Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Our Friend of the Farm

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

BF: Tell us about Friends of the Smokies.
Jim: FOTS was founded in 1993 with the mission of assisting the National Park Service in the preservation and protection of the park by raising funds and awareness and recruiting volunteers. Friends is a 501c-3 independent organization and has raised more than $34 million to help the park acquire goods and provide services that are beyond the reach of the normal government budget. Half of its 15 board members reside in Tennessee and half in North Carolina.

BF: Why were you inspired to  begin your work with Friends of the Smokies?
Jim: I retired after a 35 year career at the age of 59 and soon found I needed something meaningful to do. A friend told me that the Friends was looking for a new executive director and because of my life long love for the park, I decided to apply for the job. It has been a very fulfilling experience to work with the NPS to help provide for needs that are beyond their limited budget’s bounds; needs that help them provide a margin of excellence for park visitors to enjoy.

BF: What is the best way to become involved with Friends of the Smokies?

Park lovers can support the park in several ways:

  • Become a Friends of the Smokies member at any level from $25 up
  • Leave a donation in one of the Friends donation boxes
  • Volunteer with FOTS to help with Friends fundraising and information events
  • Be a volunteer in the park to work on trails or in the visitor centers by contacting Great Smoky Mountains National Park headquarters directly
  • If you live in Tennessee or North Carolina, buy a FOTS specialty license plate
  • BF:  Why do you like living in East Tennessee?
    Jim: I am a native of Knoxville and through my parents became a lover of the park. I love its majestic beauty, its peaceful solitude, the richness of its cultural history, and the opportunity to hike on its hundreds of trails. East Tennessee offers four distinct seasons with a moderate climate and some of the most delightful and friendly people to be found anywhere.

    BF: What is your favorite activity in the Smokies?
    Jim: My favorite activity in the Smokies is hiking and sharing the experience with other park enthusiasts.

    BF: What was your favorite moment in last year’s “Dinner Impossible” episode where the Friends of the Smokies came to Blackberry Farm?
    Jim: One of the objectives of “Dinner Impossible” is to have a finished and wonderful meal that results from the organized chaos involved in getting there.

    My favorite part of this show was seeing how Blackberry Farm’s staff stepped up to help the “Dinner Impossible” crew pull the dinner together when the already challenging process was further complicated by torrential rain. It is clear to me if you get in a tight corner it’s great to have Sam Beall and his fine staff come to your rescue.

    BF: What is your goal for the Friends of the Smokies this year?
    Jim: In 2011, Friends’ goal is to provide resources to the park to fulfill their needs and list of projects and programs they have requested our help in funding. We are also completing our Trails Forever campaign this year by raising the remaining $140,000 out of our $2 million goal. This program will fund a third full time trail crew to help maintain and improve the 800 miles of hiking trails in the Smokies.

    BF: What do you recommend for folks visiting the Smoky Mountains?
    Jim: One great way to experience the Smokies is to enjoy miles of scenic roadways with frequent stops to take in the views and short nature trails. Beyond that, there are 800 miles of trails to hike that fit the ability of every hiker from beginners to seasoned veterans.
    Come prepared with the proper clothing for the season and some trail snacks for energy and take the time to immerse yourself in one of America’s finest natural areas.