Piedmont Farm Tour 2013!
by Karen Kanakanui, CFSA member
Originally posted at Stories Taste Good
I had a great time last weekend during the 2013 Piedmont Farm Tour, co-sponsored by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and Weaver Street Market, a food co-op here in central NC. For those of you don’t know, the Farm Tour takes place over two afternoons in a weekend and – this year – 39 farms in the area opened up their gates to visitors. Realistically, you can only visit 3-4 farms per day in order to fully experience each farm.
My kids said, “Is that what the country looks like?” Now keep in mind that we lived in West Virginia up until a few years ago, so it’s not like we don’t know country!
We toured two farms on the second day and my children enjoyed the animals, saw a sheep sheared, newborn pigs, and rode a horse. My overall impression – and I think I probably already knew this – was that farmers work hard! At Coon Rock Farm, we saw a huge field that is waiting to be planted with various kinds of heirloom tomatoes. I looked at that field and thought about all the work involved in planting tomatoes to fill it up, then caring for them, and harvesting them. And that’s just one field!
Clearly, people are called to farm – the descriptions of each farm speak of a commitment to sustainability, preservation of seeds and animals that are in danger of disappearing, and all kinds of innovation for farming, irrigation, and even training the next generation. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from one farm: “Come see how we turn soil, sunlight, and grass into milk and our delicious farmhouse cheeses.”
My city-fied children loved the animals, except for one duck that chased them! Lots of chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle – it was definitely a close up look at where some of our food comes from!
Sheep shearing at Minka Farm
From a marketing point of view, the Farm Tour does a great job of helping visitors pick out which farms to visit. Each farm has a one or two paragraph description of what they do and what a visitor can expect to see. And I think the individual farms wrote them because some of the descriptions showed really strong personalities that drew me in and made me put that farm on my “must see” list.
There were also icons beside each description indicating whether or not the farm had appeal for kids, if it offered restrooms, and if food was available for sale. So this year I chose kid friendly and food available, since I wanted to buy some grass-fed beef and I wanted to take my children! And again, this is a good job of differentiating the farms as it gives visitors another way of choosing.
This was our first year attending the Farm Tour, although it’s the 18th year the tour has been offered. I’ve already identified a couple of farms I hope to visit next year.
Day-old piglets at Coon Rock Farm
Read more from CFSA member Karen Kanakanui on her blog Stories Taste Good. Karen is a copywriter, marketer and business storyteller.
A Volunteer’s Reflection on an Unusual Farm Tour Experience
by CFSA member David Walbert
Photos by Ivy
Saturday afternoon my daughter and I volunteered on a local farm tour, at Windy Acres Farm where the two main attractions are goats and pickles. I’ve got a cabinetful of pickles at home, but no goats, and I figured even if a nine year-old girl got bored checking people in and welcoming them to a farm then surely baby goats would keep her entertained for hours. I was more right than I’d bargained for, as it turned out.
We arrived too early. We were supposed to arrive half an hour before the tour started, to set up and get the lay of the land, but I got us there half an hour before that. The farm was, I thought (and Google Maps confirmed) over half an hour away, and I had to stop off to buy chicken feed. But the map was conservative, the trip easy and the errand quick, and so I allowed far too much time. As I climbed out of the car and saw Mike, the farmer, walking towards me, I apologized and promised to stay out of the way.
“No problem,” he said, friendly but a little hurried. “In fact we’ve got a goat giving birth right at the moment, if your daughter wants to watch.”
I leaned back into the car. “Ivy, you want to watch a goat give birth?” A second passed while my words sunk in — it is not the sort of question she is used to being asked — and then she bounded out of the car.
Mike had come up to the house not to greet us but to call his wife, Katherine, to help him; the doe had been in labor for some time and seemed to be wearing out. When the four of us got down to the barn the poor girl was bleating miserably, having managed to produce a few bulging inches of amniotic sac and two hooves — the front ones, luckily, and the head was next, but she was clearly in distress. Katherine held her by the head while Mike tried to move the kid, but the doe was struggling and he had trouble holding onto the kid’s legs.
“Push, girl,” he said, but she didn’t.
“Sir? Would you mind giving us a hand?”
I climbed over the gate and wrapped my arms around the doe’s neck, steadying her while Mike and Katherine, doctor and midwife, both worked to free the baby.
“I want her to push,” said the doctor.
“She can’t push,” said the midwife. “She’s worn out.”
