Laura Dean Bennett
Meet Cristin Bartlett, a Renaissance woman who is as enthusiastic about life as she is multi-talented.
She is an artist, a farmer, a Certified Nursing Assistant and a professional ceramic tile installer who had her own tile business before moving to Pocahontas County.
Bartlett is an entrepreneur by nature.
She’s just started a business on Droop Mountain called Saffron Flats Farms.
When she’s not creating something, she’s nurturing her family and spending time giving back to her community.
Here less than three years, Bartlett has dug right into the fabric of Pocahontas County – making friends and building a business in her adopted home.
She’s affiliated with the Droop Mountain Arts and Craft Studio Tours; a member of the Farmland Protection Board and the Pocahontas County Artisans Guild; she’s on Pocahontas County Arts Council and is a member of the Humane Society of Pocahontas County.
And if those commitments weren’t enough, she’s also homeschooling her 11-year-old daughter.
Bartlett and her “better half,” Faunce Creamer, and their daughter, Alary, lived in Ocala, Florida before moving to Pocahontas County in 2018.
In addition to their immediate family, Cristin’s mother and grandmother, made the move to West Virginia, too.
Bartlett is third generation Florida native.
Her family and Faunce’s family were close friends, “so it seems like we’ve always known each other,” Bartlett said.
“People often ask why we moved here, and I tell them that it’s almost like it was meant to be,” she said.
Bartlett grew up in the country in Tennessee not far from Fall Creek Falls State Park.
“We had a farm and a garden, and we had horses.
“But life moved on and there we all were in Florida – Faunce, Alary and me in Ocala, and my mother and grandmother in the Tampa area.
“But it just got too congested for us.
“We loved the mountains and the changing seasons, and we just felt like we had to get back to that.
“We were looking for a more relaxed way of life – someplace in the Appalachian Mountains.
“It would have to be a good place for Alary to grow up and have nice schools in case she wanted to go to public school.
“It would need to have medical care available not too far away because my mom and grandmother would be moving with us, and it would have to be someplace where Faunce and I would have work – he had worked for Walgreens, and I have a CNA license.
“We also knew we wanted to have a farm and, ideally, I wanted to be able to start another business – either an agricultural or an art business – or maybe both,” Bartlett explained.
“We thought about going home to Tennessee, but my mom said it was just getting too crowded there.
“We looked in North Carolina and Kentucky before we finally decided on Pocahontas County.”
Pocahontas County had everything her family was looking for – the most state parks and national forest land, beautiful mountains and friendly people.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly like closing our eyes and putting a finger on a map, but almost,” she said.
“We were looking for the greenest place in the Appalachian mountains – and, by golly, we found it.
“As soon as we started visiting here and looking around for property, we fell in love.
“And it didn’t take long to make friends.
“Once we decided to move here, it didn’t seem like it took very long for everything to come together. It was like it was meant to be.
“We started visiting here and my mom and grandmother found a place in the Droop Mountain area.
“We kept looking for property – we stayed in the Marlinton Motor Inn and even camped up at my mom’s house in Jacox for a while.
“Then, all of a sudden it all came together.
“We sold our home in Florida, closed on the property in the Brush Country and Faunce got a job as a Shift Manager at Walgreens almost simultaneously.”
This family is homesteading in a big way.
“We started gardening right away – everything we’ve planted is edible all the way down to the mushroom beds which produced over six pounds just last month,” Bartlett said, proudly.
“We have a lot of animals at the farm – rabbits, ducks, chickens, some wonderfully mischievous goats and a cat named Smudge.
“We milk the goats, and I’ve been making yogurt from the milk.
“We have some maple trees and have been doing some sugaring – so we have a little of our own maple syrup.
“Goodness gracious, ma-ple syrup over goat yogurt is just wonderful,” she enthused.
“We’ve also have added bees, so we’ll have honey, too.”
When she’s not gardening, Bartlett has been building her business, Saffron Flats Farms LLC.
Saffron Flats Farms owns the building on top of Droop Mountain where Anne Walker is leasing space for her art business – Handmade West Virginia.
“Anne moved her business, Handmade West Virginia, into the building, and I’m starting a produce market there, too.
I’m hoping that local farmers and our neighbors will also find it a good spot for them to wholesale or consign some of their crops and products there.
“I’m hoping that the location will be a good place for all of us – me and my neighbors – to sell vegetables, homemade jams and jellies, baked goods and meats.
“Directly behind the Saffron Flats Farms building will be the first of what we envision will be at least two high tunnels where we’ll grow strawberries,” Bartlett explained.
“Customers who like to pick the berries themselves will find it comfortable to pick because they’ll be grown in planters set at a comfortable height,” she continued.
“I came from a long line of dirt farmers and I’m still a dirt farmer,” she said.
“I’m 44 years old, and I’ve always worked hard and I expect I always will.”
Besides being a farmer, Bartlett is also an artist with an associate degree.
“I’ve always been an artist and worked in most mediums at one point or another and I like to learn new techniques.
“I don’t really know how to describe my artistic side – I just say, ‘I’m Cris and I’m an artist!’
“Mind you, that doesn’t mean I’m good – but I am passionate,” she insisted, with a laugh.
I watched Bartlett finish sculpting one of her beautiful birdhouses.
She started with a leaf which she cut while still green and soaked in vegetable glycerin.
“It keeps it soft and pliable indefinitely – this one is about four years old,” Bartlett said as she showed it to me.
She uses the leaf as a template for some of her bird house roofs.
After she rolls out the clay and cuts it into the correct shape, she uses a rolling pin to imprint the leaf details into the clay.
She says her charming birdhouses are suitable for bluebirds, house wrens and sparrows.
In addition to several birdhouses ready to be fired, Bartlett had a collection of cups, bowls, mugs and charming animals set on her work table, ready for the next step in the process.
Her Great Danes and kittens were adorable and lifelike.
She is new to sculpting, but you would never know it.
She is the kind of person who just jumps right in.
Bartlett was barely here a year before she found herself getting stuck into the art community.
She learned how to sculpt from Cynthia Gurerri after meeting Gurerri at the Marlinton Elementary Heritage Fair in the fall of 2019.
Soon after Bartlett was taking pottery classes with her.
She must be a talented student and Gurerri must be an excellent teacher, because Bartlett’s sculptures are quite nice.
Also that fall, Cristin met Margaret Baker who invited her to come to the Art Guild and work on some watercolor painting.
“During last year’s Droop Mountain studio tour, I made acrylic and dried flower pendants at Cyla Allison’s Wannabe Farms.
“This year I’ll be on the Droop Mountain studio tour again.
This time I’ll be offering make-and-take birdhouses which we’ll be making from a bevy of the gourds we grew last year.
“It should be a really fun project,” she said with a smile.
Saffron Flats Farms is selling beets, lettuces and greens, blue potato medley (a combination of blue, white and russet potatoes) and carrots, with beans, tomatoes, fresh eggs and poultry meat coming soon.
“We’re hopeful that Sandy Simmons will continue to supply us with her wonderful sourdough bread. It’s so good!
“Local farmers who’d like to set up at the Farmer’s Market, are welcome to come,” Bartlett said.
“There’s no long-term commitment necessary – just a daily set-up fee of $5.”
Meet Cristin Bartlett at the Farmer’s Market and check out Anne Walker’s Handmade West Virginia shop from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturdays at Saffron Flats Farms on top of Droop Mountain near Tom’s Barber Shop.