By Travis Miller
June 23, 2014. Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is hosting the eighth annual High Country Farm Tour to be held on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 from 2 to 6 p.m.
The Farm Tour offers a chance for visitors to come and see a variety of local, organic and sustainable family farms firsthand. The farmers will lecture about and demonstrate farm techniques and processes in addition to selling their products.
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture has recognized a divide between consumers and their source of food.
“The tour is important because it offers a chance for a connection between people and to see who’s involved in growing their food, “ said Suzanne Fleishman, Program Coordinator at Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture.
“This is your chance to learn about how it’s grown, who grows it and how to support those who grow it.”
Tickets are available per carload of visitors for admission to all farms throughout the entire weekend.
They may be purchased for $30 at the first farm visited. Advance tickets are available for $25 at FarmTour.BRWIA.org or at the Ashe County Farmers’ Market, the Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market, the Watauga County Farmers’ Market and Mast General Store in Valle Crucis. Tickets to a single farm tour are available for $10 at the entrance to each farm.
There is also volunteer work available in exchange for a ticket. Volunteers may either work with farmers to help prepare during the week prior to the Farm Tour in exchange for a discounted Farm Tour pass or work on a farm for one day of the event in exchange for a free t-shirt and a free pass to take the tour on the other day of the event. Visit FarmTour.BRWIA.org/Volunteer for more information and email [email protected] to sign up.
There will not be enough time to visit all farms on the tour, so plan on visiting three or four farms per day, allowing one to two hours per farm depending on travel time.
Participating farms include:
Ashe County Farms
Bear Pen Farms – Highland Meadows Cattle Co.
Family owned and operated, Bear Pen Farms raises their Scottish Highland Cattle without antibiotics, added hormones, feedlots or exposure to chemicals and pesticides. They instead range in high-elevation pastures and drink clean mountain water. Highland Cattle have long been known for their quality beef, which Bear Pen sells by the the cut, half or whole.
Faith Mountain Farm
Everyone has a part at Faith Mountain Farm. To get an idea of a typical day, imagine dad out back checking beehives and extracting honey, mom and daughter in the kitchen, the boys out gathering eggs and mushrooms and the youngest ones outside eating fresh fruits and produce from the garden. The farm produces some of everything including honey, organic produce, baked goods, granola, sunflowers, hogs, pumpkins and farm fresh eggs.
The owners of Zydeco hail from South Louisiana, hence the name of their farm, which comes from a Cajun French term for green beans. After more than 40 years of disuse, the farm was restored and certified organic in 2006. Visitors to Zydeco Moon will get a chance to see their passive solar greenhouse, three high tunnels and eleven fields along Helton Creek. Their primary crops include asparagus, sugar snap, snow peas, all varieties of lettuce, beets, spinach, leeks, heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, summer and winter squash and fingerling potatoes.
Landmark Farm Alpacas
The alpacas at Landmark Farm Alpacas are raised for their extremely warm, soft fiber that is sheared once a year. The fiber is then processed into yarn and made into socks, caps, scarves and other accessories and garments, which can be bought at the Paca Palace Fiber Shop. Landmark Farm offers a rare glimpse at this process, from the alpaca to the finished garment.
The Coulters, owners of Heritage Homestead, invested in goats in order to clear the briars and brambles when they purchased the farm. One thing led to another and now Heritage Homestead is a licensed dairy. Visitors will get a chance to interact with the goats and to see the milking parlor, the cheese processing room, cheese tasting, the blacksmith shop and the studio where broom making, basket weaving and hide tanning take place.
Woodland Harvest Mountain Farm
Woodland Harvest is a permaculture homestead with animals, gardens, a pond and a woodland habitat. Visiting offers a chance to learn how to be in sync with nature, grow your own food and medicine, make your own electricity with the power of mountain creeks, build your own infrastructure with forest and scavenged materials and make positive social change in the community.
Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm at ASU
This farm is a faculty and student-powered operation that offers students a chance to immerse themselves into a living lab. The goal of the SD Farm is to become a multi-purpose, integrated farming system that produces healthy food, fiber and other raw materials that can be cultivated successfully on a small scale.
A Berry Patch Farm
A Berry Patch encourages all to come and see how they grow all year “in the gutters.” They are a USDA Certified Organic farm with specialty vegetables, herbs and 100% honey. These products will be for sale in addition to embroidered linen towels with quaint sayings from the N.C. mountains.
Watauga County Farms
The Farm at Mollie’s Branch
This farm is a diverse, environmentally-friendly, no-kill family farm that specializes in free-range-chicken eggs, sustainably-harvested products, shiitake mushrooms, various herbs and vegetables and renewable energy. Mollie’s Branch features a creek-driven micro-hydroelectric system, “happy chicken” green or brown eggs, a small vineyard, kissing llamas, a butterfly garden, a solar dehydrator and honey bees.
Fog Likely Farm
Farmed for the last 140 years — the last 10 organically — Fog Likely Farm is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway and raises a wide variety of vegetables and herbs for market and laying chickens and fruit for themselves. They have a solar greenhouse with ten dwarf citrus trees and a studio where they make art including woodwork, metalwork and paintings.
