Ann Keener is a farmer’s Daughter. Her parents, Miriam and Bill Keener own and operate Sequatchie Cove Farm; an oasis nestled between Sewanee and Chattanooga on the western edge of Sequatchie Valley. Near the southern terminus of the Appalachian chain, this is a land of ancient rolling plateaus, hidden caves, clear mountain streams, and rich black soil. Ann grew up here, and she watched her parents and their farm catalyze the slow food movement in Chattanooga. Sequatchie Cove has become a leading provider of fresh local produce, meats, and cheeses to the city’s best restaurants, and the Keeners and other local farmers and foodies have spawned a burgeoning marketplace centered around the weekly Main Street Farmer’s Market and the even larger Chattanooga Market, which takes place on Summer Sundays.
Ann and her husband Mike Mayo (the Farmer’s Son-in-Law), who, legend has it, asked Ann on 21 dates before she said yes, set out in the fall of 2013 to provide a slow food alternative to Chattanooga’s breakfast and lunch scene. For three years prior to starting The Farmer’s Daughter at the foot of Dartmouth and Tremont Streets in the rolling hills of North Chattanooga, Ann would play host to secret dinners, in which their friends and acquaintances would gather at random houses for eclectic Appalachian dinners ranging from pulled pork and Brussels sprouts to summer salads and cornmeal pancakes. Urged on by their friends and family, Ann and Mike pulled together their resources to found the Farmer’s Daughter in the fall of 2013 in a previously abandoned gas station next to the Tremont Tavern.
Although not yet 2 years old, “the Daughter,” as local regulars call it, has become a beloved mainstay in the hearts of Chattanoogans providing the best (and healthiest) breakfast in town. Ann runs the kitchen and Mike operates the business, and they’ve assembled a staff, whose knowledge of sustainable food and whose friendliness is world class. They’ve also partnered with Copacetic Coffee, a coffee bar that operates within the restaurant and sources from preeminent local roaster Andrew Gage and his Velo Coffee.
Every morning (except Monday), the doors open at 7am, and by 7:30 a group of 10 regulars are seated and starting their day. In the spring and summer, the expansive patio provides the best outdoor brunch option in the city, and patrons can enjoy listening to soft banjo and fiddle music from friends of the Keeners. The sausage egg biscuit, which runs for $5 has changed the game in Chattanooga’s biscuit scene. The sausage is hand-made by the artisanal butchers at Main Street Meats (author disclaimer: we recommend adding Sequatchie Creamery’s Cumberland Cheese.) The a la carte options make mixing and matching endlessly variable, and the hash browns with grits and cornmeal blueberry pancakes are Sunday morning specials. And if your taste of the day is calling for a breakfast less classically American, try the Tokyo breakfast with sautéed greens, shiitake mushrooms, an over-easy farm egg, and a side of gingered chicken broth.
Several times throughout the year, Mike and Ann return to their roots, hosting private dinners at the restaurant (the latest was a delicious Cornbread Shepherds Pie). Reminiscent of a classical stump speaker of the 19th century, Mike will stand at each dinner and deliver oratorical performances that successfully avoid sentimentality and hubris to issue to his patrons his deep appreciation—not only for their business, but also for their commitment to culture—a culture of collards and farm eggs, sausages and potatoes, fiddle music and shared memories. The Daughter has become a fabric in the Chattanooga food community, not only because its founders and its staff provide terrific meals, but also because they’ve managed to do what so few restaurants can—establish real community around local food within a greater context of place.