Choose Your Own Adventure on the 22nd Annual Piedmont Farm Tour

PFT 2017 Collage

 

You’ve got a map, a ticket (good for a whole carload of people), a thirst for knowledge, a willingness to get a little dirty and the whole weekend ahead of you.

 

Sounds like the setup for one of those Chose Your Own Adventure books from the 1980s, right? Well, kind of. There’s definitely adventure and you’re in control of your route, but instead of chasing mythical creatures, you’ve got the opportunity to get up-close and personal with 35 sustainable farms in the Triangle area on the 22nd Annual Piedmont Farm Tour, 2-6 p.m. April 22-23.

 

The family-friendly (and budget-friendly) two-day event features farms spread across Alamance, Chatham, Orange, and Person counties. The tour really does have something for everyone. Just a small sampling of the things you’ll have the chance to experience: sheep; buffalo; ducks; pasture-raised cattle; vegetables; and solar power and hydroponics in action. Each farm showcases innovative tools for farming sustainably with respect for the natural environment and animal welfare. At each farm, you’ll find a variety of farmer-led and self-guided tour options.

 

Get up close and personal with the baby goats at Celebrity Dairy

Get up close and personal with the baby goats at Celebrity Dairy

 

Choose your route to see a variety of farms across the region!

PFT 2017 Kick Off FarmsGet an early start with SEVEN Kick off Farms!

You’ve asked for longer tours and we are delivering! A select group of farms will open their gates early — starting at noon on both days. At these seven farms only (indicated by stars on the interactive map) you can get a jump start on your farm tour adventure. The extra hours add another layer of excitement to the day, depending on where you chose to start. Please remember, only these special farms will be open early so please wait to visit all other farms until the tour officially begins at 2pm.

 

Plan your Farm Tour Route!

To maximize farm touring time and minimize driving, we suggest picking a favorite farm per day as a starting point and choosing 2-3 other great farms nearby. There are about 60 miles between the northernmost and southernmost farms, so try to choose farms within about 15-20 minutes of each other. Check out the list of farms below, follow the link to their website or Facebook page, and plan your route based on their locations. Once you factor in driving time, you’ll likely need to budget 1-1.5 hours per farm. Plan to visit 3-4 farms per day

Dreaming up your perfect farm tour adventure? Start by picking out your number one, MUST SEE farm, and then choose 2-3 nearby farms for variety. Add a Kick-off Farm in the mix so you can to start your day early!

 

Farm Tour GuideThe guide has all the information you’ll need: a full description of each farm and their products; which farms hold more appeal for children; which are offering snacks or lunch (for an additional fee); and where you’ll find restrooms. In your Farm Tour Guide, you’ll find the farm tour map has been drawn across three regions: Farm Tour North, Farm Tour Central, and Farm Tour South.

 

Google Map: Use the interactive google map to plan your self-paced tour. Farm Tour regions are color coded on the google map: Farm Tour North Farms have green icons,  Farm Tour Central Farms have yellow icons, Farm Tour South farms have red icons.

 

There’s no rule that says you must stay within the color coded groups; you can visit ANY farm in ANY order! Your car pass gives your group access to all 35 farms on both tour days.

 

Farm Tour North

Stoney Mountain Farm

Stoney Mountain Farm

 

Find the Farm Tour North map on page 5 of your printed guide, or check out the GREEN farms on the google map. For a sample route on the Farm Tour North Map, you might start your day at a kick-off farm (Stoney Mountain Farm OR Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm), head to a nearby produce farm for an early afternoon tour (Nourishing Acres), take a break and grab a snack at a diversified farm with animals AND veggies (Cedar Grove Windy Hill Farm), and finish off with a trip to Open Door Farm to pack the cooler with microgreens to then head home and whip up a farm tour inspired dinner for the family. Mix and match your own adventure trail from the farms in this region below! 

