Disclosure: I joined food bloggers/writers from NC on a sponsored tour of agriculture in Western NC. Lodging, Transportation and meals were covered , however the opinions shared here are 100% my own. Thanks again to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA &CS) and the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association for hosting our group. Also thanks to Kristen Baughman of Tabletop Media Group and Heather Barnes, the marketing specialist for the NC Dept of Agriculture who did an amazing job organizing the tour!
On July 19-21, 2017, I went on a fantastic tour of agriculture in Western NC and let me tell you, I learned so much about food, where it comes from, how its sourced and the people. Our group traveled from Raleigh,NC to Colfax, Salisbury, Hickory, Marion, Black Mountain and Asheville and came back with so much knowledge and respect for what it takes to produce quality food from farm to table!
I shared with you some of the highlights from our two and a half day tour on social media @SobeSavvy but encourage you to also check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram of our groups social media shares at #NCFarmTour. Growing up in the city, it was great to meet farmers, experience farm life and learn about the diversity of NC agriculture. I mean as a ‘foodie’, I think it was a right of passage for myself to see where it all begins. So let’s begin…..
DAY 1 |Wednesday, July 19
Here I am with Quinn and Paten Carlton, SoulFull Sisters departing from the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax. We left from Raleigh Farmers Market but made a stop here to pick up bloggers from Charlotte,NC. I am happy we stopped here because I was able to get a to- go snack from Moose Cafe , voted “Best Restaurant for Best use of local ingredients”. I got one of their homemade biscuits and signature apple butter to try and it was just like grandma used to make..so good!
Fading D Farm -Salisbury, NC
Owned by Faythe (head cheesemaker) and David DiLoreto, this is the only working water buffalo dairy herd in NC and is one of the stops on the NC Cheese Trail. During this stop we toured the fields, farm, creamery and store and got to hear how a trip to Italy and their love for cheese sparked their passion to produce at a farm of their own . Fun Fact: The water buffalo get nicknamed after cheeses and their milk is used for making their award winning fresh/aged cheeses, which we got to enjoy tasty samples of. I learned that the water buffalo milk is 30% higher in protein and if you are dairy sensitive, these milks/cheeses are a better option. In addition to selling the cheese at their on-site farm store, you can buy soaps, other gift items, and select cuts of water buffalo meat (which is low in cholesterol and flavorful). If interested in trying some for yourself, join Heidi Billotto of Heidi Billoto Food for her On The Farm cooking class, which features 5 courses/wine pairings and fun! It’s being held at Fading D Farm on July 30 from 2-5pm! Email to make a reservation HLNC@carolinarr.com. Check out my photo album of this tour stop >>>>here.
Highland Avenue Restaurant – Hickory, NC
For the record, this part of the blog post is making me hungry as I look over the menu and pictures from this farm to table feast we enjoyed courtesy of Highland Avenue Restaurant. Led by Executive Chef Sam Stachon, the team at this restaurant provided us with top notch service along with their amazing dishes. It’s no wonder they have received regional and national recognition for sourcing local foods. The Chef shared with us that he sees this as a ‘friends to table’ restaurant because of the personal relationships he has built with the farmers and the food they provide. See some of the delicious dishes that we enjoyed for dinner>>>>here.
DAY 2 | Thursday, July 20
Sweet Biscuit Inn, a Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC
This Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association Inn was my accomodation during the tour. Our group was divided among the different 15 Asheville area inns, that work together to promote outstanding guest service, guest safety and quality. The Sweet Biscuit Inn’s hosts, Claudia and Christian Hickl, exceeded in hospitality by making our stay comfortable and sharing their insights of the area. My room (check out youtube for room reveal video) was decorated with European style and a southern charm. It was spacious and suitable for 2 adults and 1 child. This inn welcomes children of all ages and is convenient to downtown Asheville and only 1/2 mile north of the Biltmore Estate entrance. The 3 course gourmet breakfast prepared by Chef Claudia was mouthwatering and memorable! Watch my video to get a taste of Sweet Biscuit Inn and make plans today for your next Asheville stay! https://www.instagram.com/p/BW-jZcVh4S0/
Pisgah Brewing Company – Black Mountain, NC
Before moving to NC, I would casually drink beer only in the summer as a pairing with Maryland steamed blue crabs. Then when I moved to Miami, I started covering beer events, festivals and grew to develop my palate thru tastings. I even have a category on the blog dedicated to Spirits/Beer. So I was excited to tour NC’s own Pisgah Brewing! We learned all about this brewery , founded by Dave Quinn. Our tour guide, Tom, shared that the #1 ingredient in beer is water and because of the great quality there in the western NC mountains, they are able to produce brews consumers enjoy! Since 2005, they have specialized in craft brews made with 100% whole leaf hops and organic grains and malts. We got to walk threw the brewery and learn about the history of Pigsah and process of making beer. Outside we saw their real beer garden, viewed the hop vines and learned how they use local produce to make beer. My fave part was sampling some of Pigsah’s brews inside their taproom, which is open 7 days a week and often has live music and other events. Wanna see more from this part of the tour? View pics >here.
