Would you believe that a single Western North Carolina event lets you go for a hayride, taste local wine, meet alpacas, watch a cooking demonstration, learn vegetable growing tips, go fishing, eat a local grass-fed beef burger and pick berries to take home? It’s true. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s annual Farm Tour includes all of these activities and many more as participating farms open their doors, gates and barns for ticket holders to learn more about who feeds us and how they do it.
This year, the tour, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24, marks its 10th anniversary with plans to showcase 22 owner-operated family farms. The event has evolved a bit over the last decade, says ASAP events coordinator Robin Lenner. “In the past few years, we developed clusters so that the tour can focus on a few regions and rotate from year to year,” she explains, noting that with farms clustered together, visitors can see more in a day.
WNC is lucky to have a plentiful number of small-scale farming operations, and even the most hard-core farm tourists would find it challenging to visit more than 10 in a weekend. The clusters include farms in Yancey County and Henderson County as well as in Fairview, Candler, Leicester and Smith Mill Works right outside Asheville. Lenner recommends picking a cluster and visiting three to four farms in that area per day. But she acknowledges, “It can be so hard to choose!”
With everything on display, from hemp production to aquaponics to goat rearing to artisan cider, visitors will want to get strategic to make the most of the weekend. ASAP provides a handy printed Farm Tour guide (available at the ASAP office, area businesses and farmers markets) with tips on how to plan a route and what each farm will offer for guests.
We live during a time when a child can grow up without ever seeing a working farm in action, and many adults have no idea what it takes to grow the kale they put in a morning smoothie. The Farm Tour provides an opportunity to see all the effort behind products we might otherwise take for granted. West Asheville resident Robin Mehler took her kids on the tour last year, and her 9-year-old son, Asa, reported, “I never knew you could grow mushrooms on farms. We saw them growing on logs, and we bought some shiitake mushrooms. Now I really love them.”
Visitors are not the only benefactors. Farmers, trying to educate the public and build a customer base, benefit from the exposure. Carolyn Bradley, co-owner of Farm House Beef in Sandy Mush says, “The Farm Tour brings many people to our farm to enjoy the beauty of the farm and learn about the health benefits of eating grass-fed beef. We enjoy sharing about good food and the importance of maintaining a farm for the next generation.”
More information and Farm Tour passes are available on ASAP’s website (see info box for details). And be sure to leave your furry pets at home — dogs are not allowed on the Farm Tour.
WHAT: ASAP’s Farm Tour
WHERE: Buy car passes and find a list of participating farms and other details at asapconnections.org.
WHEN: Noon-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24. Passes are $30 per car in advance or $40 per car the weekend of the tour.