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Biltmore’s Farm and Culinary History

Asheville, NC

When George Vanderbilt made Biltmore his home in 1895, he wanted more than just a personal retreat. After visiting several working estates in Europe, he envisioned creating something similar here in America.
 
Once Vanderbilt acquired property for his estate, he asked Frederick Law Olmsted for advice. Olmsted was trained in engineering and agriculture and was later recognized as the founding father of American landscape architecture. But to George Vanderbilt, he was simply a friend who would serve as a mentor and the landscape architect for Biltmore.
 
The Beginnings of an Agricultural Legacy
Olmsted recommended that Vanderbilt “make a small park into which to look from your house; make a small pleasure ground and garden, farm your river bottom chiefly to keep and fatten live stock with a view to manure; and make the rest a forest, improving the existing woods and planting the old fields.”
 
Olmsted’s recommendations, combined with inspiration from his sister’s Shelburne Farms in Vermont, resulted in Biltmore becoming a self-sufficient, working estate. Soon the estate was producing meat, poultry, fruits, and vegetables for use in Biltmore House’s kitchens. By the mid-1890s, the venture had grown to include commercial operations that included Biltmore Farms, Biltmore Dairy, and Biltmore Nursery.
 
Sharing through Biltmore’s Market Garden
The estate’s agricultural component was so important that Vanderbilt built a cottage for the “market gardener” who managed the estate’s vegetable gardens and green houses. The cottage was completed in 1896, and is now part of the estate’s overnight accommodations.
 
The market garden aspect of Biltmore’s agricultural operations was very valuable because it provided revenue to the estate. Crops grown on the estate during Vanderbilt’s time included Irish potatoes, Queen sweet potatoes, Reedland Early Drumhead cabbage, White Plume celery, Yellow Aberdeen turnips, Cow-horn turnips, Dwarf Yosemite Mammoth bean, Telegraph cucumbers, Long Orange carrots, New Early Hackensack muskmelons, grapes, strawberries, and more.
 
Any excess that was not used by the estate was sold to the community or local merchants. During times of an exceptional harvest, the courtyard at the Market Gardener’s Cottage served as a vegetable packing house and wholesale outlet.
 
Beginning a New Era
A major flood in 1901 did considerable damage to the cottage and portions of the estate, but Biltmore’s agricultural heritage remained and continued to be a part of its legacy until Vanderbilt’s grandson and heir, William A.V. Cecil, hired agricultural director Ted Katsigianis in 1984. Katsigianis revived the estate’s agricultural component by helping establish purebred sheep and cattle herds and a sizable production garden that benefits estate restaurants.
 
About Biltmore
Located in Asheville, N.C., Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt.  Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, America’s largest home is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. Today, Biltmore includes Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm; four-star The Inn on Biltmore Estate; the new Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; and Biltmore For Your Home, the company’s licensed products division. To learn more about Biltmore, go to www.biltmore.com or call 877-BILTMORE.
 
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