#NCFarmTour | Where NC Agriculture Meets Educational Fun ~Recap by SobeSavvy.com

On June 27-29, 2018, I joined a group of bloggers on a fantastic tour of northeast North Carolina. We were invited by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to experience the diversity of eastern North Carolina including cucumbers, white potatoes, wine, beer, brats and seafood. Here is a recap of what I learned, where we traveled, who we met and of course, what I ate along the way!

Day 1- Wednesday, 6/27

Stop 1 on the #NCFarmTour – Lunch at Nothing Fancy Café, Edenton

Locally owned, Nothing Fancy Café features made-from-scratch southern home cooking. The restaurant also features a variety of retail items including antiques and baked goods. I left with a beautiful $5 pineapple candle holder and an appreciation for this restaurant who serves field to fork food. The collard greens I enjoyed as a side came from a local NC farmer and tasted like my grandma made it! Nothing Fancy Café is also my new favorite place to enjoy a burger. When the beef comes from a local farmer, trust me you can taste the quality and the difference.
Facebook: @NothingFancyCafe

Stop 2- AJ Smith and Sons Farm, in Edenton, NC

Did you know that Edgecombe County is #1 in growing of cucumbers in NC? We visited a farm started by AJ Smith and is now run by his four sons + grandsons. The farm is extremely diversified. They grow clary sage, peanuts, soybeans, corn,watermelons, cucumbers, and snap beans. The farm also has cattle and hogs. We got to pick some cucumbers at AJ Smith and Sons Farm as well as learn about the process of preparing them for packaging. And just in case you were wondering..yes, they do get waxed for preservation purposes. All cucumbers are not created equal. However, curved or straight if they were grown in NC they will taste great!

SobeSavvy Tip: When selecting a cucumber, look for cucumbers that are very firm and rounded right to the ends.

Stop 3 on the #NCFarmTour is a tour of Historic Edenton

PLAY | Thanks to the Chowan County Chamber of Commerce, we took a horse and wagon tour of historic Edenton. We learned alot of history, enjoyed nature, and viewed beautiful architecture in the “South’s Prettiest Small Town”. WATCH my youtube video of highlights from this tour:

EAT | Ended Day 1 of #NCFarmTour at Cypress Creek Grill, a family-owned restaurant is in downtown Elizabeth City, one block from the Pasquotank River. Their meals feature
fresh seafood and local ingredients. Executive Chef Bradley Chambers created a special menu that showcased the best of what Northeast NC has to offer and combined an amazing array of flavors!

STAY | We stayed in nearby Elizabeth City overnight at Fairfield Inn, which offers guest FREE breakfast with stay plus this comfy, modern hotel has an indoor pool/jacuzzi and mini fridge+ microwave in the room.

Day 2- Thursday, 6/28

Day 2 of #NCFarmTour started off at TCOM, LP

Look up in the sky..it’s a bird, it’s a plane..no it’s a blimp that has been assembled and tested at TCOM,LP located in Elizabeth City,NC. It was so cool to tour the 225-acre facility that manufactures and test aerostats (airship or hot air balloon, especially one that is tethered). The hanger is 150 feet tall and 1,000 feet long and can hold six fully-inflated 71-meter aerostats. Their blimps are used for sporting events, by the US Military and for national security. TCOM,LP
is not a blimp manufacturing company however they do make the envelope and assemble them without the mechanics on it. It was so fascinating to see up close!

SobeSavvy Tip: Here’s an interesting connection to agriculture: The first aerial applicator was not a plane,
but a hot air balloon. It was used in 1906 to spread seed over a valley in New Zealand that had flooded.

Day 2,Stop 2 #NCFarmTour John E. Ferebee Farms

This seventh-generation family farm focuses on potatoes, each year growing and packing red, white and yellow flesh potatoes. John E.Ferebee Farms potatoes are shipped across the US. They’ve also worked with many of NCDA&CS marketing programs. We met both sisters but it was Martha took us on the tour around the facility, which have washed bulk capabilities/cold storage, and onto the potato fields. I learned that summer potatoes of eastern NC come from farms situated alongside well nourished soil beside saltwater sounds/freshwater river beds. Did you know that NC produces over 16,000 acres potatoes? This farm grows 350 acres of North Carolina Potatos.

Day 2 #NCfarmtour Lunch and Tour at Weeping Radish

If you are hungry for bratwurst, beer and knowledge just talk to Uli Bennewitz, owner of Weeping Radish, a brewery, restaurant, butchery and farm that celebrates craft! He came to NC in the early 1980s, from Bavaria, Germany, established a microbrewery and worked with lawmakers to change the NC laws to allow microbreweries to sell beer directly to consumers. In addition to brewing beer, cattle and hogs are sourced from local farms and processed on-site into sausage and charcuterie. The retail counter sells sausage, pastrami, bacon and beer. The Pub serves lunch and a housemade draft root beer that you must try!

