It’s Farm Tour weekend: Come on by!

Mike Peterson demonstrates how to cook grass-fed meat during 2009's Farm Tour. Farmer Cliff Miller is in the background. Photo by Molly Peterson.

The weekend ahead in Rappahannock County is the time to find out:

• what “mob” grazing is,
• why malting one’s own barley is important,
• what heirloom apples taste like,
• how to spin and dye yarn,
• where to find 20,000 baby trees in one place,
• where to step off along the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail,
• what blackberry barbecue sauce tastes like,
• which are the best wines around,
• where to take a hayride,
• how young people are doing with their Farm-to-Table efforts at the schools, and
• how you can get your feet wet looking for a real, live bug called a waterpenny.

All of that and more is available, rain or shine, during the second annual Rappahannock County Farm Tour, which starts at 10 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday. As early as 9 a.m. you can buy a ticket — $5 for adults, free for ages 15 and younger — at the Link in Sperryville.

The Link serves as Farm Tour headquarters. A map comes with each ticket and the ticket is good for both days.

At the Mountain Laurel Montessori Farm School there will be face painting, and the little ones can coax eggs out from under the hens. The Belle Meade Farm School is where you’ll find the hayride, as well as a beekeeping demonstration, a silent auction, and a vacation package raffle. Both farms will be offering barbecue lunches.

Just downriver from the Link you can stop in for a bit of special sippin’ at the Copper Fox Distillery. That’s where Rick Wasmund stirs the mash and produces genuine Rappahannock Malt Whiskey.

Not far from the Link is Mount Vernon Farm, where Cliff Miller will be offering demonstrations of sheep herding by working sheep dogs.

Farmer and farm manager Mike Peterson will be explaining how mob grazing works; how moving the livestock — sheep here, cattle there — from one part of the pasture to another, helps the cattle, the grass, and, eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.

Over at Caledonia Farm, Phil Irwin will explain why the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail is so popular, and why it is important, too. Sections of the trail are called “loops.” One of the loops starts at Caledonia Farm and winds through Virginia countryside.
Have you ever been to a nursery? One with 20,000 baby trees?

You can do that on this tour. The map will guide you to Eastwoods Nursery, which specializes in Japanese maples. Henry Eastwood and Francie Schroeder also offer conifers and ginkgos. Some of the little maples and others, barely up to your knee, are very inexpensive.

We hear and read a great deal these days about organic foods and sustainable living. On the Rappahannock Farm Tour you will get to the heart of these concepts. Sustainable farming and organic foods will be shown, sampled, explained. Two prominent organic farms, Waterpenny in Sperryville (close to the Link) and the Farm at Sunnyside Farm, just outside the town of Washington, are key elements of the tour.

On Saturday evening the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) is having an old-fashioned barn dance. It’s just down the road from the Link at Rappahannock Central. Square dancing, line dancing and reels will be called to live music. The fun goes from 7 to 10 p.m. and costs $25 per person, with snacks and beverages included. The donation goes to help the work of RLEP.

For information on the Farm Tour, click on FarmTour.VisitRappahannockVA.com or call 540-675-5330. (For information on the dance: rlep.org or 540-317-1449.)

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