6 Caldwell sites on regional farm tour
Driving up to Wild Pilgrim Farmstead on Hoyle Road in Lenoir, and a few rows of crops come into view first, followed by the goats’ pen, a row of greenhouses and some bee houses.
As the road continues up the hill, more rows of vegetables appear on the left, near the chicken coop, and all of a sudden you can see how owners Bonnie and Jason Lewis sustain themselves.
Bonnie Lewis and her husband Jason started the farmstead five years ago, one of the few sustenance farms in the area. Sustenance farmers supply almost all their own groceries, everything but coffee, sugar, flour and a few other items.
Vegetables, lamb, eggs, chicken, milk, cheese and even honey is all produced on the farm for the Lewis family and a few customers, who sign up to have a local option for their groceries year round.
Wild Pilgrim Farmstead is just one of 28 farms, breweries and wineries on the Seventh Annual High Country Farm Tour, organized by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, which kicks off Saturday and features sites across Caldwell, Avery, Watauga and Ashe counties.
It's a self-guided tour; one weekend pass allows all of the people in one vehicle to visit as many of the participating sites as they are able to reach. Tour sites are open Saturday and Sunday, 2-6 p.m. each day.
In Caldwell, the tour features Well Preserved Products, Johnny Wilson Farm, Herbville and Crane Farm, Wild Pilgrim Farmstead, Loe's Brewing Co. and Six Waterpots Winery.
All six are participating in the tour for the first time, and this is the first time more than two sites in Caldwell have been included on the tour.
It’s a year of firsts for the tour: featuring the Li’l Locavore series for the first time, with activities at stops aimed at educating children on local food, and a brand new mobile app designed by the computer science department at Appalachian State University.
Weekend passes cost $25 in advance and $30 if bought at a participating site on the day of a visit. Weekend passes are available at the Lenoir Downtown Farmers Market, Watauga County Farmer’s Market, the Ashe County Farmer’s Market, Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, or online at http://farmtour.brwia.org. Farm tour guides are available at all ticket outlets and contain farm descriptions, driving directions and maps.
Courtney Baines, director of programs at Blue Ridge Women, said that as of Thursday this year's pre-registration numbers were five times what they were last year, her first directing the tour. She said that most people sign up Friday and Saturday.
The tour aims to connect local consumers with the local farmers that produce their food, showing what it really takes to put dinner on the table, and where that food comes from.
Bonnie Lewis said she is looking forward to showing people around their farm, hoping to help people understand what it takes to get food from the farm to the table.
“There’s a huge disconnect between consumers and food,” said Amanda Taylor, an extension agent in Caldwell County with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.
The tour’s educational Li’l Locavore series -- a "locavore" is someone who prefers to locally produced food as much as possible -- aims to help close that gap as well, Baines said.
“It's important to educate local kids about agriculture and local farms, that bacon comes from a pig and these types of things,” Baines said.
Li’l Locavore features spots that are especially kid-friendly, with activities like “I spy” games, stickers and a photo contest.
Stops will also feature food and refreshments, products available for purchase, tours and demonstrations.
At Wild Pilgrim, the Lewises will be demonstrating how they milk goats, grilling lamb and beef, offering homemade bread and giving away free root beer, made right on the farm.