By Angela Gazzillo
The High Country prides itself on local goods. When we hear “local food,” it makes us feel good to know we are eating something that farmers of our community worked hard to produce. They’ve taken it in their own hands to provide us the freshest, highest quality produce and goods.
From local restaurants working with farmers and using local ingredients, to the farmers themselves selling their goods at farmer’s markets and pop-up stands all through town, it’s no wonder why agriculture is such a rich part of the community; but, where exactly does “local” come from?
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, or BRWIA, helps to answer this question through its 10th annual High Country Farm Tour. The second installment of the tour will take place throughout various farms in Watauga County this Saturday, July 16.
A tour of local gardens will take place in the morning from 9 a.m. and noon and a tour of local farms will follow from 2-6 p.m. that afternoon.
The tour, set up as ‘open-house’ style, allows family and friends to load up their cars and road trip around the county, visiting various farms marked on a strategically planned map.
Sadikshya Aryal, program coordinator for the Farm Tour and BRWIA, said the main goal of the tour is to connect consumers and producers by bridging the gap, educate the public to increase their knowledge about local food and who is producing it and provide farmers with opportunity to increase their income.
“Supporting locally is really important, especially in Western North Carolina, because we have such a strong local environment with so much diversity in the Appalachia region,” Aryal said. “With everything that grows here, it’s so important to support local farmers, because they do so much to really help our community economically and environmentally.”
The Watauga County tour is the largest of the three offered, extending into an all-day event. From 9 a.m. to noon, people are encouraged to participate in the Boone Garden Tour, a tour highlighting five out of the county’s 18 different community gardens.
The tour offers a break in between, where people can enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the many highlighted local food restaurants. Then, with full stomachs and recharged energy, folks can continue the Farm Tour from 2-6 p.m.
Twelve farms from Watauga will be participating Saturday afternoon, although participants are encouraged to read the list ahead of time and pick their favorite top four to visit, considering travel time and the recommended one to two hours at each farm.
Bring the kids as well, as they are sure to have a blast thanks to the Lil’ Locavore Learning Series. The series offers activities such as kid-friendly stops, an activity booklet filled with stickers of things they spot on the farms, a kid’s photo contest and more.
“It’s really important to target from a young age and acknowledge that kids are really important, as well,” Aryal said.
It starts from the beginning, she explained, because the more kids interact with the animals and see where their food comes from, the more likely they are to continue self-sustainable food practices later in life.
“Many parents start gardens because their kids want to be out there,” said Aryal. “Kids are more likely to eat the vegetables they have grown themselves, which leads to healthier diets and increased knowledge of food.”
Passes can be purchased online at http://farmtour.brwia.org for $20 per car in advance, and $25 at the first farm on the stop. Don’t have the money to dish out? Another great way to participate in the tour is to volunteer and get in for free! The tour relies heavily on volunteers, and it’s a great way to spend a day on the farm seeing what the farmers do. Volunteers not only receive a free Farm Tour pass for a later date, but also get a free T-shirt for helping out.
And lastly, don’t forget to bring your cameras! The High Country Farm Tour Photo Contest is continuing this year, where the grand prize winner will have their photo featured on the front page of next year’s tour guide! There will also be fun prizes for the runners-up, including a T-shirt, gift certificates from local food places and a tote bag.
The Farm Tour has two other installments; one in Caldwell County that was held in June, and another coming up in Ashe County on Saturday, Aug. 13. For more information about the tour, including where to purchase passes and great tips for taking the tour, visit www.farmtour.brwia.org or call 828-386-1537.
Check out the map and list of all the stops on the Garden and Farm Tour below!
Watauga County Morning Garden Tour
Saturday, July 16: 9 a.m. to Noon
ASU Sustainable Development Edible Schoolyard
Boone | Living Learning Center on Bodenheimer
305 Bodenheimer Dr. Boone, NC 28607
We provide the perfect opportunity to see one of the hidden treasures of Appalachian State University. Join us for a walking tour of the Sustainable Development Civic Garden Project (Edible Schoolyard) to view the beautiful flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetable garden plots, composting system, cob greenhouse and beehive.
