G&G Interview

A New Mountain to Climb

Mary Celeste Beall expands the Blackberry Farm empire with another gorgeous getaway

Photo: eric ryan anderson

Blackberry Farm proprietor Mary Celeste Beall, at home in Walland, Tennessee.

Mary Celeste Beall will warn you that she has a propensity for rambling. “I tend to go on and on,” says the proprietor of Blackberry Farm, the beloved Tennessee luxury resort tucked in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The things she’s likely to go on about: her five children; her late husband, Sam, who died in a skiing accident in 2016; her passion for cooking and entertaining; her love of nature; and now, her latest venture, Blackberry Mountain, a sprawling guest and residential addition within sight of the Farm.

When Beall took over Sam’s role at Blackberry, she worried about balancing motherhood and ownership duties, but she also knew she could execute his vision—including their long-shared dream to open this new property. Scheduled to debut in early 2019, Blackberry Mountain will lodge visitors in cabins, cottages, and larger homes, as well as offer homestead lots on its 5,200 acres—more than half of which is marked for conservation. Activities will focus on health, wellness, and the outdoors, including tree climbing, trail running, and fly fishing. “We founded the Farm on an appreciation of great food, wine, and community,” Beall says. “Blackberry Mountain is a really exciting opportunity to further weave that into an experience of adventure and a powerful connection with the natural world.”


When you started your new role at Blackberry, you were concerned about juggling your family’s needs, too. How do you approach that challenge?

I need to take care of myself, my family, and Blackberry as a business. Any time I can combine two of those into one activity, it’s a win to me. The beauty of Blackberry is that it’s a family business and the children see what I do and understand it—it’s not like I disappear to a factory every day. We live on the property, and I try to involve the kids when I can. If I’m hosting a dinner and it’s a school night, I might bring the kids a little early so they can taste some of the food before bedtime, or talk to a guest chef, or go for a bike ride, or experience some music. Some of our greatest friends—our village of people who care about us—we’ve met through Blackberry.


And now you’ve built an offshoot from scratch. How does Blackberry Mountain differ from the Farm?

On the Mountain, we want you to step, climb, or jump out of your comfort zone. The landscape naturally lends itself to adventure—tall hills, winding paths, rolling pastures. We’ll be offering new activities like aerial yoga, rock climbing, fitness classes, and mountain biking and hiking on a private trail system. With experiences like sound bathing, meditation, pottery, or even time spent in the library with a good book, we’re also homing in on health and happiness, inside and out.

Photo: ryan@rjwalkerco.com

A view of the Great Smokies from Goat Hill, a lookout point guests can hike to at Blackberry Mountain.

If you got a break to spend a day enjoying Blackberry Mountain, what would we find you doing?

I would start with a sunrise hike to Goat Hill, a lookout location that has the most gorgeous view of the sun coming up over the horizon. Then I would hike up to the Firetower for breakfast with a view, leaving plenty of time to try Cardio Drumming at the activities center. Next I would head out to our yoga platform in the woods and enjoy a yoga practice and deep breaths of fresh mountain air. After lunch, I might visit the studio to throw a pot or make something to activate the right side of my brain. A late-afternoon visit to the spa would be the perfect end to the day. After dinner at Three Sisters, I’d finish with a little stargazing.


Do you have a favorite family tradition?

We have lots of them, but the biggest tradition is gathering at the table. I love a crowded kitchen and a crowded table. It’s not only a time to connect with food but also with each other. On birthdays if, say, someone is turning fifteen, we’ll ask Sam’s grandfather, “Okay, Pop, what was it like when you were fifteen?” There’s no better tradition than gathering with family for a good meal and storytelling.


What do you think about when you wake up every morning and look out over the Smokies?

I’ve always been inspired by nature. When we designed our house, Sam and I positioned our bedroom so we get beautiful light. I woke up this morning to fog and now it’s a sunny gorgeous day. I love hearing the chickens and sheep as I start the day. I just feel like every day is a new day, and you never know what it’s going to hold, which unfortunately I learned in a terribly hard way. But I now try to spin that into a positive. I try to acknowledge all of the things I need to accomplish but also try to be aware of being present and allowing the day to unfold.