So they nudged and pulled and guided, and the doe thus encouraged gave a couple of halfhearted thrusts, and in half a minute the kid slithered out and began to kick and bleat. Mike showed the doe her baby, and we all got out of the way.
Only some hours later, watching other people’s reactions to this story, did any of it strike me as miraculous. No, let me rephrase that: only later did I remember that it was miraculous. Not because the baby should normally have died, or anything like that. Not because the birth required an act of heroism; it was all in a day’s work if you breed livestock. It was in the moment almost businesslike, calm in the way that really urgent matters must be. Purposeful calm is infectious, and walking back to the house my attitude was one of “yep, all in a day’s work,” when, in fact, I have never in my life attended a goat’s birth. There were dozens of kids running around outside, all born in the past several weeks, and now another had been born: a good thing, but perfectly ordinary.
It wasn’t a miracle because it was extraordinary. It was a miracle, I suppose, simply because life is a miracle. We forget that too easily — or, embarrassed by the language, we rationalize it away in favor of purely materialistic explanations. We forget or we refuse to be amazed and awed by what would, had we never seen it before, amaze and awe us. This is, I think, the main reason I like spending time on farms, and gardening and working with animals, and even simply tramping off through the woods: it puts me in a place where miracles are there for the taking. The leaves emerge from the buds of a poplar tree, day by day, perfect miniscules of their summer selves. The swallowtail will lay her eggs in my herb garden and her caterpillars will eat up all my parsley and become chrysalises and then butterflies. Seeds become food; babies grow; last year’s rubbish rots and births new life. They’re miracles if you want them.
One can’t, of course, spend one’s entire life standing around being awed and amazed. There’s rarely time in the present for miracles: you don’t want, for example, your obstetrician stopping to sermonize about the miracle of life while you’re lying on a table ten centimeters dilated, or while your wife is. (I can speak from personal experience only to the latter, but I’m pretty certain about the former as well. The goat certainly wouldn’t have been interested.) And you can easily take this sort of thing too far, into a mystical pantheism that has you fearing to cut down a tree to make a chair and daring not to step on an ant, too full of wonder ever to get any work done.
The harder thing to remember is that all of these things, seedling, tree, ant, goat, butterfly, you, me, are all perfectly ordinary — and they’re all miraculous. We need to recognize both, to hold both in our head simultaneously. We need the sensible farmer and the mystic poet; we need perhaps to be both. The best farmers, I think, respect the mystery that lies beyond and underneath what they can see and understand and control, and the best mystics have gardens. We need to be awed, far more often than we are, perhaps as often as possible, not to remind us that we are ordinary by comparison to the truly awesome, but to remind us that miracles themselves are ordinary, and no less miraculous for it.
They are miracles if, as I said, you want them. And if not? Well, then, as Wallace Stevens wrote,
Have it your way.
The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.
My daughter, anyway, didn’t need all this ponderous analysis. She watched the birth rapt, silent, wide-eyed. She made sure to tell everyone who visited the farm that afternoon, all hundred and sixty-odd of them, that a baby goat had been born just a few hours earlier, and they could go down to the barn and see it if they liked. She volunteered to lug food and fresh water down to the mother, and tramped off in search of a two week-old kid who wasn’t with his own mama. But she will not, I expect, have any qualms about a good bit of cabrito, any more than she spurned a sample of chorizo after cooing over how cute this year’s new piglet was. She knows how it works. That newborn kid is going to grow up one of these days, and when he does, he’ll be somebody’s dinner. And, I’m certain, a delicious one. He is a miracle, but — and — he is an ordinary one. So is all this glorious mess, and we had better get used to the idea.
Find this blog post and more from CFSA member David Walbert on his website The New Agrarian. David is a writer, historian, craftsman, and believer in small-scale, broad-based, participatory, part-time, and amateur farming.
Mike and Katherine Berezny own Windy Acres Farm. You can find them at Saturday market in Hillsborough with a variety of herbicide and pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, in addition to beef, pork, and goat meat.
The Piedmont Farm Tour: A Glimpse of the Work Behind our Food
by Kristi of 30 Pounds of Apples blog
Editor’s Note: Don’t miss the Upstate Farm Tour, happening this weekend – June 2-3!
Most weekends, my schedule is built around my weekly pilgrimage to the Durham Farmers Market. The crowded aisles, tables heavy with seasonal bounty, festive melodies echoing through the pavilion: it is far more than a weekly grocery trip.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of farmers market shopping is the chance to speak to the farmers and ranchers responsible for producing the food I buy each week. So when I heard about the Annual Piedmont Farm Tour, a whole weekend when local farms open their barns and their fields to the public, I jumped at the chance to meet these farmers on their own turf and see the lands they cultivate.