Day 2 #NCFarmTour ..a look at our visit to Sanctuary Vineyards, Jarvisburg, NC

The Wright family-owned vineyard grows a variety of grapes on 10 acres. All grapes are picked by hand and the use of french oak barrels gives their NC wine a wonderful taste. We toured the vineyards and learn how world-class wine is made at Sanctuary Vineyards. I purchased a bottle of Morton which is a red wine blend that I can not wait to enjoy!

Jennette’s Pier, Outer Banks

PLAY | Jennette’s Pier is the oldest fishing pier in the Outer Banks and has been a landmark since 1939. Fisherman catch a variety of fish from the 1,000 foot pier including red drum, speckled trout and croaker. We bloggers took advantage of the opportunity to cool our heels from all the farm tour walking at the pier since you get access to the beach!

Today was filled with so much to learn, see and do, here are some of my fave moments from the #NCFarmTour Northeast North Carolina Day 2 w/@nc_agriculture @gottobenc ——————— •A visit to @jennettes_pier_official gave us access to the beach and a chance to see the oldest fishing pier in #OBX • We got to see who makes the envelopes for blimps and learn this history of #TCOM ,LP •John E. Ferebee Farms gave us an inside look of how they grow and pack red, white,yellow potatoes •@weepingradish is where we celebrated the craft of cooking, butchery amd farming. We had lunch at this microbrewery before taking the Beee and Brat Tour • i enjoyed tasting some NC wines from Sanctuary Vineyards and learning about their wine making process •Beautiful views from my balcony room at The Oasis Suites Hotel • Lastly, Dinner @lonecedarcafe Where their fried soft crab was some of the best I ever had caught fresh here in #NC.

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EAT | Dinner at Basnights Lone Cedar Café, located on the Roanoke Sound, is family owned/operated and serves only seafood caught in NC by local fishermen. Pork, poultry and vegetables are sourced from local farms. Herbs are grown on-site. Deserts are made from scratch daily on-site by the pastry chef. Everything we tried was delicious, especially the soft shell crab!

STAY |The Oasis Suites Hotel is the only boutique hotel on the Outer Banks. All rooms have private balconies with water views and are very spacious! Take a LOOK at my room reveal video to see for yourself how lovely this hotel property is:

Day 3-Friday, 6/29

Everything tastes better with bacon right? If you like savory and sweet, try the Maple Bacon Donut from Duck Donuts, Nags Heads

After enjoying breakfast from Duck Donuts, we started Day 3 of #NCFarmTour at O’Neals Sea Harvest in Wanchese. Sara Marabilio, who is the Fisheries Extension Specialist at NC Sea Grant, met us at the family owned and operated
seafood wholesaler to lead the tour and provide more information about NC Seafood. At O’neals Sea Harvest, you can purchase locally caught, fresh
seafood daily. The also sell fresh and frozen seafood (crab, variety of fish, shrimp & scallops) through their retail store and Monday-Friday they serve the fresh catch at their restaurant on-site.

Next stop, was nicknamed by me as Crabmeat Lover’s Heaven because Captain Neill’s Seafood, in Columbia is the largest domestic crab processing (by hand-picking) plant left. Owner Phillip Carawan started buying hard/soft-shell crabs, then opened (in 1997) a facility to process wild caught crabs caught from NC waters and purchasing daily from crabbers that dock behind their facility. Captain Neill’s processes a variety of crabmeat products in
addition to oysters, cocktail fingers and ready to eat steamed crabs.
They sell to a variety of markets, including grocery chains, under the
names Capt. Charlie’s and Capt. Neill’s. I learned that aprox 11 pounds of crab yield 1 pound of crabmeat and that an emplyee can pick the meat out of the crab in aprox 15 seconds! I left there amazed at the efficiency of the process and hungry for crab. SobeSavvy Tip: If you are a member of Sam’s Club you can purchase their crabmeat there.

EAT |Our last stop and final lunch on #NCFarmTour was at Garden Spot Café in Plymouth,NC. Located in a building built around 1900 on the banks of the Roanoke
River, this restaurant is owned by three sisters and known locally for their home-style cooking. They offer a variety of menu items to meet every taste preference. I tried the fried shrimp platter/flounder because after all that time learning more about NC seafood I was craving it!

