Western North Carolina is full of talented farmers, artisan food producers and wine makers. You might even go so far as to call WNC “America’s Tuscany” — the perfect place for a food-and-farm adventure. Let the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project be your virtual travel agency, guiding you to the freshest tomatoes, the most scenic apple orchards — all of the things that make this region stand out as a certifiable food destination.
ASAP’s brand-spanking-new Trip Planner, the newest component of the online Local Food Guide, is like a treasure map of food. It provides a comprehensive directory of area family farms, farm stores and stands, tailgate markets, wineries, grocers, restaurants, caterers, bakers, B&Bs and other places that supply local food.
With the Trip Planner, you can easily find food and farm destinations, map them and plan a trip. Here’s how it works: Select a start and end point, check the destinations you want to find — and even the products you’re looking for — and choose a few that pique your interest. From there, the planner will map your selected route and provide all the directions needed to take you on your journey. Now that’s agritourism done right.
Staying at the Grove Park Inn? For lunch, enjoy a trout dish from one of the inn’s restaurants, then map a trip to Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton to meet the farmers who raised that trout and see the pristine streams in which they swim. Sunburst’s onsite farm-store is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. If you’re visiting on a Tuesday, stop by the West Asheville Tailgate Market or Wednesday Co-op Market on your way back to the hotel to mingle with the locals and find the perfect afternoon snack.
Get up with the sun and map a scenic drive out to East Fork Farm in Madison County. You’ll see sheep grazing in pastures, hens and more. Then, take an eating tour of downtown Asheville restaurants featuring East Fork’s products: Zambra, Laurey’s Catering, Jack of the Wood, Bouchon, Early Girl Eatery and The Market Place — to name a few.
In the spring and summer, snag a sweet strawberry or blackberry chocolate from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge and then map a drive to McConnell Farms in Hendersonville. Take a tour and keep your sweet theme going by enjoying ice cream and lots of other goodies from their farm store. Take Charlotte Highway through Fairview on your way home, and pass by the fields of vegetables and beautiful flowers growing at Flying Cloud Farm.
You can also use the planner to help you map your personal journey for ASAP’s Family Farm Tour. For one weekend every summer, the gates and barns of more than 40 WNC farms are open to the public — even those farms that don’t normally allow visitors.
The self-guided driving tour is your chance to learn how food grows, taste farm-fresh treats, interact with farm animals and meet the community’s food producers. Pack your car with your family or a group of friends, grab a tour guide and set off to celebrate the region’s agricultural heritage and enjoy our beautiful rural landscape.
*Note: Farms part of the trip planner allow visitors, but always call ahead, as they are working farms and will need to schedule accordingly.
For more information, visit asapconnections.org/thefamilyfarmtour.html or call 236-1282.
2011 Family Farm Tour Details
When: June 25 and 26, from 1 until 6 p.m. each day
Where: 41 farms across WNC, with 18 new farm stops
How: One button admits a whole carload. Pack your car with a group of friends or family members; the more people in your vehicle, the better the deal! Buttons are $25 in advance or $30 the day of the event. Pick up a 2011 Family Farm Tour Guide at area groceries and other businesses for a map, tour tips and other details — and be on the lookout for tour signs as you travel to guide you to your destinations.
— Maggie Cramer is the communications coordinator at ASAP. Contact her at email@example.com.