and as a way to keep them around, that’s why we breed them.”

Montgomery Sky Farm is available for private tours, dining and special events such as Easter egg hunts and Halloween fun, but it is a working farm and not open to the public. All proceeds from visits and events go to the farm’s mission to save animals. Volunteers can also sign up to help on certain days.

“The vision was never to turn it into a business; it was just to enjoy the country for a long time,” says Fran. “It’s really been a great relationship to be able to share in that growth and have the community watch alongside us.”

From the USA Today Network: Chef’s tastings, farm tours, a rescue goat named Sundae

The farm and its owners continue to evolve and grow in ways they never expected.

“One of the things we always talk about is how cool it is to build a life where you can share what you love with other people,” says Fran.

Learn more about Montgomery Sky Farm, book a visit or learn how to order summer produce at montgomeryskyfarm.com.