High Country Farm Tour features 29 sites
by Adam Orr
"We're excited about our seventh High Country Farm Tour," said Courtney Baines Smith, director of programs at Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. "We're working to emulate successful tours throughout the state that have thousands of visitors at a time."
Since beginning as a grassroots project in 2003, BRWIA has supported high country women and their families through "education, skills and resources related to sustainable food and agriculture," in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Mitchell, Wilkes, Watauga and Yancey counties, in addition to Johnson County, Tenn.
The 29-location tour features farms in Ashe, Avery, Caldwell and Watauga counties, highlighting the best of sustainable agriculture practices, according to Baines Smith.
"We looked for farmers and farms that understand the long-term health of the land, avoid chemicals, and embrace that sustainable agriculture mentality," Baines Smith said. "We definitely want to show off farms that are practicing responsible ways of utilizing animals and their land."
This year, Wayne and Jeanne Berry's Berry Patch Farm will be on display, a USDA-certified organic farm that grows specialty vegetables, herbs and honey.
Creston's Faith Mountain Farm will include demonstrations on honey extraction, baking and the gathering of eggs and shiitake mushrooms, while the Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm in Fleetwood will offer a glimpse inside a living lab that produces healthy food, fiber and raw materials that can be cultivated successfully on a small scale.
Grassy Creek's Landmark Farm Alpacas will offer visitors a chance to touch incredibly luxurious fiber once reserved for Incan royalty, and view demonstrations and exhibits on fiber carding, handspinning and knitting. Mountain Works Farms in Zionville will feature demonstrations on traditional forestry with draft horses.
Owl Feather Organic Farm in Crumpler is a fifth-generation, certified organic farm first established in 1821 by the Gentry family that features more than 100 acres of farmland and wood lot. Visitors can view the farm's organic produce, high tunnel organic production and the beginning stages of Farm Incubator program.
West Jefferson's Woodland Harvest Mountain Farm blends permaculture, homesteading, animals, gardens and woodland habitat. It also offers visitors a chance to learn how to live with nature and make their own electricity and infrastructure, while Grassy Creek's Zydeco Moon Farm and Cabins will offer tours of the farm's passive solar greenhouse, three high tunnels and 11 fields along Helton Creek.
Visit farmtour.brwia.org to purchase a farm pass or view a complete list of farms available to tour.
"I do have to remind folks that there simply won't be enough time to visit all the farms on the tour," Baines Smith said. "Plan on three to four farms per day, and allow for one to two hours per farm, depending on travel time."
Many of the farms are available to tour each year, so if you miss one this year don't worry, she said.
"You'll probably get a chance to see them in the future, if you can't make one this year," Baines Smith said.
This year will also feature children-friendly stops along the way, including Faith Mountain Farms, Goodnight Family Teaching and Research Farm, Landmark Farm Alpacas, Mountain Works Farms and Woodland Harvest Mountain Farms in Ashe County.
"Each is part of our Lil' Locavore Learning Series," Baines Smith said. "We think its important to help kids understand where their food comes from and that farming really is a cool thing."