Apple Hill Farm
BY jan todd
t was love at first sight when they locked eyes at the Kentucky State Fair. As Lee Rankin gazed into his enormous, gentle eyes, she melted, feeling unconditional adoration and sensing that her life had changed forever. At that moment, she decided she must have him. Or at least some like him. Perhaps even a whole herd. Thus began Lee’s dream to own an alpaca farm. Some thought her crazy. After all, Lee was a single mom with a two year old son, Will. True, she had a soft spot in her heart for animals, but she had never lived on a farm. Her father was a banker 84
High Country Magazine
at a brokerage farm where she grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and her family’s lifestyle was quite suburban. At the time of her first alpaca encounter, Lee had recently published a cookbook, “Cookin’ Up a Storm: The Life and Recipes of Annie Johnson.” Annie was Lee’s childhood nanny and lifelong friend. While promoting the book, Lee had visited Blowing Rock on two occasions for book signings. She had been so enamored by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains that the High Country became her first choice for the farm of her dreams.
“Even though I didn’t know anyone in the area, I drove down to North Carolina and started looking for a place. I wanted something with at least ten acres of farmable land and a mountaintop view. I decided that if I found a property that I just couldn’t say “no” to, then that was it. We’d move.” As destiny would have it, Lee found just the place, at the peak of Valle Mountain in a community called Matney, about halfway between Valle Crucis and Banner Elk. The forty-acre property had a contemporary styled home, and had once been a thriving apple farm. Woods had grown