by Kathleen Soriano-Taylor | Jul. 22, 2016 – 

Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall Barbeque in Asheville, NC. Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville, NC
Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Buxton Hall Barbecue’s food philosophy is printed on all of their menus: “Pasture Raised Pigs, Seasonal Produce, Local Products.” Talk to their head chef and pit master, Elliott Moss, and he’ll say it plain and simple, “If it’s not pasture-raised, we don’t serve it.”

When Elliott opened Buxton Hall last August, he fulfilled a life-long dream to have his very own barbecue joint. One year later, both he and his restaurant have made national news, gracing the pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Bon Appètit, doing what they do best: smoking mouth-watering barbecue, making the recipes of Elliott’s childhood famous.

Growing up in Florence, South Carolina, Elliott would help his parents build cinder-pits and cook up whole hogs for the block. His grandfather’s farm was still in business back then, and he has vivid memories of the realities of farm life. “I used to get chased by all kinds of animals, especially this one rooster. But one of my first crazy memories was a [slaughter]. I can still hear that pig squealing.”

Buxton’s number one standard is a pasture-raised pig. Between the higher quality of meat for the customer and higher quality of life for the pig, there’s no question.

Buxton’s number one standard is a pasture-raised pig. Between the higher quality of meat for the customer and higher quality of life for the pig, there’s no question. “I hope that we can make a difference with the pig industry, at least in our little part of the world,” Elliott says. “There are a lot of folks using pasture-raised pigs now that weren’t before and a lot of small farms. My grandparents wouldn’t feed me commodity pork, so I don’t want to feed that to [our customers]. I just remember a time when there were pigs running around, and that’s almost gone.”

Buxton Hall Barbecue uses the whole hog and only pasture-raised meats. Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

In a recent interview with Asheville food-writer, Stu Helm, Elliott admitted that he had once been delivered commodity hogs, despite being reassured that they were pasture-raised. “We had two racks that we hang our hogs on; we had those nasty pigs on one side and Larry [Crocker]’s pasture-raised pigs on the other. I had every single employee come in and look [at the difference]. I had them touch the pastured pigs and feel their feet. And then they turned around and saw the other pigs. Some of them were crying. The pigs were bruised like they had been hit by a baseball bat; their feet were so soft like a baby’s butt because they’d never even walked.” He refused to serve them in the restaurant and ended up donating them instead.


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Larry Crocker of Vandele Farm. Photo by Johnny Autry.

To see the kinds of free-roaming pigs Elliott grew up with, head down the road to Vandele Farms, one of Buxton Hall’s main farmers. Kathleen and Larry Crocker’s bucolic property lies just down the mountain from Asheville. A horse farm for thirty years, they were encouraged by their niece and nephew, Dawn and Mike Smith of Big Oak Farm, to raise pigs alongside Big Oaks’ cattle during the 2008 recession. The idea was that together, they could take on the niche market of pasture-raised meat.

Larry Crocker of Vandele Farm. Photo by Johnny Autry.

As we walk over to see a sow with her litter of playful piglets, Kathleen Crocker mentions seeing her racing down the hill just the other night. The pigs of Vandele Farms, a cross of Berkshire and Yorkshire breeds, are accustomed to an active lifestyle. They have several pastures, all equipped with water and a main center for feed, encouraging them to walk to the lower pasture to get their meals. Here in the corner of the property, the pigs have all congregated in a shaded pool.

Vandele is a relatively small operation of about 250 pigs, all raised by Larry and a long-time intern. His wife, Kathleen, is the one who processes them, alongside two helpers. They recalled some horror stories from when they would outsource the processing. “One time we sent three pigs and got back four heads! With that kind of large operation, they just mass process. It’s virtually impossible to get your product back,” she says. Even worse, they couldn’t guarantee a timeline or the requested cuts to local chefs. If the processor got it wrong, there was nothing they could do.

They initially started out with a meat handler’s license, as most of their business was selling “hanging pig,” or whole hogs, which require scant processing. Coincidentally, Larry had started converting one of their horse stables into a canning facility for his wife, and it just took off from there. “I tore up the walls, poured concrete on the ground, and it just kept growing! Next thing I knew I was going out to sales, buying equipment. All those panels on the walls come from Ingles coolers,” he smiles. Their frugal and patient transformation proved worth it: their fully equipped state-inspected facility cost only about one-third of the cost of a new building. Noting his rail system, he says, “It took five years, just waiting for the right tracks. Every piece has a story.” Finding success this way, they are now gearing up to be a small processor for other small farms, providing a much-needed service.


For every pig that he sells, he needs to ensure that another piglet will be born, requiring foresight and planning, especially as they prepare to grow the business.

When Buxton Hall officially opened, it was clear Elliott would need more than just the occasional pig. “Elliott probably buys 75% of what ten sows can do. If [Buxton] continues to grow like it does… we’re going to need maybe 20 sows to fare before they need them,” Larry notes, as he discusses the challenges of raising hogs for a restaurant that relies on his consistent product. For every pig that he sells, he needs to ensure that another piglet will be born, requiring foresight and planning, especially as they prepare to grow the business. They hope to have 500 pigs on their farm in the coming year.

The Chef and the Farmers. Photo by Johnny Autry

The Chef and the Farmers
Photo by Johnny Autry

Elliott and the Crockers have many things in common, but foremost, they emphasize the importance of community. The Crockers met Elliott through Matt Helms of the Chop Shop and Casey McKissick of Foothills Meats, whom they had met by chance, at a class at AB Tech. Helms and McKissick were immensely helpful in getting their operation going, from being loyal customers to being present for the state inspection of Vandele’s processing facility. It was McKissick who recommended Vandele as a hog vendor for Elliott when he began to smoke pigs for events like Mike Moore’s Blind Pig Suppers. Working together, Elliott has helped Larry know what kind of hog he’s expecting. “To be successful in this business, you’ve got to have a niche,” Larry says. “But it also means working closely with your customer to find out what they really want.”

They hold a lot of stock in the food mentality of the region, noting that Asheville is a hot spot of chefs and customers looking to find good quality products grown with good karma. Instead of finding competition between businesses, they’ve only come across people in the community who want to support each other. Remarking upon McKissick’s role in their success, Larry notes, “Anybody we ever asked for help, they jumped in, and not one person ever turned us down.”


Buxton Hall Barbecue is located at 32 Banks Avenue in Asheville’s recently developed South Slope area. There, Head Chef Elliott Moss cooks up all-wood, whole-hog barbecue alongside reinvented Southern classics and Lowcountry fare from his childhood days in South Carolina. Visit their website or give them a call at 828-232-7216.

Vandele Farms on Cedar Creek is located at 530 Cedar Creek Road in Lake Lure. You can find their hogs at several retail locations in Asheville and Hendersonville, including the Chop Shop and Foothills Meats. Their farm is available for events, and they are also now processing meats for other farms. Visit their website or contact them at 828-429-9312.