HIGHLANDS, N.C.—Old Edwards Hospitality Group announces the appointment of Ezra Gardiner as Head Farmer. Ezra will oversee Old Edwards Gardens at Sequoia Lake and The Gardens at Cherrywood including greenhouses and hoop houses. Ezra will be responsible for cultivating vegetables and herbs to support the culinary offerings throughout Old Edwards, including Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden, the Spa Café, the country inn at Half-Mile Farm and the Grill Room at Old Edwards Club, as well as weddings and special events.
Gardiner was raised in Ashe County, N.C., an agricultural community of small homesteads and sustenance farming where growing things for aesthetic and for the tables and cellars was a part of daily life for most. Gardiner says, “North Carolina is a great place to grow vegetables, especially here in Highlands—one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world. Our latitude is similar to places like northern Egypt, meaning that we have a lot of sunlight even in the winter and that we can grow under minimal protection throughout the year. I envision the Old Edwards gardens capitalizing on this in many of the same ways that French market gardens and Appalachian sustenance gardens do, blending methods from the old world or colonial tradition and the rural refinement of necessity historically found in the gardens of our area. Our selection of vegetables will reflect this in their interest and usefulness, from wild species to historic European favorites.”
Outside of his work with Old Edwards, Gardiner enjoys living on and looking after a small farm outside of Franklin, N.C., where he and his wife keep Icelandic sheep, poultry and propagate and grow heirloom vegetables. He says, “Working with plants requires a lot of optimism, but at its best is a real and pure pursuit. It requires the husbandry of earth and cooperation with elements that we may normally protect ourselves from, and there’s a great reward that comes with pulling harvest after a hard but fulfilling relationship. Farming is one of the great experiments, and forces us to be interested and curious or find eventual failure.”
Much of Gardiner’s early work was with landscaping, and he never left horticulture for long, working with small landscape firms across North Carolina as well as with growers and farmers and, most recently, as a Horticulturist at the Highlands Biological Station. Gardiner says, “I’m excited that people are getting interested again in the origin of their food, both at home and at restaurants. It’s a pure and intriguing thing, the nuance of food and food production, so every meal, simple or complex, tastes better and feels better if you have put work into that connection, on a human level. There’s nothing more human than cultivating and understanding the art and grace that can be put into our basic survival.”