Meet The Farmers At Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard

Jun 25, 2024 | Stepp's Blog

Nestled in the heart of Henderson County, Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard stands as a testament to the dedication and love of farming that spans generations. The story of our farm is woven with the threads of hard work, family bonds, and a deep connection to the land.

Mike: A Farmer at Heart

Mike grew up in Henderson County, where his grandfather owned a packing house, general store, and farming operation. From a young age, Mike was immersed in farm life, spending his days working on the farm and his nights in the packing house during the summers. Alongside his brother Joby, he developed a deep love for farming, nurtured by their father during their rides through the fields. As Mike entered high school, his parents purchased Hillcrest Orchard. After completing college, he returned to work alongside his dad and brother. Despite facing several years of crop losses due to adverse weather, which forced him to take a job off the farm to support his family, Mike never lost hope of returning to his roots. In the early 2000s, that dream became a reality. Today, you can find Mike driving the tractor for school tours on weekdays and for farm guests on weekends. He is always busy, whether picking up supplies or tackling unexpected tasks. Beyond farming, Mike enjoys operating farm equipment, driving his classic Peterbilt truck for fun and ministry, and serving in his church.

Rita: The Educator Turned Farm Coordinator

Rita also grew up in Henderson County, though not on a farm. She embraced her “country” upbringing with a large garden planted by her mother in the city limits of Hendersonville. Rita met Mike in an agriculture class at East Henderson High School. Rita dedicated 28 years to teaching in Henderson County, staying home with her daughters when they were little. Summers were spent helping out on the farm in various ways, from planting and harvesting vegetables to assisting with pick-your-own strawberries. After retiring from teaching, Rita initiated the school tour program at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard, with her daughter April and Farmer Mike running it the first year. In season, Rita coordinates school tours on weekdays and assists customers in the Apple House on weekends. She is known for her hands-on approach, whether it’s checking the bathrooms for supplies or overseeing and assisting farmhands. Rita enjoys being outside, watching ACC men’s basketball, and reading. She cherishes memories of coaching her grandkids in 4H presentations, where they won numerous gold medals.


Rex: From Turfgrass to Orchards

Rex, like Mike, grew up in Henderson County and enjoyed farming with his grandfather as a child. Before joining the farm full-time in 2017, Rex worked in the turfgrass industry, building and managing golf courses and working on a sod farm. At our farm, Rex is involved in all aspects of farming and, along with his wife Danielle, has primary responsibility for flower farming. In season, you’ll find him driving a tractor for school tours, leading the parking team on weekends, or tackling various tasks with the motto, “You’re younger than me,” from Farmer Mike. Rex enjoys playing basketball, watching his kids in 4H competitions, and working alongside his wife.

Danielle: A Lifelong Connection to the Farm

Danielle also grew up in Henderson County and has been connected to the farm for most of her life. As a child, she helped out during the summers, planting and harvesting vegetables, and worked in the Apple House on weekends during high school and college. When her kids were small, she helped with school tours, often with babies in snugglies, toddlers in backpacks, or napping on Mike’s lap during tractor rides. Danielle homeschooled her kids, taking the fall off so they could all work on the farm together. In season, you can find her working in the Apple House during the week, assisting in the pick-your-own sales area on weekends, or handling the farm’s bookwork in the office. She enjoys being with her kids and Rex, reading, and being outdoors, especially when she can combine these activities.


Callie, Maggie, and Gus: The Next Generation

The next generation, Callie, Maggie, and Gus, have grown up with the farm as their playground and classroom. From helping with school tours as babies and toddlers to gaining free rein on the farm in their elementary years, they have learned to perform most any job. They drive tractors, make donuts, and run registers with ease. Callie is a rising junior at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. Maggie will start her college career at Montreat College in Black Mountain in the fall. Gus, a rising sophomore at Veritas Christian Academy, can often be found running the pumpkin patch on the farm in season.

A Legacy of Love and Labor

Our farm is more than just a farm; it is a legacy built on love, hard work, and family. From Mike’s early days working alongside his grandfather to the current generation, every member of the family plays a crucial role in our farm’s success. Together, we continue to nurture the land and share our passion for farming with the community, ensuring that the spirit of Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard thrives for generations to come.