Products available for purchase during tour: Vegetables, herb and flower bouquets if available at that time
Directions: Head Northwest on W King Street toward N Depot St. Turn Left onto Depot St. Continue onto Bodenheimer Drive and the destination is on the left.
828-297-6269 / 828-406-5477
Lettuce Learn Garden at the ASU Child Development Center
Boone | Learning Garden for Early Childhood
538 Poplar Grove Rd. Boone, NC 28607
The CDC Learning Garden is a budding community space intended for families, students, and aspiring gardeners. Throughout the garden you will find signs that educate both children and adults on basic gardening principles, as well as plenty of veggies, a family scavenger hunt, a sensory garden, and more! The CDC Learning Garden is a great stop on the Farm Tour for families, educators, students, and anyone who wants to learn more about gardening!
Directions: (421 N from West Jefferson) Continue straight on 421 N into Boone and pass through downtown (West King St). From the Water St stoplight downtown, go 0.3 mi and take the left immediately past Galileo’s bar onto the Poplar Grove Connector. Continue 0.1 mi down the road and take a right onto Poplar Grove Road. Drive around the curve and look out for a sign saying “Appalachian Child Development Center” on the right.
Hospitality House Community Garden
Boone | Permaculture Garden for Bread of Life Soup Kitchen
338 Brook Hollow Rd. Boone, NC 28607
When guests visit the Hospitality House they will see the hard work and dedication residents, community members, and volunteers put into this garden. We have 28+ raised beds where we grow vegetables, fruit, and herbs for residents’ use and the HH kitchen that serve three free meals a day to the public. This year we included a Chicken Coop with a urban design that acts as a model for teaching residents and kid’s about the importance of permaculture in the garden. Our chickens also help improve the compost for the garden. Our hope is that teaching residents gardening skills will allow for future food security. Please come support the Hospitality House and come see the chickens!
Lettuce Learn Garden at Parkway Elementary School
Boone | Learning Garden for the School
160 Parkway School Drive Boone, NC 28607
Students in PreK through 8th grade involved in the Lettuce Learn project at Parkway School are learning how to grow food in a safe, sustainable way. We currently have a SunCatcher passive solar greenhouse, thirteen raised garden beds, two pollinator gardens, two food scapes, and an ecology area with a small pond and nature trail. Our mission is to create holistic, plant-based, experiential education opportunities that engage children with their natural world, enable them to make healthy choices, and encourage them to help build sustainable communities.
Directions: Head out of Boone on 421 S toward Wilkesboro. Turn right onto Old US 421 S at the stoplight just past the Food Lion on 421. Go 2.6 mi and turn left onto Parkway School Drive. Go the lower parking lot near the large playground and walking track and meet at the picnic shelter for tours.
Mountain Pathways Montessori School Garden
Boone | Education Garden for the School
421 Howards Creek Rd. Boone, NC 28607
Our program is called Farm Camp and the mission is to provide an intensive sustainable farming and gardening experience that focuses on basic gardening skills as well as harvesting, processing, and marketing farm products. Campers and students learn creative problem solving skills, the fundamentals of a sustainable food system, and practical life applications of science, technology, engineering, and math through hands on experience.
Products can be found at: The Kid’s Corner at the Watauga County Farmer’s Market, Farm Camp when it is open to the public, Farm to Flame Food Truck, and The Joy Bistro
Products available for purchase during tour: Vegetable and herb starts
Directions: (from Jefferson 221 South/421 N to Boone) Turn right on NC 194 and travel 1.6 miles. Turn left onto Howards Creek Road. Destination is on the left.
Remember that the Watauga County Farmers Market is also open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday at Horn in the West!
Watauga County Farm Tour
Saturday, July 16: 2-6 p.m.
1: Bethel Valley Farm
Banner Elk | Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries
2912 Mountain Dale Rd. Vilas, NC 28692
If you are into fresh berries, Bethel Valley Farms needs to be on your route! We grow 16 varieties of red raspberries, blackberries and blueberries on 8 acres making us the largest berry grower in the TriCounty area. In addition, we also grow 3 different varieties of wine grapes on 4 acres making us one of the larger wine grape growers in Appalachian High Country. We also work closely with Grandfather Winery to produce raspberry and blackberry dessert wines as well as red and white wines unique to the High Country.
