Well, maybe not so fresh a recap since it’s been 2 weeks since Charlotte Fresh and hubby went on the 2010 Know Your Farms Tour. I have been seriously slow in my picture editing; my humble apologies. The tour was a fantastic event – we clocked almost 7 hours and drove 286 miles while visiting six farms across two days. Whew! Did you make it to the tour? If not, definitely plan to attend next year. This year, we had an amazing set of 27 farms to choose from – up from just nine last year. I’ve heard that Know Your Farms is already beginning to plan for the 2011 tour – it takes that much work! Thanks to everyone who made it possible! Here’s the recap on the farms we visited:
Saturday, Sept. 18th
We started out at Kerr Mill Holsteins (1030 Kerr Mill Road, Mount Ulla), run by Chris Hoffner and family. This 550-acre farm has been UDSA Certified Organic since 2007 and supplies milk to the Organic Valley co-op. (We sampled some Organic Valley string cheese and got some coupons.) Chris took us on a tour of the milking operation while the cows rested out back. Later, Shane pulled us along with the tractor, and Connie went on a hay ride with us to see some cows in the pasture. The Hoffners also raise some cattle for meat – we sampled meatballs, and they were terrific! I bought some stew meat to try at home. An added bonus: Jennifer Lapidus (the NC Organic Bread Flour Project coordinator) demonstrated the milling of organic soft wheat grown on the farm. Very cool – I bought a 3 lb. bag of flour to make some scones.
Next stop was Goforth’s Garden (10000 Meismer Ln, Rockwell), a sustainable peach orchard and vegetable garden owned by David and Rene Goforth. When we arrived for the tour, we were greeted with our second hay ride of the day! This ride went to the solar greenhouse and around the orchard, where the peaches were already done for the season. They grow ten yellow varieties, two white varieties and two doughnut-shaped varieties. When asked which varieties are suitable for the home or hobby gardener, David suggests Contender or China Pearl because the blooms have some cold tolerance. Contender is also very sweet. And we were told that unless you are willing to spray peach trees, you will have bugs. Perhaps peaches are better left to the knowledgeable farmer to grow. Even so, the 2007 Easter freeze killed off all the peaches – that year, Goforth was left with three whole peaches; one for him and two for the deer.
Final stop for Day One of the tour was Dover Vineyards (3220 Concord Parkway S, Concord), owned by Elizabeth Anne Dover. Elizabeth and team tend to this efficient 4-acre organically farmed vineyard near the raceway that is planted primarily with Chambourcin and Vidal blanc grapes. With experience in horticulture from NC State University, studies in New Zealand and additional online classes with the University of California-Davis, she is working toward a first vintage to be released in 2012. In the meantime, she is also working on a vegetable CSA. We took a tour of the vineyard and veggies, learned about Pierce’s disease and admired the irrigation lines. Elizabeth has grand plans for her great-grandmother’s estate – the foundations of the former home will someday be a tasting room.
Sunday, Sept. 19th
After all the driving the previous day, we thought we’d push it even further and hit Kings Mountain as the first stop of the day. I wanted to visit our farmer friend Shelley Proffitt Eagan at Proffitt Family Farms to see where our grass-fed beef comes from. And we were not disappointed. Driving up, it’s like visiting a serene vineyard or a beautiful ranch. The whole family is involved in this wonderful operation. Melissa gave us an intro, and we walked around the property, saw the fishing pond and the horses. By September 2010 all PFF’s pastures (including Shelby, NC and Blacksburg, SC) will have been certified organic. Shelley showed us the head gate and explained how they use it for all sorts of things – pregnancy checks, safe castrations and tagging young calves; we saw the chickens. The cattle were absent on this hot day – most of them were on the larger pastures or hiding under trees, but we did see one lone light-colored steer or bull munching around. Lunch was a terrific Proffitt’s beef sausage with caramelized onions and blue cheese aioli – I can’t believe I had never tried the sausage before. (Sorry I forgot to take a picture.) I bought some sausage, other beef cuts and Gregory’s Home Bakery sourdough bread for home, but had to skip the chair massage since we were running late to our next farm. If you missed this awesome establishment, you can visit Proffitt on their own farm tour day Friday, November 26th – see my Special Events page for details.
From King’s Mountain, we high-tailed it down to see our farmer friends Mark and Mindy Robinson at Tega Hills Farm (1780 Zoar Rd, Fort Mill, SC). If you haven’t had their hydroponic lettuces or their microgreens, your tastebuds haven’t lived. Their booth at the Matthews Farmers’ Market frequently has a long line starting at the opening bell. (Tega Hills supplies many area white-tablecloth restaurants with their fine produce, so chances are you have experienced their greens, squash flowers or other veggies.) Mark is very passionate about what they’ve built since 1999 when they started out as a tomato producer; he showed us the clever lettuce hydroponic tanks, and we walked past tray after tray of microgreens – basil, cilantro, radish, pea shoots… you-name-it, in their controlled environments. I got to check out more chickens which always makes me happy.
As the day started running out, we rushed east to Windcrest Farm (518 Greenfield Dr, Monroe). We did not realize just how far Monroe is from Fort Mill and almost didn’t leave enough time! Mary Roberts and Ray Tarlton run this certified organic farm that offers plants, produce, soil supplements and classes. When we buy plants for the growing season, we tend to buy them from Mary at the Matthews Farmers’ Market. Ray gave us a primo tour, showing us his carpentry handiwork, the neat hoop houses and greenhouses, the shitake logs and even Vegas-the-chicken. We even tasted malabar spinach for the first time; it’s such a cool-looking and delicious plant, I’m planning to grow it next year.