Joy Thornhill of Jackson County said her daddy always told her, “Every woman needs to know how to make a good cake, a good pot of coffee, and fry a good chicken.”
“My doctor doesn’t like me to even think about frying anything any more, but I can do all three,” Joy says.
Joy says she can’t remember not knowing how to cook, but she’s sure she started cooking early with her parents, a tradition she carried to her own daughters.
“When I was in the kitchen, I’d sit them on the cabinet with a mixing bowl and spoon,” she said.
She said her husband, Webb, always felt the same way about raising children.
“He was just as much a hands-on daddy as I was a mother, and it pays off now. We have wonderful relationships with our daughters and our grandchildren,” she says.
And while Joy says she cooks mainly for herself and her husband now, she enjoys when her family gathers at the farm during holidays.
“We do a lot of entertaining, and I’ve gotten where I like to fix things ahead of time. Casseroles that can be prepared earlier make time with our guests more relaxed,” said Joy.
Joy serves on the women’s committee and Webb on the Jackson County Farmers Federation’s board of directors. Thornhill Farm is in the Rosalie community on Sand Mountain where Joy and Webb live on the same land her parents and grandparents lived on and worked. The two of them live in the house her grandfather built and where she and her mother grew up in.
“My granddaddy and daddy primarily had row crops, with some cattle and hogs. Webb and I had some cattle, and he was growing corn and soybeans for the animals. We came up with the idea of growing Christmas trees. When nearly all our seedlings from a reputable nursery died, we rooted our own from cuttings and propagation grew from that experience,” Joy said.
As the business grew, Webb was about to begin his search for another pair of hands to help run the farm as Joy was thinking of retiring from her teaching career.
“Upon retirement, I was presented with a John Deere tractor with a six-foot finishing mower,” Joy joked. “I mow, and he shapes and shears the trees. And I stay busy. Webb expects this farm to look like a golf course, but I love it. The only decision I have to make is to turn left or right at the end of a row,” she said.
She also says that operating a Christmas tree farm is a fulfilling job. “It’s very rewarding. People are so happy to come. They stay and visit a while, and they leave with Christmas spirit,” she says.
Joy’s recipe for Hot Chocolate Mix is a much-requested favorite from the farm.
“We offer customers hot chocolate and apple cider when they come to look for their tree, and people frequently ask for the recipe,” she said.
She also offers several of her favorite slow cooker recipes that allow her to have a delicious dinner on the table even if she has to spend all day out on the farm.