These latest advancements have been especially beneficial to longtime member Lee Rankin, who owns Apple Hill Farm in Watauga County between Banner Elk and Valle Crucis. ‘A place where animals talk and people listen,’ Apple Hill Farm is a mountain top farm home to alpacas, angora goats, llamas, donkeys, livestock, chickens, guardian dogs and more.
Rankin and her staff provide guided tours of the farm year-round, and technology has a unique role to play amid the natural beauty, warm and welcoming presence of both staff and menagerie of animals at this popular mountain destination.
“My experience with SkyLine actually precedes the opening of the farm, and their service has always been the best,” Rankin said. More recently, as the co-op’s fiber initiative made its way to the Matney community of Watauga County and the farm embraced social media among its media and marketing efforts, access to fiber service has made all the difference.
“Switching to 45/45 fiber-optic broadband has been a game changer for the farm,” says Rankin. “We are now able to get top quality video when we go live on Facebook, and our team can participate in live video trainings.” For the family home, Rankin subscribes to a SkyLine bundle featuring voice, 75/75 broadband and digital TV.
When asked what she loved most about working at Apple Hill Farm, Brianne Harris said, “I enjoy all of it!” Apple Hill Farm includes a gift shop and online store featuring products and yarn made with alpaca fiber that comes from the public viewed annual shearing in June and from other American or fair trade sources. Want to Schedule a Visit to the Farm?
SkyLine’s newly designed, mobile-friendly website launched in August, showcasing the newest offerings, plus an enhanced Help/Support Section, a new appointment scheduler and easy navigation with onsite search.
Check Out SkyLine/SkyBest’s New Website: skybest.com
Rankin credits her broadband connection and Wi-Fi signal to be strong enough to allow staff to check customers in on a mobile device outside the barn, which eases the flow of their tours, scheduled as often as four times a day. “And we now have 20 megabits of Wi-Fi in the chicken coop!” As word continues to spread about Apple Hill Farm through social media, Rankin said the number of tours have increased by 36 percent over the last year.
The Kentucky native’s encounter with an alpaca at the Kentucky State Fair several years ago inspired her to establish an alpaca farm. As she shares on her website, “It started when I gazed into the eye of an alpaca. A moment that felt like minutes changed my life. As busy, accomplished and purposeful as my life was, something else stirred inside.” Her dream was to create a home for alpacas on farmland with a mountaintop view.
Lee first discovered the High Country region while on a tour stop at Hemingway’s Bookstore in Blowing Rock to promote her new cookbook, “Cookin’ Up a Storm: The Life and Recipes of Annie Johnson,” a loving tribute to her childhood nanny and mentor.
A second visit to the area and this mountaintop property located 4,300 feet above sea level, which featured a contemporary style home with breathtaking views, sealed the deal for Lee, a single mom with a two year old son.
Now 16 years later, the farm boasts a family of nine kinds of animals, 15 fields, four barns and many sheds covering 10 acres of mountaintop land. A painful experience with a mountain lion in the farm’s second year almost wiped out the alpaca herd and led Lee to add more animals to serve as guardians, including llamas, which are about twice the size as alpacas. Lee, her son Will, who is now 18 and a freshman at Appalachian State University, and Farm Manager Brianne Harris lead a staff of eight, including students from both Lees-McRae College and ASU.
Apple Hill is more than a farm visit for families and people of all ages; it’s an experience that immediately draws a connection between visitors, a friendly staff and a diverse range of animals from Gumby the Alpaca and Knox, the great Pyrenees, to Pickles the Pig and Basil, the Llama. As Farm Manager Brianne Harris explained, “For many, it’s their first face-to-face experience with an animal other than a cat or dog. Here, they get to feed and pet the animals, hear their stories and enjoy the view.”
Lee embraces nine-week-old, 25-pound Clyde, a ‘keeper’ from the latest brood of Pyrenees puppies. The birth of all nine puppies was streamed on video so the entire staff could watch it from their homes.
P.O. Box 759
1200 NC Hwy 194 N.
West Jefferson, NC 28694
Toll free: 1-800-759-2226
Phone: (336) 877-3111
Fax: (336) 877-2020
(Smart Home & Call Center)