 

 

Farm Tour Central 

Plow Girl Farm

Plow Girl Farm

 

Find the Farm Tour Central map on page 8 of your printed guide, or check out the YELLOW farms on the google map. Kick off farms in this region include Minka Farm, Woodcrest Farm, AND Peaceful River Farm. For a sample route in the Farm Tour Central area, we’d start out with a kick-off farm at 12, and then choose 2-3 nearby farms to get a variety of farm tour fun in at a diverse selection of farms. For example, if you wanted to see the adorable barn animals and orchards at Minka Farm, you could start your tour at this kick off farm at 12 and still have time to visit neighbor farm, Fickle Creek Farm (chickens, shep, lams, cows and pigs) for a late lunch of grass-fed beef hotdogs or Polish sausage. From there, head down the road to Dancing Pines Farm to see their year-round produce production in hoop houses, or a bit farther to visit Rocky Run Farm (chickens and intensive vegetable and fruit production) or, in the opposite direction, to Woodcrest Farm (grass-fed beef, pork, dairy cattle, chickens and produce, plus a super cool blacksmith shop and if you’re still hungry: farm-raised BBQ plates!). Finish up your day at RambleRill Farm and bring home farm-fresh products from their new farm store. 

 

Farm Tour South

Reverence Farm

Reverence Farms

 

Find the Farm Tour South map on page 13 of your printed guide, or check out the RED farms on the google map. Okay, the Farm tour South region is ACTION PACKED!!! Luckily there are TWO kick off farms – Reverence Farms and Braeburn Farm – where you can get started early and then work your way through the Southern farm tour region at your leisure. Consider spending one day visiting Pittsboro Farms, one day visiting Saxapahaw farms, and/or a day visiting Snow Camp/Siler City Farms. The Snow Camp and Siler City Farms would also make great additions to a selection of 2 or 3 farms in either the Pittsboro OR Saxapahaw Area. 

The farm tour is an incredible opportunity to see where your food comes from, to meet your local farmer and see first-hand how they grow and raise sustainable crops and livestock.

 

So gather your group, plan your adventure trail and don’t forget to pack a cooler (to store the produce, eggs, cheese, meat, and other farm products). We can’t wait to see you at the 22nd Annual Piedmont Farm Tour.

 

Tour tickets purchased in advance are $30 per car for all farms, all weekend. Become a CFSA member and you’ll save $5 more on advance tickets! Tour is rain or shine.

Buy-Now

 

 

Day-of tickets are $35 (available at the first farm you visit). Or, visit Weaver Street Markets in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough or one of our many other ticket locations across the Triangle to pick up your printed guide and buy your car pass!

The event is co-sponsored by CFSA and Weaver Street Market, an essential partner in building the Piedmont Farm Tour into a Triangle institution over the past more than 20 years. Tour proceeds support the work of CFSA.

Okfuskee Farm: Young Farmers Use Holistic Management as Innovation

by Cindy Flowers, CFSA Intern

Bronwyn, Holland and Bobby Tucker. Photo by Bronwyn Tucker.

Bronwyn, Holland and Bobby Tucker. Photo by Bronwyn Tucker.

 

The Farm in Silk Hope

From the road at Okfuskee Farm, you see a modest farm house, a packing shed, a double green house, a freshly planted shade house and grass growing across gradually terraced fields dotted with young trees. What you may not see, at least not from a passing glance, are the animals Okfuskee Farms is known for–their sheep and pigs.

You’ll have to spot them among the dense grass, where young farmers, Bobby and Bronwyn Tucker have put them out to graze intensively, methodically moving them around the property. The Tuckers see the livestock and the crops at Ofkuskee as tools in the farm’s holistic soil management plan, and, second to that, as part of the farm’s offerings.

This was not always the case. Bobby started farming this 20-acre plot of land in 2008 using permaculture and sustainable practices to raise mostly pigs and market crops. Even though he was using sustainable farming techniques, the long, hard hours had Bobby close to a burnout when Bronwyn came into the picture. She brought the idea that their quality of life should be part of Ofuskee’s well-defined farm vision even if maxium output was not achieved. These days Bobby and Bronwyn focus more on producing lamb and less on growing crops which gives them a better work life balance.

“Being a happy, financially solvent family farm seems like a great mission,” she adds.

Photo by Cindy Flowers

Photo by Cindy Flowers

 

 

Okfusksee Farm’s Holistic Management as Innovation

Holistic Management is not a new concept but, as Bronwyn explains, it has become the “planning and decision making framework that guides both our farm and personal lives.” Their holistic plan has helped “simplify and connect major ecosystem processes with the tools of grazing, animal impact, rest and human creativity, all while minimizing the use of technology.”

Okfuskee Farm pasture. Photo by Cindy Flowers.

Okfuskee Farm pasture. Photo by Cindy Flowers.

Today, the farm implements simple, low-impact technology: specialty hand tools for digging, pruning and grafting; no-till planters; a wood chipper; a flail mower; portable electric fencing; and GIS and CAD for planning and designing grazing and planting patterns and well as computer based record keeping.

