Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2015 - 43
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Marla Hardee Milling
that much of his 125,000 acres did
not have the capacity to be farmed.
He convinced him to take some of
the old farms that had been farmed
to death and eroded and put back
"That was a very significant lesson in land classification, land types,
and what you do with it," he says.
Today, the estate covers 8,000
acres after Edith Vanderbilt sold
86,000 acres to the U.S. Government
for $5 an acre to establish the Pisgah
The current generation of
Vanderbilt heirs must consider
things that George and Edith may
never have even considered. While
they loved hosting family and
friends, the Vanderbilts may never
have anticipated that this grand
estate would become such a popular
tourist destination. The family
today has the challenge of meeting
the visitor needs while maintaining
a successful working farm.
Today the estate manages more
than 5,000 acres of forest and 2,500
acres of farmland.
"When you think about it, 75
percent of what you see is the farm,"
says Katsigianis. "We look at it as
we're not just farming, we're landscaping. We want to be sustainable
and environmentally friendly.
We're trying to do all that and juggle
that with a million visitors and
make it look good and yet have a
He remembers when he was
hired in 1983. William Cecil, grandson of George Vanderbilt, had sold
the Jersey cows on the estate in 1982
and wanted to create a herd of beef
cattle. The dairy once used for the
Jersey cows was transformed into
"Mr. Cecil said, 'I want to diver-
courtesy of tHe biltMore
One Lodge Street Asheville, NC 28803
sify and produce food to be served
on the estate," remembers Katsigianis.
"After I got up off the floor I thought
how can I pull this off? It's not like
you and I taking a chicken behind
the shed and cutting its head off. It's
USDA processing and dealing with
chefs. We started and we nipped
away at it. We started with our beef
cattle, and served our first beef in our
restaurants in 1987. In 1994, we
decided to expand our products and
Above: There's great synergy
between Biltmore chefs and
growers as they work toward
providing quality ingredients
in meals served on the estate.
Left: Biltmore Estate
introduced Wagyu, a Japanese
breed of cattle, into the Angus
herd six years ago. Cows on the
estate are humanely raised in
a low-stress environment.
added a flock of sheep."
"We essentially took a 100-yearold dairy farm and upgraded it,"
Katsigianis continues "We've won
awards as a river-friendly farmer and
best management practices. That's
really significant. I'm very proud of
what we did. Obviously I wouldn't
be here for 31 years if I wasn't. This
has been a really wonderful family
to work for. That's what makes the
May/June 2015 43