Wednesday, August 3, 2011


A baby goat being held during the 2010 Farm Tour at Horse Helpers at Wisteria Farm

You, too, can pet a goat or llama, get crowed by a rooster or clucked by a hen, or talk with a farmer about her sustainable methods of collecting and using rainwater or growing vertical tomatoes.
This coming weekend, August 6th and 7th, is the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture's annual Farm Tour. Each afternoon, from 2 to 6, you can get up close and personal with farm animals, take in farming methods, and see some gorgeous countryside. There are even suggested bike routes to take in some of the farms. Here's the link.
The Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is such a fantastic organization. Made up by women, and for women, in agriculture, the proceeds from this farm tour will help provide women farmers in the High Country with resources and educational programs.
And besides, this farm tour is a great way to spend a weekend, whether you've got kids you want to educate or if it's just yourself you want to entertain.

Spring House Farm

I've visited most of these farms during past tours, and many of them wound up in stories or with recipes in my book, THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
It seemed as though we were driving to the top of the world as we wound our way up the steep and narrow drive to Big Horse Creek Farm, but oh, was the view alone worth it. Ron and Suzanne Joyner will delight you with their story of finding, saving and propagating heirloom varieties of apples, some of which would have died out if not for their efforts. The windmill and battery banks produce enough electricity for them to be "off the grid." And, they'll have some organic veggies and fruits for sale.
This year, I'm anxious to see Sally's new hoop-house and passive solar greenhouse used for growing and propagating heirloom tomatoes at Zydeco Moon Farm. Hang on for a fun but bumpy wagon ride to the top of the hill where they've got a field with a view. She and Joe will also have quite a variety of heirlooms for sale.

Hens gather at the Trailer Park(ed) at ASU's Goodnight Farm

Students will show you around the ASU Goodnight Sustainable teaching farm. I learned new things about garlic and egg production last year.

Charles Church has been farming the Watauga River valley for over 50 years

Charles Church is a delightful farmer, who ten years ago proved you could teach an old dog some new tricks when he switched from growing tobacco to growing organic foods. Purslane, beets, potatoes and some absolutely delightful spicy sausage made their way into my ice chest last year. Ask him to sign his own recipe for kohlrabi he contributed to THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
Maverick Farms provides an alternative, communal way of farming and during the last three years has established a CSA program with a few other farms. They've got a beautiful spot and usually have some good baked goods and homemade, organic pizza for sale.

The "Tunnel" at Tumbling Shoals Farm

And a little away from the Boone area is Tumbling Shoals Farm, where Shiloh and Jason are transforming a beautiful little valley into an organic oasis. AS former Peace Corps workers, they are used to hard work and being innovative. I enjoyed learning about the unheated high tunnels they use to grow tomatoes and other organic veggies, and the unorthodox use of rain gutters as a vessel for planting seeds in the passive solar greenhouse.
And I could go on and on, but you should go on yourself! Farm tours are a delightful way to see first hand the efforts it takes to bring good food to our tables. And, it's educational!

Be sensible. It's going to be hot, so wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunscreen. Take along some water, too.
Wear sensible shoes. Flip flops are not very good to walk in fields or rocky paths.
Mind your manners, and keep kids under control.
Note the visiting hours - two to six. Don't go early, and don't stay late. These are tired, working folks who may have been up since dawn to do the farmers market, or tend to animals.
Take some cash, and a cooler, to take home some of the wholesome, home grown food you'll find available at most farms. You can't get much fresher than that!
Tickets are available at each of the farms, or at The Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, Stick Boy Bakery or Earth Fare in Boone, and a few other retail outlets. For questions, call 828 264-3061 or email at

Here's a favorite from THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, 2010, Globe Pequot Press, (c) contributed by Shiloh Avery of Tumbling Shoals Farm. It's perfect for this hot weather, requiring little heating up of the kitchen!


As consumers, we are admonished to get to know who grows our food. Shiloh says that works both ways. “Real people with real faces and lives make me the farmer care about what I’m feeding them!” she writes in a monthly newsletter.

2 tablespoons butter

6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 cups sungold tomatoes, cut in half

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)

½ cup (packed) fresh basil, chopped

fettuccine pasta

Romano or Parmesan cheese to taste

1. Boil water for pasta. Add fettuccine when a rapid boil is reached. Cook and drain

2. Heat butter in a large pan. Sauté the garlic, being careful not to burn.

3. Add salt, pepper and halved tomatoes, allowing the tomatoes to “wilt” for a few minutes.

4. Add cream and cook gently, allowing the sauce to thicken.

5. When sauce is to your liking, add peeled shrimp directly to the simmering cream sauce. The shrimp will cook fast, so wait until the end to add them.

6. Add basil.

7. Mix with drained pasta, serve in bowls, and top with freshly grated Romano or Parmesan.

YIELD: 4 servings

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