HOMEPLACES: VAL LOWE & KATIE TILLMAN, TOWNVILLE
Val and Katie’s home is a warm and lovely place, in due no small part to the amount of laughter that happens there
The red chair on the front porch is one of Val and Katie’s own creations.
Daffodils and Vintage cookbooks
Clogs of many colors; Katie found this old bowling lane leaned up against the side of someone’s house, and made the wrought iron legs herself; Barkley, the dog;
Some women are good at everything. What happens when two of those women are good at everything together? Friends Farm and Catering makes nearly every aspect of the local food scene better.
Currently, Val and Katie run a 30-acre farm with a large greenhouse for hydroponics, a DHEC certified mobile kitchen, a CSA full of fresh and prepared foods, a catering business dedicated to local goodness, a pottery studio, a welding shop and a 1987 Blue Bird International school bus. They’re planning to sell the bus and build a food truck, hopefully on the road before Thanksgiving.
“We get the cart before the horse a lot,” Katie says.
They’ve lived in their 100-year-old cabin on the shores of Lake Hartwell for 20 years, and they’ve adapted that traditional space to their less-traditional needs: the back room opens to a ingeniously integrated kitchen and cozy dining nook, clearly the center of their home.
Looking out towards the lake, across a bricked patio, they’ve built their seasonal answer to entertaining: a long dining room screened on both sides, with its own kitchen at one end and wood-burning stove at the other. In between— a massive table made from an old bowling lane, a testament to the value they place on dining with friends.
Val and Katie opened their largely farm-to-fork restaurant, Friends Food with a Flair, in downtown Anderson in 1993; the name came from a 14×27 mural painted on the restaurant wall of happy feet beneath a dinner party tabletop. Friends thrived in a community just beginning to return to Main Street and the idea of local farms. This was before Val and Katie bought the land across the street from their cabin. Back then, Katie says, “We gardened where our grass is.”
Their first restaurant evolved naturally into Friends at the Cove, a lakeside spot that closed in 2011, which in turn evolved into their catering business and line of prepared foods. (Friends’ Garlicky Hummus is some of the best around, period.) Their DHEC certified kitchen insures the safety of the product from their farm to the market, a responsibility Katie is proud to bear for the good of what’s handmade.
“If you’re going to change the state of something, you have to take on the liability for changing the state of something.”
Val is the gardener, and she uses mostly sustainable methods. This past summer, they ran a 10-week CSA program primarily for the residents of Patrick Square in Clemson, where they help with the community garden. The CSA focused on vacuum-packed or frozen foods, in kitchen-ready forms. They rounded out their shares with hydroponically grown greens. Katie is philosophical about her customers’ need for ease. “We’ve figured out we spend about two-thirds of our lives caring for this food.” The goal is for people to enjoy it. As we talk, she prepares stew; we ask where she gets her venison. “Right across the street. Whoever’s eating the garden at the time.”
We talk about accidentally cutting ourselves, the perils of stuffed cabbage, welders we know and just why pressure cookers have such a bad rap. (Katie is a big fan of them, and claims the new ones are idiot-proof. “You have to work at it to get hurt.”) She’s currently interested in fermentation. Using the whey from Split Creek’s yogurtmaking (a by-product that would otherwise be thrown away), she’s making sauerkraut.
“Just because you can cook, doesn’t mean you can farm,” she says. “And just because you can farm…” She trails off. This might be true for us, but between the two of them, they’ve just about got the whole landscape of local food covered.
Friends Farm and Catering 1215 Prater Lane Townville 864-231-0663 www.friendsfarmandcatering.com