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‘Something from a fairytale’: Yancey Co. , NC farm has worldwide following for ‘fluffy cows’

By Kristi Harper

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    YANCY COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Happy Hens and Highlands Farm outside of Asheville is owned and run by Adam and Emily Hopson. Their operation is a cattle farm where they raise registered Scottish Highland cattle for sale and educational purposes across the country.

They chose the breed because it is uniquely adapted to life outside in harsh climates. The breed’s long hair helps keep them warm in the winter and helps keep pests and insects away from their skin.

Both Adam and Emily Hopson were born and raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Adam Hopson’s family has farmed there since the mid-1700s.

“I’ve used them quite a bit to help manage for wildlife,” Adam said. “The Highland breed will actually eat a lot of types of grasses and plants and leafy vegetation that other animals won’t eat.”

Emily explained why she and her husband fell in love with the breed.

“You know, they look like something from a fairytale,” Emily said. “I mean, the breed has so many awesome characteristics, and the cows have personalities.”

When Adam went to college, he originally intended to study outdoor education. Growing up in the rural part of the country, he loved hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities. But while in school, he said he learned many people in the outdoor recreation field butted heads with people who worked in agriculture. He said they feel that agriculture ruins what they consider to be the natural environment.

So, Adam eventually resolved to start a farm, but build it in a way that takes into consideration the priorities of both outdoor recreation and agriculture businesses.

To that end he and Emily are working to raise money to buy their own farm to raise their favorite Highland cattle, but also to create a space where people could teach a class such as basic rock-climbing instruction or safe cattle handling practices.

Currently, the Hopsons lease the land where they keep their cattle and run tours for groups who want to learn more about running a farm or the role of livestock in the natural world. In one such tour the Yancey County 4-H group learned about the breed, and several of the young kids tried their hand at milking one of the cows.

To say the breed is photogenic may be an understatement. As the Hopsons’ farm developed, Emily started sharing photos and videos on their social media pages.

One picture of Adam with a calf went viral on social media about a year after posting. A short time later, a sick calf they named Baby James became an internet sensation.

“People got really invested in his life and his story,” Emily said of Baby James. “So yeah, that kind of changed the course of our business and made us be able to reach a worldwide audience.”

Today, the couple shows their cattle across the country at cattle shows and various fundraising and advocacy events.

“You got to have more like a meeting of minds and figure out like where you can meet in the middle,” Adam said. “Sometimes yeah, it’s it makes for difficult work, but you know, it can be done.”

Visit the Happy Hens and Highlands Farm website here to learn more about the farm and the Scottish Highland breed.

To meet the Hopsons and some of their calves, they will be at Homeplace Brewery in Burnsville Saturday Sept. 4.

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