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Mathes Farm becomes protected asset of SAHC

Rickie and Shannonrae Mathes raise a herd of Boer goats — which they call “Sh-Nanny-Gans” — on their farm, surrounded by stunning Roan Highland vistas. The farm is prominent in the views from trails, roads, and public lands all around the Roan. Now, this land — and those views — are protected for future generations!
“It’s such a beautiful place,” says Shannonrae. “The views are really astonishing, no matter which way you look. We are thrilled knowing that this place will always be preserved for future generations and that they will always be able to farm it.”
Thanks to conservation supporters, 45 more acres of farmland and forest in Avery County in the Highlands of Roan have been permanently protected.
“Visitors and residents of the Roan enjoy stunning scenic views, which include portions of the Mathes Farm in Beech Bottom,” says Farmland Program Director Jess Laggis. “Development of this tract could have devastated views of Yellow Mountain from 19E and from Yellow Mountain, and from the motor route of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. Now, these stunning views are protected, and the land can continue to be used for farming for future generations.”
The property owned by the Mathes couple hosts a Boer goat operation called “Sh-Nanny-Gans.” Shannonrae says that Boer goats are a particularly excellent, large breed of goats.
“They are just beautiful,” she says. “We really do love the goats, and they actually help regenerate the land.” The Sh-Nanny-Gans herd has been used for rental to local landowners for invasive species management, as well as meat production and breeding. In the past, goats from the Sh-Nanny-Gans herd helped with habitat management on SAHC’s Elk Hollow Preserve.
“The purchase of the conservation easement allowed us to put money back into improving the property,” says Shannonrae. “We purchased a couple of goats recently and are working to build the herd back up.” In addition to preserving working farmland and scenic views from around the Roan Highlands, this conservation easement also protects habitat and water resources. The property contains headwater seeps and streams feeding Puncheon Camp Branch, a tributary of the North Toe River. The farm adjoins the Roan Mountain Audubon Important Bird Area, and may provide potential habitat for Golden-winged Warblers and Gray’s lily.
Rickie and Shannonrae met on horseback, independently enjoying their passion for horses while riding in the Highlands of Roan area one day. Years later, their friendship flowered into romance, and they have created a special, beloved home and farm in the mountains. “I have a strong tie to this place,” says Shannonrae. “It is the first place Rickie told me he loved me. We were married here and have built a beautiful life together. We’ve fought and struggled to make it here, and I feel so blessed.”
When exploring options for their estate and future plans, Shannonrae and Rickie wanted to ensure that their property would never be developed.
“We were looking into estate planning,” she said. “There is a considerable age difference between us, and with Rickie getting ready to retire, we asked ourselves ‘what we are going to do next?’ We have had to struggle [financially] to keep this place whole and were concerned about what would happen to it if something happens to us. We didn’t want to see it developed in the future and wanted to make sure it was here for my son or others to farm in the future.”
In addition to the Boer goat herd the couple raise on the property, the farm is used for a home garden, which produces a variety of vegetables for their families and neighbors. For 20+ years, Rickie raised Fraser fir trees on the property. However, both Rickie and Shannonrae were employed in outside jobs in order to make ends meet. He retired this winter from lawn service work. Rickie’s family is from the Beech Bottom community of Avery County, and several of his family members are buried in a cemetery at the Mennonite church there. Rickie owned about 20 acres of the farm property and added to it over the years with purchases from neighboring landowners. Rickie and Shannonrae eventually purchased the 9-acre tract where they got engaged and built a house on it; they’ve been there together for 11 years.
“It’s such a beautiful place,” says Shannonrae. “The views are really astonishing, no matter which way you look. We are thrilled knowing that this place will always be preserved for future generations and that they will always be able to farm it.”