Entering its seventh year, the High Country Farm Tour continues to grow.
Sponsored by Boone-based Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, eight of the tours 29 stops will be in Ashe County.
“The farmers will be there with their doors open for you to get a tour of their farm,” said Leah Jaflon, a programs intern at BRWIA.
“(The farmers will) show you their growing methods, introduce you to their animals, just sort of show you their lifestyle for a day,” she said.
New expansions in the program will start this year, including “Snack Stops” and a “Little Locavore” booklet for children. Of the 29 farm tours, 16 will have activities for children, such as games or a petting zoo.
A Berry Patch in the southeastern part of the county will offer free samples of food, as well as honey and embroideries for customers to purchase.
“My main focus will be to educate folks that come out,” Wayne Berry, head of A Berry Patch said. “We’re not looking to make money on it.”
Relocating to Ashe County from Richmond, Va., the Berry family began selling berries at the farmer’s market. Now their farm is four acres and has everything from apple trees and beehives to eight-ball squash and carrots.
“I think there is some evidence that the small family farm is coming back in some respects,” he said.
The couple has constantly increased the size of their farm and continue to explore expansion.
“The future is for us to continue doing this until the Lord calls us home,” Jeanne Berry, another owner of the farm said.”
Being included on the farm tour begins in April when owners submit applications for consideration. Farms from Ashe, Avery, Caldwell and Watauga are selected and the promotion for the event begins.
Ashe County, in particular, is an important area for the BRWIA to support, because of its rich, agrarian history.
“Ashe County definitely has one of the oldest connections to agriculture and some of the most traditional and special farms in the area,” Jalfon said. “Although our office is placed in Watagua County, we think it’s very important to reach as much of the High Country as we can.”
Other places give the visitors a taste of something different. Landmark Farms in Grassy Creek raises alpacas.
“People can understand that alpacas are raised in this environment,” Rachelle Bridges, owner of the farm said. “We raise locally grown fiber, not produce like many other farms are, but still it’s locally-produced fiber.”
Not only will visitors on their tour get to see and pet the alpacas, they will also have an opportunity to learn what can be produced using the animal’s soft, downy fur.
Bridges said there will be spinners, weavers, knitters and other artisans on site for tour goers to see.
Of course, people always want to see alpacas.
“We’re open year round as a farm business by appointment,” Bridges said. “People will come out and see the alpacas and we’ll show that we sheer them like sheep. Then we have finished products for sale.”
Other farms will collaborate with chefs to create food using their products.
Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm in Fleetwood will be a snack stop location, with the Vitality Fast Food Truck on site.
“Certain farms will have local chefs using ingredients from those farms to make meals, desserts and snacks for people to purchase on the farm,” Jalfon said.
A photograph contest will also take place with selected photos eventually being displayed in the Looking Glass Gallery at Appalachian State University.
Tickets are $25, but serve an entire carload. For more information on the event and a listing of the farms, go to http://farmtour.brwia.org.