By Amie Cooke
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) will hold its annual Farm Tour this year on Saturday and Sunday, September 23 and 24, from 12–5 p.m, allowing visitors the unique opportunity to see behind the scenes of more than 20 local farms.
Farms on this year’s tour will provide a variety of experiences throughout the weekend. Madeleine O’Toole, ASAP’s market and events coordinator, runs the Asheville City Market and all of the nonprofit’s large events like the Farm Tour. She says that this year’s farms will offer opportunities such as tours, the chance to pick pears, apples and flowers, see honey and wool spinning demonstrations, see baby animals and sample food “made fresh from the farm.” There will also be a few farms offering tours in Spanish this year. “We have such a great group of farms this year with a lot of varying types of farm practices and demonstrations,” she says. “We also have a slightly bigger tour this year than we have had in previous years, which will give folks lots of options to see farms that they’re excited about.”
The Farm Tour typically includes about half new farms and half returning farms, with around ten new farms participating in the 2023 tour. Wild East Farm, owned and operated by Lyric Antio and her husband Noah Poulos, will be one new farm on the tour this year. The farm currently raises organic-fed chickens, turkeys and pigs, grows a no-till vegetable garden and has plans to open U-pick operations when its more than 1,000 planted fruit and nut trees and shrubs begin producing. During the Farm Tour, guided tours of Wild East Farm will run every hour on the hour, there will be shady spots where guests can bring their own picnic, and farm-raised meats and vegetables will be for sale. “Bringing the community onto working farms is essential in strengthening relationships within our local food system, and ASAP does an excellent job making this accessible to the farmer through the Farm Tour,” says Antio. “The Farm Tour is completely aligned with our values as a community-centered farm and we are so looking forward to hosting folks.”
Burley Stick Farm, a family beef cattle farm in Barnardsville, will be returning this year after participating in the 2021 Farm Tour. Morgan Metcalf, who owns and operates the farm with her husband Darrell, also says she enjoys the opportunity to share their farm with the community during the tour. “Not everyone who eats beef understands the importance of rotational grazing,” she says. “Not everyone who enjoys ice cream understands why my Jersey cow gets sprayed with vinegar sometimes in the summer. I like talking about farming and education is very important to me.” Darrell Metcalf says that their traditional Appalachian farming roots are an important part of what they do. His great-grandfather brought his family to the farm in 1918, and Darrell and Morgan are raising their children as the fifth generation of Metcalfs to work on the farm. Today the Metcalfs work primarily with beef cattle, raising and selling pastured beef quarters. On the Farm Tour, guests can visit their old tobacco barns, casing house and springhouse. Burgers will be served, beef will be available for purchase and, depending on weather, guests might even be able to take a hay ride through the farm.
O’Toole says that direct, meaningful experiences like these are priceless. “It takes a lot of time for farmers to get prepared to open their farms to the public,” she says, “but each year both the farms and the visitors are able to gain so much from that experience. Farms get to experience agritourism for a weekend, and visitors get a chance of seeing what goes on behind their meat, fruits and vegetables.”
The 2023 Farm Tour is organized into five clusters, Henderson, McDowell, Fairview, Leicester and Barnardsville, and all farms are within an hour’s drive of Asheville. “Our goal is for visitors to see the value in supporting locally grown food,” O’Toole says. “This behind-the-scenes experience is one that most of the farms on the tour only offer during Farm Tour weekend.”
Farm Tour passes are $35 in advance and are good for all passengers in a single vehicle for both days. To purchase your pass or find more information, visit ASAPConnections.org. Amie Cooke, a summer intern with The Laurel, is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.