I grew up in a small town in North Georgia called Batesville on the Soque River where farming was a way of life. Instead of farmer’s markets we had gardens, and we simply shared our fresh vegetables and fruits with friends, and my family still gardens today sharing the same passion. Growing up with 5 brothers, my parents, and my grandmother Essie Mae, was a real challenge however, it was my grandmother who taught us what hard work was all about.
I remember sitting on the back porch and shelling peas with my grandmother as she told us the many stories of her life. She love to work in the garden every morning and in the afternoons we would bake cookies, cakes etc. I really share the same passion for food and gardening as my grandmother, Essie Mae did. I would not trade anything for the experiences that my grandmother taught me. I spent most of my childhood in the kitchen with my grandmother and she gave me the very real “farm to table” lessons of life.
I graduated from Piedmont and North Georgia College with sociology and marketing degrees and I worked in corporate sales most of my sales career. In 1996 my husband, John Jackson, and I established Blackhawk Fly-fishing. We renovated an 1860′s farmhouse the first year in business and in the last 7 years we have treated over 2500 hemlock trees twice from the deadly beetle. John’s love and commitment to preserve this property has made it a beautiful trophy stream.
In 2005, my passion for food and fly-fishing was very important to me so I left the corporate world. After 20 years of traveling and selling it was time for a change of pace. We then started offering more packages to our clients and among the most popular are the fly fishing schools, corporate outings, and cooking events. This is where my love for food and flyfishing came together. It gave me an opportunity to offer our clients great gourmet food and of course world class flyfishing.
We have had many television appearances and the one that really inspired my passion for food was “The Georgia Traveler”.
David Zelski caught the biggest fish of his life at Blackhawk and told me I had the world’s best chili. So after thinking about his compliment, and the inspiration of several close friends, I took my chili recipe and made a few changes and I established my very own gourmet salsa line which is Abby J’s Blackhawk “Farm to Table” Salsas. I launched the first flavor “Bean and Jalapeno, ” in July 2011. Since last year I now have 4 flavors which are “Bean and Jalapeno”, “Black Bean & Herb” “Chipotle Peach” “Chipotle Roasted Garlic and a brand new “Smokin Hot” Gourmet Sauce. The Smokin Hot Gourmet Sauce was just featured on Fox Sports South with a brand new show called ”Anglers and Appetites”. This was a reunion for David Zelski because he had started this new show and it was perfect for us to get together again. The Habersham Chamber of Commerce awarded me ”Entrepreneur of the Year” for 2012.
It wasn’t until I moved away from my family and these roots that I understood how lucky I was to have come from a strong tradition of farming. Agriculture touches everyone. After all, we all eat.
I think my grandmother, Essie Mae would be proud to know that I have carried her spirit with me and my passion for food and fly-fishing will always continue to grow. I hope you all will get the chance to come visit us @ Blackhawk Fly-fishing and savor the taste of Abby J’s Gourmet!