By Calie Brummer
On Saturday, June 8, the NC Foothills Farm Tour will celebrate fresh, local foods in Polk and Rutherford counties. An interactive map will be available to guide guests along the route featuring more than 20 farms.
The tour is an excellent opportunity for visitors to learn more about local farms and where their food comes from, and offers chances to purchase fresh produce, dairy products, flowers, garlic, microgreens and more. This year’s theme is a celebration of all things homegrown, with a focus on developing skills that people can use in their own kitchens to create delicious, healthy meals. Those touring the participating farms will learn how to build a better relationship with the food they eat and get access to tools that will help them create a homegrown cooking experience in their daily lives.
“I’m excited for guests to be able to come to my farm to witness how much food you can grow on less than a quarter acre of land,” says Erica Shanks, owner of Bearded Birds Farm in Saluda. “I am in the middle of converting my lawn into a micro-farm, and the most exciting part is sharing this experience with others. I am a first-generation farmer, and I want to show others that no matter your background, you can always start the step in building a relationship with how your food is grown, where it comes from, and be able to take pride in that.”
For families with children, certain stops on the tour will offer kid-friendly activities with farm animals and harvesting experiences. “We are so grateful for the opportunity to showcase our no-spray, pick-your-own blueberry farm as part of the NC Foothills Farm Tour,” says Larry McDermott, who co-owns Hardscrabble Hollow Farm in Rutherfordton with his wife Anita Saulmon. “Hopefully, we will have an early bumper crop so that visitors can either pick a basket full of berries or simply stroll the rows while sampling the four varieties. During the tour, participants will be able to hug Nubian goats, pet our horses and learn from our beekeeping, soapmaking and cheesemaking exhibits.”
Another stop along the tour offers vibrant views, fresh produce and orchard apples. “When they visit our farm, folks will be able to see our high-density apple orchard, which was the first of its kind in Polk County,” says Jon Klimstra, co-owner of TK Family Farm in Green Creek. “Guests can also visit our orchard of double leader apple trees and visit our new packing facility.”
Fresh garlic is on the menu at Go Garlic, a Polk County farm offering eight to 10 heirloom varieties of garlic grown organically. “We are excited to host our farm tour stop in the garden where we started,” says Amy Feldman, co-owner of Go Garlic. “Folks on the farm tour will get information on the entire growing process and will be able to view our two curing sheds. This year, we will have garlic scapes and some new varieties of early harvested, fresh garlic for visitors to sample and purchase.”
With the tour, Looking Glass Creamery will open its Columbus dairy farm to the public for the first time. “Education is a big part of our long-term plans,” says owner and cheese maker Jennifer Perkins. “We built the new creamery so visitors could peek into the aging cellars and see the cheese making process.”
Nicole and Aaron Bradley own Bradley Farms in the Howard Gap Valley between Tryon and Saluda, where they raise grass-fed beef and pastured pork and poultry. “The NC Foothills Farm Tour serves as a platform for us to educate our community on how we produce food and how agriculture connects us all,” Nicole says.
Farm tour tickets are $25 per carload and guests can visit as many farms as they wish along the tour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit PolkCountyFarms.org/events/nc-foothills-farm-tour.