2: Against the Grain
Zionville | Vegetables, Meat/Livestock products, sorghum molasses
Holly Whitesides & Andy Bryant
619 Camp Joy Rd. Zionville, NC 28698
Against the Grain is a great place to see many facets of small-scale agriculture in practice. Visitors have the opportunity to visit bio-dynamic vegetable fields, a high tunnel and four caterpillar tunnels full of crops. ATG is also home to pigs, beef cattle, broiler chickens and a herd of meat goats. Take a self-guided tour of the farm, chat with the farmers or sit by the creek and enjoy some homemade root beer and grilled brauts.
3: Horse Helpers of the High Country
Zionville | Giving abandoned, abused, neglected, or unwanted horses a second chance
1199 Odes Wilson Rd. Zionville, NC 28698
Horse Helpers saves sick, abused, and neglected horses, rehabilitates them and adopts them out. To care for the horses in a sustainable way we have to apply farming tools like pasture rotation, composting, and good animal care strategies. When you visit us, we will introduce you to many of the horses and tell you their recovery stories. HHHC maintains a community garden where food is shared with volunteers and raises chickens for eggs and meat. All seeds are non-GMO and heritage varieties as are our chickens. Strict adherence to heritage breeds is a way for us to promote species diversity. Come visit us and see rare chicken breeds and their babies and peruse our gardens.
4: Springhouse Farm
Vilas | Certified organic vegetables, pastured pork, and honey
433 Silverstone Rd. Vilas, NC 28692
As a diverse 8 acre farm, we grow Certified Organic vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, and raise pastured pigs. In 2015 we received our GAP certification. After receiving a grant from BRWIA in 2013 to help with the start up costs of raising pigs, we have expanded into breeding our sows. The tour will include touring the fields discussing our vegetable and pastured pork production, a tour of the high tunnel and low tunnels used for season extension and heat-loving crops and the new greenhouse built in 2015 used for starting seeds. We are in our 8th year of production and are happy to answer any questions from new farmers!
5: The Lily Patch Farm
Vilas | Plants, flowers, herbs, vegetables, refreshments available
1381 Joe Shoemaker Rd. Vilas, NC 28692
Named for wild Turk’s Cap lilies that flourish here, The Lily Patch Farm is Watauga County’s oldest organic farm. Guests can tour our seedling production greenhouse, visit the vegetables in the high tunnel, and walk “way down yonder in the Pawpaw patch”. Be sure to meet our new weed eating crew: Nubian goats! Relax in the shade by the pond in our timber framed pavilion. Be sure to ask about our wedding and event venue rental!
Products can be found at: Mostly on-farm.
Products for sale: Plants (mostly heirloom varieties) of flowers, herbs, and vegetables, pollinators plants, and frozen Pawpaw treats
Directions: (from the intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 105 Bypass, just north of Boone, Not the Hwy 105 extension) Travel 5 miles from the intersection, on Hwy 421, north towards TN. You will drive through the hamlet of Vilas. After traveling 5 miles on Hwy 421, turn left onto Walls Road. Travel 3/10th mile to the end. Turn right on Joe Shoemaker Rd. Travel about 1/2 mile. Turn left at the crest of the hill onto 1381 Joe Shoemaker Rd- our farm road.
6: Never Ending Farm
Vilas | Refreshments available
366 Farmer Brown Rd. Vilas, NC 28692
We finally have our own land! We now own a lot of pasture and woods with 800 ft. of Crab Orchard Creek and three robust springs from the mountain top. We will be tilling 2 acres of raw land for vegetables and putting up fences for goats, chickens, and pigs. We will also be planting blueberry bushes, berries, and apple trees.
Guided tours offered every hour from 2:00 – 5:00.
Products can be found at: Direct Connect
Directions: From 421 (Boone): LEFT on 321. RIGHT onto hwy 421 after Cove Creek Store
LEFT onto Georges Gap Rd. LEFT onto Farmer Brown Rd. Never Ending Farm will be on your right at the top of the hill
7: Shipley Farms
Vilas | Century farm with pasture raised beef
1655 Linville Creek Rd. Vilas, NC 28692
For over 140 years, the Shipley Farm has been a landmark in the mountains of Watauga County. Founded in 1872, the farm produces tender and tasty pasture raised beef without steroids or antibiotics, and dry aged for enhanced flavor beef the way beef used to be! The farm has an old barn, spring house, and an ice house all dating from the 1800’s. Your family can come see where their food comes from!
