Do you know where your food comes from?
Appalachian Resource Conservation & Development Council wants to show you this month with a series of tours aimed at giving guests a first-hand glimpse of some of the region’s farms.
The tours are split into two circuits — one weekend covers farms in Northeast Tennessee, and the next takes guests to farms in Southwest Virginia. This is the first year for the Farm Fresh Appalachian Farm Tours, event coordinator Rachel Wheeler said, and serves as a way to get the average shopper acquainted with local food sources.
“The goal is to develop a closer relationship between the community and farmers — the closer relationship you have with the farmers, the better relationship you have with your food,” Wheeler said. “It’s about supporting our local food system, supporting our agricultural economy.
“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.”
Wheeler said farm tours have been popular in other places like western North Carolina, so Appalachian Resource Conservation & Development Council teamed with other organizations like Appalachian Sustainable Development, Boone Street Market and the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association to plan the tour, which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The tours are self-guided and cost $15 per vehicle to participate for one weekend or $25 for both weekends. The first tour will take guests to small farms throughout Washington County, Tennessee, on June 23, and through Washington, Tazewell and Russell counties in Virginia on June 30. Some of the farms on the tours include Serenity Knoll, Grand Oak and River Creek farms in Tennessee and Clinch Valley and Kelly Ridge farms in Virginia.
Across both tours, guests will be able to visit 13 farms, where some will have different activities and demonstrations, not to mention goods for sale and different opportunities for lunch and dinner.
The Tennessee tour this weekend begins at either the Jonesborough or Johnson City Farmers Market, where visitors can get breakfast. Then, they’ll receive a map indicating which farms to go to, complete with directions and activities at each location.
Next weekend, tourists can pick up their instructions on any of the seven locations on the Virginia tour.
Tickets for the tour are available online at arcd.org/registration, or can be purchased at two places — Boone Street Market in downtown Jonesborough, or the Abingdon Visitors Center, the latter of which accepts cash only.
Guests should take a look at the farms listed at arcd.org/farmfresh and plan their farm visits ahead of time, as certain farms only accept visitors at certain times in the day. Tourist should also have some cash on hand as well as a cooler for any fresh produce they may wish to buy. Find more information on the tour at arcd.org/farmfresh.
Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.