As farmers markets and farm tours become more popular across the nation, one thing has become clear: it’s no longer just foodies and principled growers taking an interest in where their food comes from. “Farm-fresh food” seems to be a subject of public discourse more and more as Americans are starting to realize the immense costs of industrialized food systems. Yet the rolling fields and silo-dotted vistas that are making their way into the public eye do not adequately portray the immense work that goes into the production of fresh, local food. So while the farms of the Piedmont certainly have plenty of picturesque views, I decided instead to focus on evidence of that work.
It is sometimes easy to forget how much growers must work to produce the bundles of chard, the blocks of cheese, or the heads of broccoli that we so blithely swap for cash at the weekly market. Having recently started a small garden of my own, I am sometimes amazed by how much 120 square feet can drive my agenda: watering, pulling up plants gone to seed, re-introducing compost to the soil in preparation of planting new seeds, watering some more, harvesting, all in the humid climes of the Piedmont.
The Farm Tour gives us a chance to see that chard in the field, thousands of leaves uncut, unbundled, and requiring continuous harvest; it lets us see the place where cows are milked, where milk is transformed into cheese, and where cheese is prepared for sale in tiny blocks; it shows us the enormous care that goes into combating insects that enjoy eating broccoli as much as we do.
Since graduating from college four years ago, I’ve made changes as my budget allowed to purchase my food as locally as possible. These days, there is hardly anything I still buy from the gleaming aisles of grocery stores (and even most of those needs are met by the friendly faces at Weaver Street Market). Some of my friends are curious to know: how can I afford it? Isn’t it a lot more expensive to buy your food from farms and farmers markets instead of the grocery store up the road? Do you get frustrated that you can only buy groceries once a week?
Visiting these farms is all the affirmation I need that I’m doing the right thing. And the Farm Tour doesn’t just remind me of why I go out of my way to buy local food: it’s an opportunity for fresh eyes, for curious minds, to begin to realize that importance for themselves. And with every individual, we get closer to shifting the mindset and the policies of the nation.
One step at a time.
by Marie Maguire
Editor’s Note: Don’t miss this year’s Piedmont Farm Tour! Buy your tickets today!
Last weekend, here in Switzerland, facing the prospect of yet more dreary weather, off we went to visit the terraced vineyards of Lavaux . The terraces form Switzerland’s largest contiguous vineyard area and offer breath taking views of Lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains. The vineyards date back over 800 years and have been classified a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You may be thinking that Switzerland produces chocolate and watches only. Actually, the Swiss also produce wonderful, reasonably priced wines, but production is limited. To put it in perspective, Swiss wine production is the equivalent of about five per cent of California wine production and virtually all of it is consumed domestically.
What does this have to do with North Carolina, you ask?
North Carolina, like Switzerland, also has a thriving wine industry. Grape growing dates back to around the time of Sir Walter Raleigh’s arrival in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the Old North State has more than 100 wineries, and their number has doubled since 2005. In the United States, North Carolina ranks ninth for wine production and tenth for grape production.
Here’s why this is relevant. No doubt many of you know this weekend is the not-to-be-missed 17th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour (April 28 and 29 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm). This year, the Tour features one of North Carolina’s sustainable wineries: the Winery at Iron Gate Farms www.irongatevineyards.com.
Iron Gate Farms has produced award-winning wines for over ten years now. In 2009 it received the Times News (Burlington) Readers Choice Award for Best Winery & Wine Shop. It received the North Carolina Winegrower’s Cup in 2005 for its cabernet. It’s not just North Carolinians who appreciate their wine. For several years, the wines received awards in the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition, and the wines have garnered awards in other competitions. Yet, to quote Debbie Stikeleather, “the success of the Winery at Iron Gate Farms can be seen not only in its awards and the number of bottles it sells, but in the land it allows [me] to care for and protect” (from A Guide to North Carolina Wineries, Second Edition). In addition to their wines, Iron Gate Farms has Belgian draft horses, fainting goats, chickens, barn cats and dogs and is well worth a visit.
As you tour some of the 40 farms on this year’s Piedmont Farm Tour, be sure to stop by and taste the wines at the Winery at Iron Gate Farms and learn more about their sustainable practices. And be sure to let Debbie and Gene Stikeleather and her crew know the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association sent you.
by Kathiey Voshell
Yesterday afternoon Joe and I decided to go on the Piedmont Farm Tour. I had never heard of it, but this was their 16th year. There were 40 farms on the tour this year. We only had a few hours and wanted to see them all, but realistically knew we had to narrow it down. So with our guide in hand, we selected 4 farms to visit….let the fun begin….here are a few shots of our adventure!
