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Tour a few farms, learn a lot

Johnson City Press • Jun 21, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Most of us live an existence far too separated from what we eat.

Between processed deli meats, frozen pizzas, pre-cut pineapples and bagged salads, we don’t even have to interact much with our food before we bite, much less think about where it comes from. How many of today’s kids have ever had to wash and peel a carrot?

With drive-thru speakers and those new-fangled kiosks at the Mickey D’s, we don’t even have to be face to face when we order.

Many would balk at joining in an old-fashioned hog killing, but we sure do enjoy our pulled pork in Northeast Tennessee.

Although they face increasing economic challenges, farmers are still a big part of Northeast Tennessee’s way of life. You don’t have to venture far outside our urban centers to find mile after mile of rolling agricultural land.

But other than going to a local pumpkin patch or a corn maze for Halloween, when was the last time you actually set foot on working farm?

Appalachian Sustainable Development wants to change that and reconnect you with your food. The Abingdon, Virginia-based organization is dedicated to supporting agriculture here in Central Appalachia with the training, tools, and resources for sustainable business.

One way the ASD staff plans to do that is to give people a taste of reality via a series of tours through farms in Northeast Tennessee and neighboring Southwest Virginia. Funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, the Farm Fresh Appalachia Farm Tours are coordinated with Appalachian Research Conservation and Development Council, Jonesborough’s Boone Street Market and the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association.

As Press Staff Writer Jessica Fuller reported last week, the goal is to acquaint the average shopper with local food sources, resulting in more support for local farmers.

“A huge chunk of our economy in Tennessee is agriculture, and that’s going to shift if we do not — even in the next five years — really start pushing to support our farmers,” event coordinator Rachel Wheeler told Fuller.

The first of these self-guided tours is slated for Saturday to take guests to small farms here in Washington County. Tours kick off at either the Jonesborough or Johnson City farmers markets, where visitors should present their tickets to receive a map indicating which farms to visit, complete with directions. A week later, tours will wind through Washington, Tazewell and Russell counties in Virginia. Tickets are just $15 per car load for one Saturday or $25 for both. They’re available for purchase at arcd.org/registration and the Boone Street Market in downtown Jonesborough.

We encourage any family, especially those with school-age children, to take advantage of the opportunity. You’ll learn about the origins or your food and the hard work behind it, as well as the importance of buying local.

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