Visit Farms in the Mountains

Visit Farms in the Mountains

Visit traditional farms, creameries and more in the mountains

Western North Carolina’s low-key working mountain farms are lofty destinations for learning about the land and its bounty. The area’s biggest farm tourism event of the year is the Family Farm Tour, organized by the nonprofit organization Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). You can visit 38 farms and gardens in six counties, ranging from century farms cultivated by the same family for generations, to certified organic farms, to urban gardens. Dozens of the 12,000 farms in the region also welcome visitors throughout the year. Here are a just a few of them. You’ll find many, many more at ASAP’s Local Food Guide.

East Fork Farm
Here, Stephen and Dawn Robertson raise lambs, chickens, and rabbits. Some pastures have sheep and new long-legged lambs; others grow thick, green and tall, benefiting from the farm’s rotational grazing practices. East Fork Farm even has two vacation rental cottages.

Gladheart Farms
This certified organic farm is located on property formerly slated for development. Owner Michael Porterfield returned it to agricultural use to grow produce for his downtown customers and sell items at a farm stand. He even makes his own biodiesel fuel for his tractor.

Hickory Nut Gap Farm
This 90-acre, fourth-generation family farm, now run by Jamie and Amy Ager, is one of the best-known farms in Western North Carolina. In fall, Hickory Nut Gap’s orchard, corn maze and pumpkin patch may be filled with schoolchildren. But, as you leave the farm store on a summer day, you may be the only visitor, among the solitude of grazing cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.

Highlander Farm
Nick and Susan Nichols raise sheep and chickens, and if you call in advance, they may have time to demonstrate how to herd sheep with border collies. You can also visit the hoop house where the Nichols’ hens nest, and purchase eggs that, thanks to the free-range, pasture-raised chickens’ natural diet, have rich, almost orange yolks.

Philosophy Farm
Mars Hill
This farm produces Angora goats and Cotswold sheep, which are guarded by Bear, the llama who serves as farm greeter. You can browse raised beds of vegetables and herbs, learning about the plants and their properties from carefully hand-painted signs. Owners Krys and Steve Krimi say this farm’s “primary product is beauty.” They’ve dotted their cove with handmade, rustic shrines, inspired by their travels in India and Ireland.

Spinning Spider Creamery
Make an appointment, and you can watch owner Chris Owen herding goats down from the hill pasture, and then milking them and piping milk through the facility so its ready for cheese-making. An assortment of gleaming white shapes – racks of molded chevre – may be draining on steel racks in the cool gleaming kitchen. Outside in the warm, bustling farm yard, Spinning Spider’s friendly herd awaits.

Wellspring Farm
Wellspring is home to Jacob and Moorit Corriedale sheep, Angora rabbits, Angora goats, and llamas. The farm also produces eggs, honey, berries and wool products. There’s a shop in the 1930s farmhouse. Try out the spinning wheel, or arrange for classes in wool processing, spinning and felting with owner Elke Amenda-Spirakis. If you visit on a farm day, you can watch Elke shear the llamas.

Touring tips:
Plan ahead. Always call in advance to arrange for a farm tour. Farms are busy places and there’s no guarantee the farmer will be available to give you tour. Many farms charge admission. Some only give tours to groups, so find out how many friends you need to bring, or visit with a school, church or other group.

Rose McLarney, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, contributed to this story

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