This weekend starts the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA) 2017 High Country Farm Tour. High Country Farm Tour gives members of the community the chance to see where their locally sourced food comes from.
“Farm tour is a great way to bring community together. When you know your farmers and producers and what they’re doing with local food…[it] helps build a stronger community..,” said Sadikshya Aryal, Farm Tour Coordinator.
Aryal is in her 11th year of organizing the tours and is a member of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture(BRWIA). Along with interns, board members and other staff, the team works together in order to secure farms for the tours and obtain sponsors.
“This is BRWIA’s biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Aryal. “All proceeds go to BRWIA which helps to support women and their families with resources related to sustainable food and agriculture.”
There are three tours you can choose from as part of Farm Tour: Watauga Garden, Ashe and Watauga Farm.
This Saturday, June 17th, is the Watauga Garden Tour which goes from 2pm to 5pm. It will include community and school gardens throughout Watauga County but is comprised mostly of gardens in Boone such as the ASU Sustainable Development Civic Garden, Lettuce Learn Garden and Hospitality House Community Garden.
The Wataga Garden Tour is strongly focused towards kids, featuring a kid’s activity at each of the 6 gardens. BRWIA aims to reach out to the rising generation through the Farm Tour, so that children know where their food is coming from.
“We hope to bridge the gap,” said Aryal.
The main children’s activity is the Lil’ Locavore Learning series which gets kids involved through an activity/coloring book. Kids can place stickers in the book of animals they see on the tour, play iSpy on the farm and learn about farm animals and the products we get from them. All Farms will have a specific symbol that indicates kids activities will be held at that stop and there is also a kids photo contest that kids can participate in by visiting any farm.
Pottery, herbs, seedlings and vegetables are just a few of the items available for purchase during the Watauga Garden Tour.
The Ashe tour is July 15, from 2 – 6 p.m., with 9 farms ranging from Fleetwood to Jefferson, NC. The tour features many family farms excited to tell the story of their ancestors as well as show the way they live in small homes with a sustainable food source.
The tour also includes the ASU Sustainable Development Farm which is run by faculty and staff that is used for teaching and research as a living lab. The farm produces healthy food, fiber and other raw materials. This Tour will have honey, sunflowers, pastured poultry, eggs, Trout, maple syrup and wood-fired pizza as some of the items available for sale.
The Watauga Farm Tour is the last of the tours on July 16th from 2 – 6 p.m.. The tour features 14 different farms including: Horse Helpers, Against the Grain and two new farms, Swinging bridge and Full Moon. These farms allow you to see many of the different animals the Watauga Farms raise such as horses, donkeys, alpaca and pigs. The farms help to explain the specific purpose of each animal and how they take care of them.
This tour also features the Spirit Ride Therapeutic Center which provides an alternative therapy for children with special needs and will be offering pony rides for $10. A number of products will be available for purchase such as beef, pork, fruits, vegetables, knit products and more.
Because it is unlikely that you will be able to see all of the farms in the tour on one day, it is important to research the farms you would like to visit and their location beforehand. Do not let this discourage you. Many of the farms are on the tour every year, so you will have another opportunity in the future to see those you did not have a chance to visit.
It is also important to be prepared when taking the tour. This means wearing comfortable and casual clothes, that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty, bringing cash to purchase any products, an umbrella because the event occurs rain or shine, as well as snacks and drinking water. Pets are highly discouraged from the Farm Tour.
“Boone is already a strong farm community so it’s good to push that and see it grow,” said Aryal.
Passes for the tours are sold per carload. Single tour passes are $20 in advance and $25 the day of. For those interested in going on multiple tours you can purchase tickets early, $30 for two tours and $40 for all three. Advance tickets can be purchased on the website at http://farmtour.brwia.org
There are also opportunities to obtain free admission to the farms by either volunteering a week before the tours on the farm or by volunteering the day of the farm tours. Those who volunteer the day of will receive a free T-Shirt and a pass for the next farm tour date.