Thanksgiving is still two months away, but those interested in buying local should begin planning now for this holiday season. A number of Western North Carolina farmers offer Thanksgiving turkeys, vegetables and more to the public, most of which must be preordered before the holiday rush. (See sidebar for ordering information and pricing.)
For the fourth year in a row, Marshall’s East Fork Farm has planned a special Thanksgiving partnership with Ivy Creek Family Farm in Barnardsville. The farms will come together to create a one-stop shop for locally produced Thanksgiving foods for the East Fork Farm Tailgate Market on Tuesday, Nov. 22. East Fork sells turkeys alongside a range of other meats, which are all pasture-raised and humanely processed right at the farm. “This event is huge for us,” says East Fork owner Dawn Robertson. “It’s the last hurrah until the winter markets pick up.” But shoppers hoping to snag a turkey at the market will need to secure it in advance by contacting the farm and placing a $25 deposit.
Also at the Nov. 22 event, Ivy Creek Family Farm will distribute a preordered community-supported agriculture box of fall produce that owner Anna Littman says is designed to accommodate a family of four. The package includes heirloom varieties of greens, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and rutabaga that are often not available in grocery stores.
“This partnership is such a great example of businesses working together, and I really love that,” Littman says. “Instead of seeing each other as competition, we’re building each other up. It’s really what the spirit of Thanksgiving is, and this is one of the most important times to reach out to local farms and give thanks for the harvest that is produced in our region.” Robertson and Littman have also invited Wake Robin Farm and Spinning Spider Creamery to the event to sell wood-fired whole-grain bread and baked goods and artisan goat cheese, respectively, to complement the preordered Thanksgiving offerings.
In a similar spirit, people interested in a festive way to kick off Thanksgiving can plan a day of farm visits to pick up their holiday dinner ingredients during the inaugural Farm Heritage Trail Thanksgiving Holiday Tour on Sunday, Nov. 20. Families can pick up their preordered Thanksgiving turkeys and CSA boxes of vegetables, bread, herbs and canned goods at Franny’s Farm in Leicester, where they can also have a bowl of chili and tour the farm. They can proceed from there to Sandy Hollar Farm to sip hot chocolate while picking out a Christmas tree and handmade wreaths and ornaments, then take a wagon ride around the farm before heading down the road to Addison Farms Vineyard to finish the day with a glass of wine — and maybe picking up a bottle or two to take home for Thanksgiving dinner.
Franny’s Farm owner Franny Tacy, who also teaches for the Organic Growers School, is passionate about selling heritage turkeys — breeds that have more genetic variety and grow at a slower, more natural pace than most conventional birds. “It’s part of the slow-food movement of getting back to what a turkey is,” Tacy says. “We include recipes and information about how to cook heritage turkeys — they have more dark meat and cook more slowly. A 10-pound bird cooks in 90 minutes, while cooking time would be three hours for a conventional, genetically engineered turkey.”
Some local farmers hope that customers will see Thanksgiving as a way to notice and foster relationships with local food. “The Thanksgiving CSA is a one-time option, so you can test it out and see if the next box is what you want,” Littman says. Tacy adds that education is a driving part of the mission of Franny’s Farm. “We’re focused on education through everything we do, from our farm camp to our workshops. This is a great time to spread that knowledge throughout the region.”
For details about the East Fork Farms Tailgate Market, visit eastforkfarm.net. To learn more about the Farm Heritage Trail and its Thanksgiving Holiday Tour, visit farmheritagetrail.org. For more ways to connect to sustainable local farms, visit the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project Local Food Guide online at appalachiangrown.org.