When the blue skies of September make you think of picking apples and thumping pumpkins, you know it’s almost time for the farm tour. Scheduled this year for Sept. 27-28, the 2014 Rappahannock County Farm Tour & Festival is bigger than ever, with 33 venues offering almost three dozen ways to learn and have fun.
You can go on a hay ride at a farm school while learning about the unique and challenging curriculum from students; watch the daily milking of a pampered herd of Jersey cows; or visit a family homestead with gardens and animals growing at every turn. How about a sheep farm where they dye the wool with plants and then spin it by hand? Or maybe you’d prefer to see apple cider pressed by hand and eat lunch at farms where the food was raised.
You can tour organic farms where heirloom and specialty produce are grown, tended by farmers with global experience and by interns from around the nation who come here to learn. Visit four participating orchards tended by the same families for generations — even centuries — and experience what an apple is supposed to taste like.
Thirsty? Visit the only distillery on the planet where apple wood-aged whisky is produced, and see the small herb garden used to flavor its new small-batch gin. Sip fabulous wine crafted from grapes growing all around you at five participating vineyards and wineries.
There’s an artisans’ market under the ancient trees around Avon Hall in Little Washington, and don’t miss the farm and country stores offering the best in healthy, locally sourced food flavored with a pinch of nostalgia. Visit specialty shops offering an array of handmade goods, have freshly roasted coffee at a local roastery and stop by a tiny bakery stocked with a surprising array of gluten-free delights.
This year’s participating farms are: Belle Meade School & Farm, Caledonia Farm-1812 B&B, Crowfoot Farm, The Farm at Sunnyside, Goat Hill, Heritage Hollow Farm, Keysville Post Stable, Muskrat Haven Farm, Reality Farm, Waterpenny Farm and Wits End Farm.
The participating stores and specialty shops are Blue Ridge Grocery, Coterie Shop, Glassworks Gallery, Heritage Hollow Farm Store, Merry Moo Market, Muskrat Haven Farm Store, Roy’s Orchard, Stonyman Gourmet Farmer and Sperryville Corner Store.
The participating orchards are Jenkins’ Orchard, Lee’s Orchard, Roy’s Orchard and Thornton River Orchard, while the participating wineries and specialty beverage include Gadino Cellars, Little Washington Orchard, Narmada Winery, Quievremont Vineyard, Sharp Rock Vineyards, Central Coffee Roasters and Copper Fox Distillery.
Also joining this year’s tour are local businesses like the Flint Hill Public House, Little Washington Wellness & Spa, Living Sky Foundation, Triple Oak Bakery and Valley Green Naturals.
Where should you begin your farm tour sojourn? Wherever you wish; the event is free and without a designated starting point, you may go to as many venues by whatever route you wish. A guidebook is posted on the tour’s website as a downloadable document, as are the venue listing and map. During the tour weekend, the printed version of the guidebook is available at all tour venues, the county’s Visitors’ Center and the Artisans’ Market at Avon Hall.
The farm tour is still offering tax-deductible tour sponsorships, with an introductory level at just $25. For more information about the tour and sponsorships, call me me at 540-219-8396 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.