Crack! I watch as a clay disc that was just flying into the sky breaks into pieces and falls back to earth. My mouth drops open. I should probably mention
Crack! I watch as a clay disc that was just flying into the sky breaks into pieces and falls back to earth. My mouth drops open. I should probably mention I’m holding a shotgun. And I’ve never shot a gun before — until today. Actually, until about three minutes ago. “You got it!” says Taylor Estep, the shooting captain at Juneberry Ridge. “Nice! Ready to go again?” I line my shotgun back up in the pocket of my shoulder and press my cheek against it. Who am I? I can’t help but to laugh wildly. My adrenaline is racing. “Ready!” I say and focus down the barrel of the gun. Another clay comes flying up and I follow its ascent. I pull the trigger as it reaches its peak. Crack! It turns out guns are really loud. I try not to squeeze my eyes shut every time I pull the trigger. I shoot that clay, too. Then another. Estep grins. “Three in a row!” he says. “This is why I love doing this.”
It’s a moody, cloudy morning at Juneberry Ridge, a regenerative farm and retreat in Stanly County. In the distance, over the rolling green countryside, a mist hangs heavy. Near the five-stand facility, where I’ve just discovered a brand-new-to-me talent, leaves are starting to turn burgundy and gold, and persimmons cover the ground nearby. Already, this day and this place have been totally beautiful and unexpected — and thrilling.
And there are more adventures to be had at Juneberry. You don’t have to be a natural at shooting (nope, I’ll never let this go!) to find wonder here. Discover live music and a farm market, toast s’mores outside of a cabin, simply embrace your natural surroundings, go foraging, and eat delicious food straight from the source at this beautiful retreat — which brings the farm to you.
We’ll be honest: nature is our first love. But hospitality is a close second, because nourishing others is in our mission—and nothing nourishes like nature. We’ve seen ourselves how transformative Juneberry Ridge can be, and we can’t wait to share.
As you wind your way up Juneberry’s gravel drive, you feel a bit like you’ve discovered the Piedmont’s secret gem, a feeling that’s quickly compounded at Juneberry Jams. When you’re lounging on your blanket on a grassy lawn with a cold beer in hand listening to live music and watching the sun set over the hills? That’s magic. Throughout the summer and fall, the outdoor concert series provides the makings for a perfect Saturday evening.
“I love seeing all these smiling faces here, enjoying what we have to offer,” founder Judy Carpenter says. “It’s a treat to share what we’ve created with the wider community.”
After you find the perfect spot, head to the adjacent Lucky Clays Five Stand for beer, wine, Kobe beef sliders, pimento grilled cheese, and other farm-fresh food. Then browse the pop-up farm market to purchase eggs — from those sweet, softly-clucking hens you passed as you drove in — whole chickens, fresh herbs, edible flowers, and additional produce that’s grown on the farm. Finally, settle in, pull on a sweater, and soak in the sweet sounds of the North Carolina evening.
Set on more than 600 acres of land, Juneberry Ridge is an outdoor paradise, and there’s nothing like clearing your mind with some true peace and quiet. But you don’t necessarily have to get lost in nature to appreciate its beauty. Take a guided hike in the forest past streams and swimming holes, and keep your eyes peeled for wild turkeys and other wildlife that call this place their home, or set out on your own on three trails across the property. Old logging roads lead past historic homesteads and abandoned stills and the landscape is dotted with dense groves of trees and clusters of daffodils — some of which were planted hundreds of years ago — and thickets of wild blueberries and blackberries.
Juneberry prides itself on its edible landscape and regenerative agriculture: From a 40,000-foot aquaponic greenhouse — growing tilapia, a variety of lettuces, and much more — to well-stocked ponds filled with bream, bass, crappie, and catfish, and land filled with mushrooms, persimmon and chestnut trees, pawpaws, and juneberries (of course!), everything stems back to the farm. When she was developing Juneberry, Carpenter was steadfastly committed to preserving the land: Explore the greenhouse and the surrounding landscape on a guided tour, cast a line, and go on an immersive foraging tour in search of treasures like wild plants and fungi — which you can take home with you! “I want people to remember that change is possible and that they should participate in the change,” Carpenter says. This is agritourism at its very best. Here, the landscape and its bounty inform everything else on the property, from the delicious chef-made food to the furniture in your cabin. Speaking of which …
Turn your Juneberry adventure into a true escape by staying the night: You can sip wine, play a game of pool in the Saskatoon Lounge, and go stargazing before heading into your own perfectly appointed cabin, where you’ll find various tables, trim, and chairs made with wood harvested on the land. (Here, almost nothing goes to waste.) Request delicious meals made by Juneberry’s chef or call ahead of time to ask for a stocked fridge: You’ll arrive to farm-fresh eggs and more. Then, wake up surrounded by your friends and family in their neighboring cabins, and sip coffee in the crisp air on your screened-in porch. There are even three-bedroom cabins if you want to bring the whole family. To kick off your day with a different kind of outdoor activity, head to the tennis courts or rent a bike to explore.
Whether you’re a bonafide Annie Oakley, as my friend now calls me, or a total beginner (or, hey, as it turns out, both!), Juneberry’s state-of-the-art, open-air five-stand facility and trap field are worth a visit. Carpenter — a champion trap shooter — first purchased this land in Stanly County in 2008 to create a private retreat where she could host competitive shooting events. Now, guests and visitors to Juneberry’s open-shooting days can test their own skills. In Lucky Clays Five Stand, experienced shooters will find 14 clay throwers that create endless combinations of patterns, posing the perfect challenge, while beginners will find guidance and support from shooting captains like Estep, who make even novices feel comfortable with a shotgun in hand. Both the trap field and five stand have everything you need to get started, from guns to ammo to ear and eye protection (as I said, it’s loud!).
Be sure to check Juneberry’s calendar for their next Open Shoot event, which always features feature grab-and-go food, beer, and wine, in addition to shooting.
If you’re staying on the property, Chef Kris Dietrick can whip up a variety of incredible meals to be delivered right to your door. But whether you’re staying the night or not, don’t miss Juneberry’s bi-weekly Sunday brunch. Served in the Lakeview Conference Center overlooking a beautiful fishing pond, the meal features a veritable feast of favorites like biscuits with honey butter, mini quiches, stone-ground cheesy grits, hashbrown casserole, skillet-scrambled eggs, seasonal cobbler, and more. You’ll also want to check Juneberry’s calendar for its next gourmet five-course dinner. Chef Dietrick is a master. Using farm-fresh ingredients straight from the land, his creations taste incredible and bring your experience full-circle. The land you foraged, the woods you walked through, the greenhouse you explored — you’ll find their bounty on your plate. And that’s pretty incredible. “We’re just trying to save our little corner of the world,” Carpenter says. Which, in fact, might be even more satisfying than the adrenaline rush from shooting in the five stand.