All of these stops on the tour are just a short drive from the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh. I encourage you to take the to time to explore more of NC, shop at your local farmers market, support restaurants where you can eat local foods and buy local goods. There are so many fun ways to support our state’s number one industry, AGRICULTURE! I am so inspired to incorporate what I have learned when it comes to food that my family consumes and make sure it comes from a North Carolina Farm!

Leslie Heigh, Founder of SobeSavvy.com on the #NCFarmTour

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@FeedtheDialogue #FeedtheDialogueNC Dinner + Discussion at #18Seaboard | Recap 🍴

“Food is more fun when you know where it comes from”…

I could not agree more! That’s why when SobeSavvy.com got invited to Feed the Dialogue’s exclusive Media Event on Thursday, September 7th at 18 Seaboard, I was excited to join them for a night of food, farmers and fun. 

Feed the Dialogue is a non-profit organization who’s mission is to “reconnect NC with the foods we eat and the farmers who feed us”. They are passionate about educating North Carolinian’s about our farmers, and the food they grow across the state. This foundation bridges the gap between consumers like us and farmers. So when I received the invitation (see below), I knew I had to go and take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions about the food being featured at a restaurant I enjoy here in Raleigh, NC !

Guests were treated to wine from Jones Von Drehle Winery plus a complimentary five-course dinner followed by a panel discussion hosted by Lynda Loveland from WRAL.  Three of the farmers, who’s products were featured during the dinneras well as Chef Jason Smith of 18 Seaboard (who prepared the meal) served on the panel. 

In preparation for the upcoming panel discussion during the dinner, we were asked to pass along at least one question that you’d like for the panelists to answer. The panelists for the evening:

  • Dr. Richard Bonanno | Associate Dean, CALS  Director of NCCES 
  • Lynda Loveland |WRAL 
  • Scott Farms – Lucama, NC ( If you #lovesweetpotatoes, check out Scott Farms for recipes, tips, tricks and more)
  • Moore Brothers Beef – Lumberton, NC (family owned, beef is all natural, non gmo, cattle is grass fed, renowned for their quality of beef) 
  • Sweet Pea Urban Gardens-Micro-Greens – Raleigh, NC 
  • Executive Chef/Proprietor Jason Smith |      18 Restaurant Group

Here are some of the questions I presented for the panel:

Question for Scott Farms:

 1. How many varieties of Sweet Potatoes do you grow on your farm and can you explain some of the differences between the varieties?

Question to entire Panel:

2. Do you feel the term “farm to table”  is being overused in todays restaurant industry?

Question to Chef/Proprietor
Jason Smith

 3. When deciding on a new menu addition, what one criteria is most important?
 
Question to Dr. Richard Bonanno


 4. In your opinion are there some fruits and vegetables that buying organic is simply not worth the extra cost ?

The panel did not have the opportunity to answer all questions, but here are some answers/quotes from the evening that I took away from the experience.

  • Shared ownership plus value..that’s what the whole ‘farm to table’ movement is about
  • Local is local no matter what size your farm is
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the person who’s growing your food were there any pesticides used
  • Moore Brothers Beef is known for having the best quality of beef because their cattle are grass fed and then finished in feed that the farmer creates himself. The feed is 100% vegetarian. 
  • Farmers are an interesting breed. They’re not in it for the money, they do it because they love it & take pride in what they do.


Also, listed below is the menu + photos I took for the evening:

MENU

Course 1

Heirloom Tomato Salad + Candied Cashew + Sweet Potato Sorghum Vinaigrett

Course 2

Oyster Beignet + Cotija + Crystal Cane Syrup + Purple Sweet Potato Buttermilk Puree 

Course 3

Beef Carpaccio + Sweet Potato Vichyssoise + Pickled Muscadine + Shishito Mignonette 

Course 4

Butter Poached then Cast Iron Blackened Ribeye + Smoked Hominy + Roasted Japanese Sweet Potato + Pickled Crimson Okra + Burnt Tomato Vinegar

Course 5

Sweet Potato Hand Pie + Salted Beef Fat-Buttermilk Ice Cream + Lemon Verbena 

I had a great time and learned alot at the Feed the Dialogue dinner and panel discussion. The meal at 18 Seaboard was amazing and the people I met (food writers, food bloggers, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and media) , who shared in this experience were wonderful! If you want to see more from the event, check out the hashtag : #FeedTheDialogueNC 

For more news and information about animal care, antibiotics, environment, food choices, food safety, food security, gmo/organic, health/nutrition, and trade practices here in NC, follow on TwitterFacebookInstagram or website here>> Feed The Dialogue NC. 


Western #NCFarmTour Recap: The Food, The Farms, The Fun w/@NCAgriculture #gottobeNC #avlbba

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.