Joe listened to the talk given by the farmer. He learned about sustainable crops. He said that after a field was harvested, turkeys and chickens came in and ate from the site; when they were done, they send in the pigs and they clear the land. Everything works together. Makes total sense. Of course I was off taking pictures and playing with the puppies so I missed most of the talk, but that’s ok because I love taking pictures…..and petting puppies:-)
As I was reading about each farm, I kept coming across lines like “happy chickens,” “happy cows,” and “happy pigs.” I could not imagine what this meant. But as I wandered the properties I began to understand. These animals were happy. They were in a great environment. Open spaces, plenty of room, plenty of food and water. They seemed content and were well cared for. Yes, I know the final end for many of these animals is our table, but it is good to know that they lived their life as they were meant to. We had heard horror stories about how some animals are kept, and I was glad to see a better way. I want to start buying my meats, eggs and veggies from local farms as much as possible. They need our support.
We saw this dog in the field with the sheep. He was HUGE. It was like he did not even see us. He only had eyes for his sheep. I thought he may be a Great Pyrenees, but Joe, who attended the lecture, told me that the breed name started with an “m.” So off to Google I went. I found one called a Maremma from Italy. This must be the one. They can weigh anywhere from 65-110 pounds and are bred just to be livestock guardian dogs. Someone asked the question, “what are they protecting the sheep from?” The answer was coyotes. We were told (well, Joe was told, I was taking pictures:-) that coyotes hunt in packs. One day the guardian was not with the sheep and a pack of coyotes killed 12 lambs. Awful! He also said you won’t find many stray cats in the area because they too are prey for coyotes.
Great saying….”Save water, drink wine.” I think that will be my motto:-)
When I was a baby my dad had dairy cows. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember my mom saying it was hard work and that you had to be there every day to do the milking twice a day. When someone asked one of our hosts if they had to be milked daily, the response was, “yes, we have tried to explain holidays and vacations but they just don’t seem to understand”:-)
We had a wonderful,wonderful day at the farm tour. Next year I hope to visit more farms. Great fun and if you are good student like Joe, you will learn a lot too:-)
Enjoy Your World Everyone:-)
By Sarah Sinning
Ah! Spring is in the air—the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the weather is turning oh so delightful… Okay, fine, the frost on my windshield this morning, not to mention the obscenity of my last electric bill, seem to suggest otherwise. But, come on! We’re pretty close, right? Isn’t this the South?
Of course I realize (with a sigh) that it is only the beginning of February, and Father Winter still has the majority of us locked hard in an icy stranglehold; but what’s the use of focusing on that? I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with his frosty attitude. So let’s jump forward to happier times, shall we? (Take that, Ice Devil!)
For those of you out there who have been longtime supporters of CFSA (for which we most gratefully thank you, by the way), you may already know where I’m going with this. I therefore pose the following question strictly for rhetorical purposes (how else am I supposed to cleverly segue to the point of all this?): What does spring—that adorable cherub of a season—mean for CFSA? The Piedmont Farm Tour, of course!
(Farms on Parade! What? I’m so sorry…although it would make a rather fun alt-rock song…Rage Against the Plow, anyone?)
Yes, the Piedmont Farm Tour will be upon us before we know it, and this lowly intern (pardon my French) is flippin’ stoked! While I haven’t been privy to all the details—that’s another intern’s department—I was invited to tag along with her on a visit to one of this year’s farms: Chapel Hill Creamery.
Okay, for anyone reading this who isn’t familiar with this wonderful gem of an operation, let me give you the low down. Just over a decade ago, Chapel Hill Creamery was merely a twinkle in the eyes of Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley. While they have since transformed themselves into quite the dynamic dairying and cheese-making duo, neither one of these incredibly talented and accommodating ladies (they did let three rogue interns roam around the farm in the middle of a work day!) come from anything like a farming background. Yes, you read that correctly. With only their UNC diplomas (Portia’s in Chemistry and Flo’s in Philosophy and Religious Studies) and an incredibly powerful desire “to make cheese,” Portia and Flo made it happen. They took classes, read lots of books, bought some land, and the rest is history—creamy, delicious history.