New Sprouts Organic Farms-Black Mountain,NC
Ever wanted to follow the journey of a seed to the grocery store? Well Founder, Alan Rose and his son took us on a tour of New Sprout Organic Farms -it’s office, packing house and we even got to visit the fields(see pics >>here). The family owned farm grows, pack and ships certified organic fruits and vegetables to East Coast grocery stores, including Ingles, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Harris Teeter. During this part of the tour, I learned what it means to be GAP certified. It means Good Agricultural Practices are met for food safety. For optimal health, it’s important to eat local to ensure the days from field to plate are not long. This is a way to to make sure you get the most nutrients from your vegetables. Check out the youtube video of my photo recap of this tour. And thanks again Alan for our New Sprout Organic Farms swag!
“Taste of Local” event at Ingles Market
After a delicious lunch at locally owned Black Mountain Bistro , it was time to head to Ingles Market in Black Mountain for their “Taste of Local” event. This event is held every Thursday at Ingles stores and gives customers a chance to meet local farmers/vendors who supply Ingles and sample their products. I came home with some edible souvenirs like Unicoi Preserves, which owner Suzy Neal explained are “perfect pairings with cheese and charcuterie” !
All of the staff/farmers/vendors were so passionate about their products and a pleasure to talk to. Special thanks to Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian Leah McGrath (we share a Maryland connection, Go Terps!) who not only is a pioneer in her field, but has done an amazing job connecting brands and products to consumers and informing customers about health and nutrition.
If ever in the area, this is a free event you should attend! Here is my event recap : https://www.instagram.com/p/BWyMOjQB1K4/
Engadine Inn & Cabins at Honey Hill-Candler, NC
So much to see and say about this wonderful evening at Engadine Inn & Cabins. The Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA) welcomed us to a feast featuring dishes from many of the B&Bs. We got to tour the historic inn, and enjoy dessert by the fire pit. Dinner was delicious and the sunset views of the Blue Ridge Mountains were amazing! I captured some of it here via Facebook live. This 12 acre property offers the choice of staying in one of the B&B elegant rooms(adult only) or in the cozy,comfort private cabins(which allows pets and children). This is also a perfect place to host a wedding or any indoor/outdoor event. Want to see more photos, check them out >>>>here.
DAY 3 | Friday, July 21
Harvest Farm- Marion, NC
Harvest Farm is a conventional family farm owned by Cassandra Benfield. During this stop on the #NCFarmTour, we learned that in addition to distributing their produce to wholesale distribution facilities, the farm also works with local produce stands, local restaurant delivery trucks, food shelters, Move With Compassion Ministry, The Society of St. Andrew, and a local cattle farmer. Cassandra is passionate about freshness and makes every effort to provide the best produce to a diversity of people within the community. We were thankful to not only learn about her and what she does but we also got a chance to pick tomatoes to take home and plant cabbage! We hope to return in the fall to the Harvest Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin patch. See my photos from our visit>>>>>here.
Ingles Distribution Center
The final stop on the Western NC Farm Tour was the Ingles Distribution Center, which is located within 250 miles of Ingles stores, allowing it to meet the store’s standards for freshness and quality. Now that’s an #InglesAdvantage that customers appreciate! All merchandise (grocery, perishable, frozen, health & beauty) for Ingles stores is distributed by the company’s 1.6 million square feet distribution center. No cameras were allowed inside, but we were in awe of how much product was stored, the organization of operations, and positivity of the employees (many who have been there for years). There are approximately 200 stores in six southeastern states all accepting deliveries 7 days a week. After lunch, sponsored by Ingles, we were on our way back to Charlotte & Raleigh, with memories, knowledge and a great appreciation for agriculture and the people in Western NC.