Hospitality House of Boone and Community Gardens
Visitors to the Hospitality House will see the hard work and dedication residents, community members and volunteers put into the garden. They have more than 28 raised beds where they grow vegetables, fruit and herbs for resident use and the HH kitchen that serves three meals a day to the public. This year, they added 22 new fruit trees, 4 raised beds to the garden, hoop houses and a kid’s garden.
New Life Farm
Guests who visit New Life Farm will have the experience of seeing first hand what is involved in the production of the different products they offer, from organically grown vegetables to pastured pork and poultry. In addition to seeing how they operate, people will have the opportunity to hear their story and find out why they choose to farm the way they do. They also hope to do a free giveaway of either chicken or pork this year.
F.A.R.M. Café’s “The Garden Spot”
Located in the of historic Valle Crucis, The Garden Spot is a half-acre organic garden producing vegetables, fruits and herbs served at the F.A.R.M. Cafe, which provides high quality, delicious meals to everyone, regardless of their means. The Garden Spot features the Full Belly Project’s solar-powered water pump that will be displayed during the Farm Tour.
The Farmer Incubator and Grower Project (FIG) provides low-cost land leases for vegetable, cut flower, herb and pasture-based animal farm ventures as well as a shared equipment pool and mentorship opportunities for beginning farmers. Several FIG members will be present this year, sharing their knowledge of herbs, vegetables, cut flowers, medicinal herbs and permaculture.
Waxwing Farm is a project of greenhorn Kathleen Petermann, now in its second full year and in full blossom. Originally incubated by FIG, the farm has graduated to land just down the road at Maverick Farms. Visit and get to know a beginning farmer, discuss issues of land access and alternative arrangements, chat about cooperative experiences and experience the beauty of a small farm with a lot of history.
Lively Up Farm
A newly erected farm built with the goal of self-sufficient living, Lively Up Farm hosts a wide pasture and woods with 800 ft. of Crab Orchard Creek and three robust springs from the mountain top. They’ll be tilling two acres of raw land for vegetables and putting up fences for goats, chickens and pigs. They will also be planting blueberry bushes, berries and apple trees.
Apple Hill Farm
Established in 2002 with two pregnant female alpacas and one young male alpaca, Apple Hill Farm has grown significantly. They are now home to 22 alpacas in addition to horses, llamas, goats, donkeys, chickens, dogs and cats. They strongly believe that animals need a purpose, so every animal on the farm has a stated job or position and is treated with great care, respect and love.
Horse Helpers of the High Country
Horse Helpers saves sick, abused and neglected horses, rehabilitates them and adopts them out. To care for them in a sustainable way, they have to apply farming techniques like pasture rotation, composting and good animal care strategies. Visit and be introduced to the many horses and told their recovery stories. HHHC also maintains a community garden where food is shared with volunteers and chickens are raised for eggs and meat.
Against the Grain
Located on 20 acres, Against the Grain is a small, diversified farm that specializes in a broad spectrum of vegetables. They’ve also raised sorghum, molasses, pasture pork and poultry and corn for cornmeal. Come check out their high tunnel production, their home dairy goat herd and their seed saving. They will present a biodynamic tour on Saturday and Seed Saving 101 on Sunday.
Nelson Family Farm
The Nelson Family Farm is a 20 acre diversified farm that produces pastured pork under the endorsement of the Animal Welfare Approved label, grass finished beef, pastured poultry, organic vegetables from conventional and high tunnel gardens and eggs from free ranging hens. They incorporate rotational, multi-species grazing and conservation practices to preserve and improve the land and forage. Visitors will learn that they can begin to produce some of their own food, no matter how small the space available.
The Farm Tour will also feature many additional activities throughout the event.
A raffle will be held, awarding $100-$150 prize bundles donated by community businesses. The drawing will take place on Sunday, June 29 after the tour. Winners will be announced on the following Monday via email. Raffle tickets may be purchased during the Farm Tour and online here.
Many farms on the tour will provide a Lil’ Locavore Learning Series presentation for children in order to help promote an awareness and understanding of sustainability, organics and local farming at a young age.
Also, the Farm Tour holds a photo contest each year. To enter, take pictures during the Farm Tour and submit up to three photos by July 1 using a form found here. Photos will be judged by local professional photographers and winners will be featured in the 2015 Farm Tour Guide, with first place being awarded a free t-shirt.
Here are a few tips to remember when planning for the Farm Tour:
- A guide is available online at FarmTour.BRWIA.org to help plan and organize your trip
- Remember that GPS doesn’t always work in rural areas, so research directions beforehand if necessary
- Bring a cooler and some cash to purchase and store bought goods
- Pets are discouraged because they can be hazardous to the livestock and can pose food safety threats to produce growers
- Bring appropriate gear including sunscreen, snacks, drinking water, a hat, comfortable close-toed shoes and clothing that can get dirty
- Don’t forget an umbrella — farm tours will take place rain or shine
Throughout its years, the Farm Tour has experienced wide success. Attendees quickly realize that the tour offers more than meets the eye.
“I’d just like to say that there’s something for everyone,” said Fleishman. “Whether you’re interested in technology, if you’re excited about animals, if you get excited about creative ways of growing vegetables and new techniques – even if the landscape is what excites you. Even if [people] aren’t into farming, there’s something they can connect with on the tour.”
For more information on the tour, visit FarmTour.BRWIA.org or call 828-386-1537.