8: Herbal Oasis
Vilas | Eggs (chicken, duck, quail), vegetables, fresh herbs, dried herbs, tinctures
471 Ward Green Rd. Vilas NC, 28692
We are a small-scale farm established 4 years ago. There are 4 separate garden areas- fruits, veggies, medicinal herbs and the mint patch. There are also ducks, chickens, quail and rabbits. The main focus on the farm is medicinal herbs; they are all used for homeopathic remedies.
Products can be found at: Contacting Herbal Oasis directly
Products available for purchase during tour: Eggs (chicken, duck, quail), veggies, fresh cut herbs, dried herbs and tinctures.
Directions: The farm is in Vilas, approximately 4 miles past downtown Boone. Head down 421, towards TN. You’re gonna pass the Dollar General and Quality Plus on your right. Ward Greene is on the left shortly after (right after the old Citgo). It’s 1.9 miles from the 105 bypass. The farm will be down the road, on the left about .3 of a mile. The house is a big burgundy barn. There is a parking lot across from house or you can park on the street along the fencing.
9: Apple Hill Farm
Banner Elk | Animals, Yarn, Eggs, Vegetables
400 Apple Hill Rd. Banner Elk, NC 28604
Visit our unique mountaintop alpaca farm and store and connect to what matters – yourself, your family, and a real farm experience. Get close and personal with the alpacas, donkeys, goats and other animals that work and play at Apple Hill Farm. Every animal has a specific job, and many have a story as well! Apple Hill Farm is also home to the largest selection of alpaca products in the High Country of North Carolina.
10: Octopus Gardens FIG Farm
Valle Crucis | Farm Incubator and Grower Project. Low-cost land leases for agricultural ventures
Dutch Creek Rd. Valle Crucis, NC 28604
Octopus Gardens is entering its third year of production at the Farmer Incubator and Grower Property in beautiful Valle Crucis. Run by Caroline Hampton, several acres are in production including vegetables, herbs, and flowers. In addition, we are raising chickens and pigs. This space continues to be collaborative, with many community members and farmers involved in projects on the land.
11: Waxwing Farm
Banner Elk | Produce, Herbs, Cut flowers, Original artwork
410 Justus Road. Banner Elk, NC, 28604
Waxwing Farm was founded by Kathleen Petermann in 2012, and is now in its third full season of production. 2016 has brought a lot of changes! We are in the process of transitioning to a worker -owned farm model, with 3 additional partners equally managing and contributing to the business. We have also added more cut flowers and are starting to hone in on what we do best. Come see how much we’ve grown!
12: The Farm at Mollie’s Branch
Todd | Vegetables, eggs, nettle, herbs, shiitake mushrooms, wood crafts, carins
156 Timber Lakes Dr. Todd NC, 28684
The Farm at Mollies Branch has been described as a most eclectic and wonderful place to visit. From a kissing llama to chickens who lay colored eggs, the farm is a glance into one family’s attempt to live in an eco friendly environment, grow uncompromised food, and harvest safe, nutritional products from the wild. We proudly share our alternative energy: a microhydro electric system and solar panels provide our power. We are very kid friendly with a farm and craft stand.
Products can be found at: Restaurants and on farm
Products available for purchase during tour: Produce: greens (lettuces, kale, chard), eggs by the half-dozen, fresh and dried nettle and herbs, shiitake mushrooms. Crafts: wood creations, cairns, etc. All at a reasonable price!
Directions: (from Boone) At New Market Center (off 321), turn right onto 194 N toward Todd and travel for approximately 11 miles. St. Matthews Church will be on the right. Turn right on the next marked road (Timber Lakes Dr.), cross the one lane bridge, take an immediate RIGHT at the mailboxes and come through the red farm gate. Park in the designated area off the driveway.
828-964-3269 or 828-406-3734
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