Take a Farm-Fresh Tour of Western North Carolina

Selina KokTake a Farm-Fresh Tour of Western North Carolina

Stay in the Loom House at the Mast Farm Inn, the romantic log cabin that started the farm in the early 1800s

You can find farms open to visitors across the state, but western North Carolina is particularly rich in agritourism spots, delicious farm-to-table dining options, and jaw-dropping views. Here’s a sample trip, starting in Asheville and ending outside of Boone, with a whole lot of stopping in-between to visit farms, sample local wine, feed alpacas and more.

3-Day Itinerary

Thursday: Start your tour in vibrant downtown Asheville, then head south along two-lane winding roads to bucolic Fairview for a genuine farm stay.

Friday: Take more two-lane blacktops to Hickory Nut Gap Farm, then enjoy the scenery along curvy roads to the charming small town of Black Mountain before settling in at a luxurious inn situated in a winery.

Saturday: Head east to lively downtown Boone, then up the mountain near Banner Elk before spending the night at a historic inn in peaceful Valle Crucis.

Thursday: Asheville & Fairview

Let your taste buds lead the way with a meal at Rhubarb, a stylishly rustic restaurant opened in downtown Asheville in 2013 by four-time James Beard-award finalist John Fleer. North Carolina native Fleer puts his stamp on Southern traditions while highlighting local and seasonal ingredients sourced from a long list of regional farmers. Standout dishes include a goat cheese gnudi, with cheese from Looking Glass Creamery; and charmoula-grilled bavette steak, with meat from Hickory Nut Gap Farm.

From Asheville, head southeast for 20 minutes to reach Cloud 9 Farm in Fairview. Here you have a choice of renting a romantic cabin or stylish home, both fully wired and well appointed with local art and crafts. Farmer Janet Peterson’s 200-acre mountain retreat also is home to a small herd of naturally raised cattle, chickens, vegetable garden, two acres of U-pick blueberries and beehives. Your kitchen will be stocked with basics, and Peterson even delivers fresh jams, honey and just-laid eggs from her flock. Make sure to tour the farm before you check out.

Friday: Black Mountain & Banner Elk

Remember that steak on the menu at Rhubarb? Your first stop is a visit to the source, the 600-acre fifth-generation Hickory Nut Gap Farm just up the road in a scenic valley. At its farm store you can buy grass-fed beef, pork, poultry and eggs, as well as products from other farms in the region. Hickory Nut gussies up in the fall, with longer hours and special children’s activities in September and October.

Once you’ve done your shopping, take the back roads, including curvy Highway 9, to charming downtown Black Mountain, where you’ll eat lunch at Louise’s Kitchen, a cafe with a friendly vibe and fresh food sourced from several area farms, many of them members of the Black Mountain Tailgate Market.

From Black Mountain, another scenic drive awaits, to Banner Elk, where you‘ll stay at the Blueberry Villa at the Banner Elk Winery. Suites at the luxury bed and breakfast overlook vineyards and blueberry bushes and have mountain views, and of course you’ll want to leave time in your schedule for a wine tasting.

Saturday: Boone, Banner Elk & Valle Crucis

Fueled by your gourmet breakfast at Blueberry Villa, head east for about 30 minutes through mountain-flanked valleys to Boone, home to the lively Watauga County Farmers’ Market. In operation since 1974, it draws hundreds of visitors and, during the summer peak season, some 90 farm, food, and craft vendors.

If you’ve never encountered alpacas and angora goats up close and personal, you’re in for a thrill when you take a tour at Apple Hill Farm, outside of Banner Elk. The mountainous drive up to Apple Hill’s 43 hilltop acres is pretty fun, too. To guard her alpacas, farmer Lee Rankin also raises llamas and donkeys, while her thick-coated livestock guardian dogs watch over the goats. The tour includes a look at her naturally grown produce garden, berries, and plenty of alpaca and goat face time. A lovely shop in the stylish barn carries goods made from alpaca fleece, including 20 lines of alpaca yarn, goat milk soap and other handmade products.

Heading back toward Boone, you’ll soon reach Valle Crucis, where you’ll stay at the venerable Mast Farm Inn. For more than a century, visitors to the mountains have hung their hats at this historic country inn. Seven guest rooms are available in the original 1880s farmhouse, as well as eight other new and historic cottages. A favorite is the Loom House, the iconic two-room log cabin that started the farm in the early 1800s and was later turned into a space for spinning and weaving. Once you’ve checked into your room, you won’t want to leave. The good news is, you don’t have to, because a scrumptious dinner awaits at Simplicity, the inn’s farm-to-table restaurant. Before your meal, stroll through the large organic garden across the street and guess what might be on that night’s menu.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching activities and events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

Diane Daniel writes about food, travel and the environment, and is the author of the guidebook Farm Fresh North Carolina.


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