(Okay, the real story is obviously a lot more complicated than that, but there’s only so much room on a blog! What’s that? Fine, you don’t have to twist my arm! I’ll go a bit deeper—jeez!)
As I was saying…
Making cheese wasn’t the only goal, however; they wanted to do it in a way that would be good for the land, good for the cows, and good for the local economy. Originally planning on simply purchasing milk from local producers to make their artisanal products, Flo and Portia quickly learned that this would be easier said than done. “The dairy industry in North Carolina,” Portia explained, “is in terrific trouble.” Even though they were committed to purchasing locally, there simply wasn’t enough milk available. Delayed, but never daunted, they decided to take matters into their own hands; they decided to become dairy farmers.
But these two are certainly not your average dairywomen! And there’s nothing average about their farm! They utilize an “intensive rotational grazing” system—involving separation of their 5 acres of pasture into separate paddocks—to ensure that their cows have access to the best grass available, while also keeping said grass as happy and vibrant as their hoofed co-workers. And as the operation continues to grow, they are happy to announce that they’re upping the ante, with plans in the works for building a new compost bedded barn for the cows (I’ll leave it to the knowledgeable folks at NC Cooperative Extension to explain how that works) as well as a hoop house for their pink, curly tailed pals—yes, I’m talking about pigs.
If you’re wondering where the heck these pigs came from—we’re talking about a dairy, right? And the last time I checked pigs aren’t commonly milked—hold your horses (or which ever animal you choose); I’m getting to that! Cows produce milk, and then the milk gets separated into curds and whey, and then the curds get made into cheese, and then the whey gets…Hmm, what does happen to the whey? It makes delightful pork chops, of course! Yes, for the past several years, Portia and Flo have been raising pigs (Berkshire right now, but switching to Tamworth for their more marketable fat content) primarily on the leftover whey from the cheese-making process. But because these muddy bad boys do some serious damage to the pasture, they will soon be building them their very own house complete with its very own whey fountain. No, there won’t be any whey jerks behind the bar—oh why, Dear Reader, do you even put up with me?—but this system will allow the excess whey to be directly pumped in for dinner. In the meantime, if you would like to taste this wonderful product for yourself, Chef Andrea Reusing proudly serves it up at The Lantern in Chapel Hill six days a week.
But what about the cheese? Aren’t you going to tell us about that? Yes, as a matter of fact I am, but I’m afraid it will have to wait until later in the week. I seem to have a problem keeping my words to a minimum; so in order to keep you kind folks on board, I’ll save that little tidbit—complete with a recipe of my own!—until you have all recuperated from what this post has probably done to you.
ÂFeaturing farms in Alamance,
People like Alex and Betsy Hitt of Peregrine Farms, Cathy Jones and Mike Perry of Perry-winkle Farm, Ken Dawson and Libby Outlaw at Maple Spring Gardens, Bill Dow of Ayrshire Farm and many, many others have been working to provide wholesome food utilizing environmentally-safe production methods for Triangle area families for 25 years. We are fortunate that these innovative growers open their farms for the public to visit. Â
ÂTour visitors got the chance to see how organic practices have helped local farms cope with the continuing drought. Farms like Fickle Creek,
This year’s Piedmont Farm Tour, April 19-20, features one of those organic dairying success stories that NCDA and Farm Bureau seem to have missed (http://www.carolinafarmstewardsblog.org/?p=7). Lindale Organic Dairy in Snow Camp is the first organic dairy in Chatham County and you can see first hand the incredible work and dedication that Neill and Cori Lindley have put in to convert their formerly conventional operation to organic by visiting them during the tour. The LindleysÂ have become incredible ambassadors for this kind of dairying and it’s positive impacts on their animals, their pastures, and the families they serve with their milk.
The farm is a member of the Organic Valley CROPP cooperative (http://www.organicvalley.coop/), and Organic Valley is so impressed with the operation that the companyÂ is bringing its chain grocery customers to the farm later in April. (CFSA will be taking advantage of the opportunity to present Organic Valley with our 2007 Business of the Year award, http://chatham.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=news&ci=EXCE+2.)
Piedmont Farm Tour visitors will get a unique opportunity–first of it’s kind in the entire Southeast–to see an organic dairy in operation and learn how the Lindleys cope with the challenges of our climate to manage a dairy herd without antibiotics or hormones, while adhering to Organic Valley’s strict pasture requirements (more strict than the USDA’s). Please, when you visit, make sure to pay attention to biosecurity measures we’ll have in place and do your part to help protect the Lindale herd and our food supply!
It looks to be another great tour. Hope you can join us.