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Apple Hill hosts farm tours

Article Published: May. 13, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Apple Hill hosts farm tours

Apple Hill Farm owner and operator Lee Smith stands with some of her woolier friends at her Banner Elk farm. Apple Hill is home to a variety of animals, including donkeys, alpacas and llamas.

Photo by Lauren K. Ohnesorge

It's not your typical farm, and Lee Smith is not your typical farmer.

"As a result of having all the alpacas and other animals, we've become sort of a destination," Smith said.

Smith, owner and operator of Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk, first saw alpacas at a state fair.

"I looked into the eyes of one of those guys and that was it, I was sold," she said.

For the past seven years, that fascination has expressed itself through Apple Hill Farm. Along with raising donkeys, alpacas, goats, llamas, chickens and horses, the farm tends bees, grows apples, vegetables and, starting this Saturday, gives tours.

"Kids learn about how we process the [alpaca] fiber and how our set of animals work together," Smith said.

In a farm, everyone has a job. Bees make honey. The alpacas are sheared for their soft fiber. Donkeys and llamas (guard llamas, Smith calls them) guard the alpacas against mountain lion attacks, which are more common in the hills than you might think.

Just ask Mojo, the only alpaca to survive a mountain lion attack at Apple Hill in 2003. That, however, was before the addition of donkeys and llamas.

"Llamas are just bigger and traditionally used as pack animals and guard animals," she said.
The loud noises the donkeys make also scare away the lions.

"But we still see tracks around the farm," she said.

People, however, have nothing to fear on the farm, except, of course, for the occasional spitting llama.

"That's how they tell each other to back off," Smith said.

Smith, who started adulthood as a food writer ("Cookin' Up a Storm"), started the farm, both to cultivate her love of animals and educate people about farm life.

"We really teach what we do," she said.

The tour culminates at the gift shop, complete with fresh honey, alpaca yarn and alpaca socks.

Tours happen each Saturday at 2 p.m. and are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Reservations are recommended. The Farm is located on 400 Apple Hill Road in Banner Elk off N.C. 194. For more information, visit

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