Homegrown wellness

A 1,700 hectares working farm in Tennessee, set in an idyllic rural landscape and flanked by the Smoky Mountains, there are not many resorts quite like Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm.

The luxury boutique property, a family-owned business set up in 1975, draws on the surrounding landscape and the produce generated on the farm not just for its celebrated dining – which embodies the farm-to-table concept – but also in the provision of its spa and wellness services.

With the opening of its new wellbeing centre, known as The Wellhouse, on June 1, the property has raised its already high standards, setting itself on a course to become a true wellness destination.“We had a spa before, the Farmhouse Spa, where we offered treatments such as massages and facials, but now we have a full menu, as if you were going to Canyon Ranch or Miraval,” explains Amanda Anderson, the new wellness director at The Wellhouse, who joined Blackberry from Red Door Spas in November last year.

Offering everything from massage, facials, manicures and pedicures and body treatments, to special mini menus for men and children and teens, and a series of wellbeing activities that range from yoga, Pilates, Zumba and dance classes to aquafit classes and personal training, the new menu is indeed extensive.

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Natural healing
“It was a combination of the owner’s vision and the guests’ needs,” Anderson says of the decision to build new and more extensive spa and wellness facilities. “This was something that the owner had dreamt of and been working towards for several years.

However, our guests are also very well travelled and they go to many destination spas and resorts with spas, and so they want a similar experience here, delivered in the Blackberry style, which we are now able to offer them.”

The facilities at the 1,161sq m Wellhouse, a replica of an old barn, include nine treatment rooms – of which two are couples’ rooms – a yoga room, the activity fitness room, the Meadow Lounge relaxation area, a salon with manicure, pedicure and hair stations, a lap pool and a juice bar.

The philosophy behind the Wellhouse is very much integrated into the concept of the farm as a whole. “We are a working farm and everything we do here is seasonal and in line with the farm and what goes on at it, and we are capturing that in our treatments and activities,” Anderson explains.

As part of this approach, products and ingredients sourced on the farm are incorporated into spa treatments. One example is the Sheep’s Milk & Lavender Wildflower Honey manicure and pedicure which, Anderson explains, “uses sheep’s milk and wildflower honey that we get from the farm.” Another treatment that incorporates ingredients grown on the farm is the Healing Herbs & Flowers massage, with, Anderson highlights, “poultices filled with dried herbs and flowers from the farm.”

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Forest findings

In keeping with the seasonal rhythm of the farm, the Wellhouse menu includes four so-called Blackberry Time Experiences; one for spring, summer, autumn and winter respectively – each lasting two and a half hours.

“The one for summer, available from June 1, is called Lay-By Time and, because it’s summer, we start of with a cooling cucumber and grapefruit body mask that is very hydrating, and we do a neck, scalp and shoulder massage with an aromatherapy lemon verbena massage oil,” Anderson says.

Autumn’s Harvest Time experience uses spiced scents such as ginger in a full body massage, among other steps, while winter’s Restin’ Time includes a relaxing steam bath and a private yoga session. Spring’s Come Grass Time involves elements such as a reviving wild lime scalp massage and a citrus conditioning body scrub.

The Blackberry Time Experiences are part of the Wellhouse USP, as are the Deep Healing Woods activities. Making ample use both of its new indoor space and of the nature that surrounds it, physical activity is high on the agenda at the farm and, Anderson says, “Deep Healing Woods is rooted in nature but proven by science.” The science she is referring to is research, primarily from Japan, that emphasises the physical and psychological wellbeing benefits of spending time in the woods – known in Japan as forest bathing.

Anderson explains of the four 90-minute Deep Healing Woods activities – Deep Healing Woods Yoga, Deep Healing Woods Meditation, Earthfit Forest Run and Earthfit Endurance Hike – that: “We’ve built a platform in the woods, where all of these experiences end. It’s all about getting the benefit of the forest, which has been proven to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels and increase white blood cell counts.” The idea, she adds, is “to really capture those benefits for our guests, while they’re here.”

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Wellness ambitions
The Deep Healing Woods activities highlight one of the key tenets of the Blackberry approach to wellness, that the wellbeing component is not confined to the physical space of the Wellhouse. 

“Wellness really is everywhere, throughout the farm,” Anderson says. “It doesn’t have to start in the Wellhouse; it can start in the garden, it can start in our restaurant, The Barn, it can be about taking a long walk or reading a book…”

The environment of the farm, with its “peaceful surroundings and the stunning views of the Smoky Mountains means guests are almost [automatically] improving their wellness when they come here.”

Nevertheless, Anderson hopes that, with the greater number of exercise classes and the wider range of spa treatments the property now has to offer, Blackberry Farm will increasingly come to be seen as a wellness destination. The Balance Life and Body wellness retreats, which have been running for four years and take place four times a year, focusing on topics such as yoga, fitness and nutrition, will continue and Anderson says even more emphasis will be placed on them in the future.

“I think we will start to really move forward with getting world-renowned personalities to our events and evolving them so that the world knows that they are don’t-miss events,” she says. “We’re already there with the [culinary side], we’re known as a food and wine destination, so now the goal is to get us there for spa and wellness too.”

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Product priorities
Given the farm’s focus on the natural and on the environment, it was essential for Blackberry to work with brands that reflect this ethos. “Our prerequisites were that the products needed to be produced in a sustainable manner, that they were free of ingredients such as parabens or preservatives, that we wouldn’t want to put on our own or our children’s skin, and that they as much as possible used ingredients from the earth,” Anderson explains.

All brands used at the Wellhouse are US labels and Anderson adds that, as a Tennessee farm, it was also important for Blackberry to support other domestic businesses. “One of our starting points was therefore also that we wanted everything to be produced in the United States.”

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The brand choices made include Tata Harper, who, Anderson comments, “is a great fit for us because it’s very much about the farm experience; she sources her ingredients from her farm in Vermont.” Californian brand Tasha & Co, used in body and nail treatments, and Deborah Lippmann , for manicures and pedicures, are also stocked.

With the brands selected for the spa, as with all other aspects of the Wellhouse, and the entire farm, it is, Anderson summarises, about “providing guests with experiences that are of the highest calibre – keeping the farm in a class of its own.”