Bobby and Bronwyn think about farming at Okfuskee farms as “building an ecosystem above and below the soil.”  “In our climate,” the Tuckers explain, “we can often get away with a ‘less is more’ approach to land management.”

As a part of their Holistic Management plan, the farm boasts native fruit and nut trees, planted alongside berries, and standing over lower-lying native plants like yarrow and dandelion, chosen for their climate-specific hardiness and planted with the curve of the land in a Keyline design to optimize water retention. The over 400 woody plants have been selected based on what would be optimal for the soil and climate.

“Holistic management helps us effectively make decisions as a family across the spectrum of social, environmental and financial perspectives,“ said Bobby.

Photos by Cindy Flowers.

Photos by Cindy Flowers.

Some of these plants aren’t for the market either, but grown for the livestock to graze. The rest, especially the onions and greens grown year around in the greenhouse, are for the market.

Farmer as Activist for Small Farms

Okfuskee Farm has been lucky to take advantage of government grant programs, like the New/Beginning Farmer Cost Sharing grant through NRCS’s EQIP program to install a solar well and water distribution system. This system allowed the farm to optimize livestock and crop rotation, capitalizing on their Holistic Management plan with a deep focus on efficiency and conservation. “The payback from this investment is immeasurable.”

Because of his experiences as a new farmer, including his experience with government grant programs, Bobby participated alongside 30 other farmers in a “fly in” trip to DC to lobby on behalf of small-scale farmers. Bobby said he “was able to personally attest to the first-hand benefits provided to our farm through programs supported in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (CFSA is a partner) bills as well as discuss the challenges faced as a new farmer.”

The trip was sponsored by NSAC with travel assistance from the policy wing of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. Bobby advocated for the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act.

Bobby positively recalls his experience meeting with Representatives, and now focuses his activism toward the local level of government. He is pursuing a Holistic Management Certificate in hopes that he and Bronwyn can consult beginning farmers on land, soil and water management. “We want to pioneer new ideas for both preserving and helping to improve the viability of farms in our community.”

Where can you find Okfuskee Farm Products?

Okfuskee Farms participates in a multi-farm CSA, sells their produce to Terrastay, a local farm aggregator, and sells their meat directly to Rose’s Meat Market, Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe and Sethi’s Restaurant. Okfuskee Farms also hopes to supply lamb to First Hand Foods, a North Carolina pasture-raised meat distributor, in the coming season.

What will you see on the tour?

Photos by Cindy Flowers.

Photos by Cindy Flowers.

Follow @OkfuskeeFarm on Instagram and Facebook for an exclusive preview since this is the farm’s maiden year on the Piedmont Farm Tour, April 22-23 from 2-6PM. The farm has a walkable gravel drive that makes for easy viewing of all the farm has to offer, including:

  • An active double green house with rain water retention system,

  • A newly planted shade house,

  • Momma pigs and piglets (yes, PIGLETS!),

  • Holistic farm tools like a no-till planter, prepping roller and a three point hitch wood chipper that is used for agroforestry management and mushroom production,

  • An old Ford Tractor,

  • Water retention pond,

  • Solar panels,

  • And more!

Make sure to look down at the grass! You won’t see any sheep here. The sheep grow on a neighboring 20-acre pasture and are finished on the farm’s fields. The first round of sheep will move onto the farm’s fields in the summer.

Okfuskee Farms is one of 7 new farms on the 2017 Piedmont Farm Tour. The 2017 #Piedmontfarmtour is April 22-23 from 2-6pm, advance tickets are $30 per car for all farms, all weekend; day of registration is $35. Click here to see the full brochure.

Cindy Flowers, former Marketing Director at Deep Roots Market in Greensboro, is a graduate student in the NC A&T School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and intern for the 22nd Annual Piedmont Farm Tour. She has a certificate in Sustainable Livestock Management from CCCC and is a long time advocate for sustainable farming, small producers and North Carolina’s local foods system.

Piedmont Farm Tour Farm Stays

Looking for a truly memorable place to stay on farm tour weekend? How about a farm stay? Choose from camp sites, cabins, guest rooms and a bed and breakfast – all at farms on the farm tour! Contact the farms directly.

