Down on the Farm

Curious to see where your food comes from when you buy it locally? Interested to find out what goes on behind the scenes at a small family farm? Here's your chance.

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project is hosting the 2010 Family Farm Tour Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27. Participants can download a map from ASAP's web site (asapconnections.org), and hit the road, family and empty cooler in tow for a self-guided tour of the area's farms, dairies and gardens.

There are 37 farms showcased on the tour this year, covering six counties in Western North Carolina. Farm workers and owners will be on hand at each location to answer questions, and provide a view into what goes on during the day-to-day operations of a farm.

The whole family will find more than enough to do — kids can visit animals like lambs, pigs, ducks and goats, or explore a labyrinth. Farm techniques, practically lost elsewhere in the modern world, will be demonstrated. How does a collie shepherding session sound? A demonstration of the art of tapping maple syrup?

Adults will also have plenty to occupy their interest. Ever wanted to learn how to milk a cow? Curious as to how hydroponic systems work? Interested in touring historic farm buildings? Believe it or not, at the Arthur Morgan School, one of the stops on the tour, visitors will have a chance to learn how to kill and pluck their own chicken.

It's all here – every facet of agrarian life, from the idyllic to the down-and-dirty. And, there's plenty of shopping to be done, so bring an empty cooler. At each stop, fresh meats, fruit, flowers and more will be available for the purchase.

Refreshments will be provided along many of the stops, so packing a lunch isn't necessary. Visit familyfarmtour.org for details on each farm, suggested routes, and listings of farms selling food, and to find out where to purchase the buttons which grant access to all tour locations throughout the weekend; they are available at many local stores and restaurants for $25.

One button admits everyone in a vehicle. Buttons may also be purchased at participating farms on the day of the tour for $30. Tour-goers who only wish to visit one farm also have the option to pay $10 on site. Or, support the Family Farm Tour and get free admission by volunteering. Sign up to volunteer at familyfarmtour.org.

The Family Farm Tour is organized by the nonprofit ASAP as part of its work to develop and advocate strategies that help family farms prosper, connect the region's farmers with markets and supporters, and provide fair access to healthy, locally grown food.BOX: Farms on the Tour

Buncombe

Blue Ridge BisonFlying Cloud FarmGladheart FarmsGood Fibrations Angora GoatsHawk and IvyHickory Nut GapHominy Valley FarmsHop'n BlueberryImladris FarmLong Branch Environmental Education CenterPearson Drive Community GardenRound Mountain CreameryTen Mile FarmVenezia Dream Farm

Haywood

Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree FarmSunburst Trout Company

Henderson

Fields of Gold FarmHoller MinistriesMcConnell FarmsStepp's Plants, Etc.

Madison

Bee Tree Farm and VineyardEast Fork FarmElk Knob Farm and GardensFarm House BeefNew Direction FarmPhilosophy FarmSpinning Spider CreamerySunswept FarmWake Robin Farm

Transylvania

Everett FarmsQueen's Produce and Berry Farm

Yancey

Arthur Morgan SchoolFirefly FarmMaple Creek FarmMountain FarmMountain GardensWellspring Farm

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What that logo means

Appalachian Grown certification is a brand to believe in

It seems like common sense that food grown 15 miles away from your home would be fresher — and taste better — than food trucked in from 1,500 miles away. Yet the latter is far more common, even though it nets food with less nutritional value. There's also the matter of food independence. If we can grow our food locally, a practice that was once common in Appalachia, we have more control over what we eat.

Enter ASAP's Appalachian Grown program. Food and agricultural products get the free designation (and the handy logo) if they're grown or raised on WNC or Southern Appalachian farms. That fits Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project's mission to help build strong farms and local food economies, along with healthy communities that value farming.

The snouts have it: This happy pig, a resident of Hickory Nut Gap, is just one of the many creatures that can be visited on the tour. Photo by Halima Flynt

The nonprofit organization certifies farms and products annually. And more and more, local restaurants, markets, grocers and other businesses are using ASAP-certified foods and produce. In Western North Carolina, our local food economy keeps growing each year — along with tastier food, that means more sustainable jobs, as well.

The following pages are full of ASAP-certified businesses, offering goods that bridge the gap between local farmer and consumer, in a great variety of ways. In a busy world, ASAP is making it a little easier to buy local — and that's good news for all of us.

Learn more at asapconnections.org.

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