Experience where your food is grown
If you enjoy exploring beautiful countryside and are interested in how local farmers make mouth-watering products, plan on participating in the seventh annual High Country Farm Tour.
This self-guided tour boasts 29 stops with 15 first-time farms.
Nonprofit Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture organizes the event with the goal of strengthening the food system by educating the public about sustainable food and agriculture, while providing farmers with opportunities to increase their income.
Nearly every farm on the tour will tempt you with farm-fresh produce, meats, dairy and grocery products for purchase, so have an ice-packed cooler and cash ready. Also, local chefs will be preparing delicious snacks at some farms, labeled “snack stops,” available for purchase.
Weekend passes are available for $25 on-line at farmtour.brwia.org and are sold at area farmers’ markets, including Ashe, Blowing Rock, Lenoir and Watauga. The pass covers everyone in your vehicle for both days and is available at the first farm you visit for $30. Another option is to volunteer at a farm one day, and then take the tour the other day for free. To sign up, visit the website.
To help you decide which farms to visit, a printed farm tour guide is available at the markets, and an interactive Google map is found on the website. To maximize your time, it’s best to visit clusters of farms. One such cluster includes Landmark Farm Alpacas and Zydeco Moon farm, located in northern Ashe County. Both farms are fun for kids of all ages.
Landmark Farm Alpacas will offer a self-guided tour, including “from alpaca to finished garment” exhibits, storyboards and demonstrations, such as fiber carding, hand spinning and knitting.
Visitors to Zydeco Moon will tour a passive solar green house, three high tunnels and 11 fields along Helton Creek and the ridge above the creek. A farm wagon will be hooked up for guided tours with stops for wild berry picking on the way to the ridge fields. Kids are welcome to bring fishing poles and try their luck in Helton Creek, one of North Carolina’s premier delayed harvest trout streams.
Zydeco Moon farm has been on the tour for the past seven years. When I asked co-owner Sally Thiel what she liked about being on the tour, she said, “I think it’s important for people to know how food is grown and get to know who grows it.”
Her husband, Joe Martin, added, “We also like for those who are already farming or who are interested in farming to learn from our production methods.”
With three high tunnels, Sally and Joe avoid many prevalent fungal diseases and specialize in heirloom tomatoes. Sally offers this easy recipe for the tomato season.
Heirloom Tomatoes Parmesan Pasta
Cut up a mix of heirloom tomatoes.
Marinate with olive oil, minced garlic, salt to taste and chopped fresh basil for about an hour.
Serve over hot pasta with Parmesan cheese.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 264-3061.