Learn More

Cates Corner Farm: A North Carolina Century Farm Thrives in the 21st Century

by Laura Fieselman, Writer and Folklorist

Cates Corner Farm

Photo: https://catescornerfarm.com/about/

“We really believe in good food.” That’s Jonathan Ray of Cates Corner Farm on why he and his family choose small-scale sustainable agriculture. “And we’ve got a strong attachment to the land, I reckon,” he says.

 

Together with his wife, Audrey, Jonathan is reviving his family’s historic farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Under Jonathan and Audrey’s direction, Cates Corner Farm grows over 40 varieties of fresh produce for sale at an on-site farm stand, at the Carrboro and Southern Village Farmers’ Markets, via a Community Supported Agriculture program, and at Weaver Street Market.

 

Farms sales grew organically out of Jonathan’s return to the farm in 2009. “I had a feeling I wanted to do some farming,” he says, “but I didn’t think it would turn into a full-time thing.” It began with a small garden while Jonathan was working as a stone mason, and in short order Jonathan had excess produce on his hands. The Rays started selling the produce and slowly scaling up their operation. In 2015, things changed: “I put down the trowel and picked up the shovel and the pitchfork,” says Jonathan of his commitment to farm full-time.

 

Cates Corner Farm barns

Photo by Jonathan Ray

Life on the farm is not new to Jonathan. He grew up on this land, and tells stories about tumbling out of the school bus and in to the barns. Fishing in the farm ponds is a favorite memory of time with his father, and time in the dairy with his mother, Betty Cates Ray, is another. “She had me sitting in the corner watching her milk,” Jonathan says, describing his after-school hours.

 

Cates Corner Farm traces its history through Jonathan and his mother to his grandfather, John Cates, who operated the farm as a dairy. John Cates was married to Ada Long, the youngest daughter of James Daniel Long. The Longs were part of the long family line that farmed this land at the corner of Arthur Minnis Road and Union Grove Church Road in southern Orange County. Their story goes back to an 18th century land grant from the King of England; read the full family history here.  The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has recognized Cates Corner as a NC Century Farm, positioning it as one of 1800 farms in the state with 100+ years of continuous ownership.

 

Cates Corner Farm historyJonathan and Audrey are the eighth generation to work this land, and though farming runs deep in their family, success in the 21st century doesn’t come easily. The hardest part of farming these days, reports Jonathan, is keeping up with technology. “I’d rather have my hands in the dirt,” he says of the digital communication that pulls him away from time on the land. But the family is committed to keeping up with technology; Jonathan takes photos during day on the farm and Audrey (who works as a dental hygienist by day) scrolls through them in the evenings, picking her favorites for the farm’s beautiful Instagram feed, @cates_corner_farm. It’s a popular feed, and the couple appreciates that their social media channels enable customers to feel connected to the farm.

 

Coming soon to Cates Corner Farm is a series of new additions. The couples’ five-year expansion plan includes an acre or two of pick-your-own blueberries, plus livestock and poultry. Infrastructure developments will include a high-tunnel and a walk-in cooler; in combination the tunnel and cooler will diversify the farm’s options for growing and harvesting produce. And the most exciting addition of all? The beginning of the ninth generation of this family farm – Jonathan and Audrey are expecting a little girl this summer!

 

Find Cates Corner Farm on the 2016 Piedmont Farm Tour. Cates Corner is one of three outstanding farms on the Piedmont Farm Tour Adventure Trail 6. The 2016 #PiedmontFarmTour is April 23-24 from 2-6pm, advance tickets are $30 per car for all farms, all weekend; day of registration is $35; discounts for CFSA members. Jonathan is busy sprucing up the farm for the tour now: “It’s not going to look perfect,” he says, “But heck, it’s a farm none-the-less!”

MEMBER PROFILE: Peregrine and Perry-winkle Farms

Growing the Local Food Revolution

Twenty Years on the Piedmont Farm Tour

by Stephanie Campbell, Outreach Coordinator 

The first Piedmont Farm Tour, 1996

The first Piedmont Farm Tour, 1996

Twenty years ago, Betsy Hitt of Peregrine Farms in Graham, NC had an idea that continues to bear fruit today. She had heard about an Open Studio Artist Tour and thought a farm tour would be a great fundraiser for CFSA. After the very first CFSA Fundraising Committee meeting, Betsy walked across the street to ask Linda Fullwood if Weaver Street Market (WSM), a cooperative grocery store in Carrboro, NC, would co-sponsor the farm tour. With Linda’s enthusiastic “Yes!”  WSM was on board as a partner and the Piedmont Farm Tour was born.

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