The sun beats down on Dry Ridge Farm in Madison County, North Carolina. It’s ASAP’s Farm Tour weekend and crowds of people are hiking up and down the hillsides to see the farm’s free-range chickens and pastured hogs. Down in the valley, 45 pigs huddle in the shade. They have plenty of mud for wallowing and lots of room to root in the grassy field.
A handful of young pigs called shoats are out and about today, scratching their backs on nearby trees and rooting around the wooded area alongside the field. The pigs usually spend their days behind an electric fence in a wide grassy area, but today they’re on the move, trotting out to greet visitors as they approach the field.
It’s an eye opening day for the kids who crowd around, but also for adults like Laura Wrenn from Asheville. She recently moved back to her home state of North Carolina from Houston, Texas and this is her first time on ASAP’s Farm Tour. She’s no stranger to agriculture, but she’s just beginning to explore farms in Western North Carolina.
“I’m very invested in farms because I grew up on a farm,” she says. “My major in college was ag ed, so it’s fun to get out in the country and see where the food and vegetables and meat and all that come from.
She says that Farm Tour also helps her reconnect with her family’s farming roots. “Even though I grew up and majored in an agricultural environment, I’ve lost touch. We’ve grown up and changed, but we all continue to eat and benefit and so I think it’s important just to stay as in touch as possible,” she says.
Farmer Graham Brugh usually spends his days with the animals on Dry Ridge Farm, but today he’s selling bratwurst and hot dogs made from meat raised on his land. The farm is only open to the public during ASAP’s Farm Tour and people are eager to check it out. He says about 150 people came out on Saturday and 80 people have visited by mid-afternoon on Sunday.
Graham and his wife Wendy manage the 43-acre property themselves, with no help from employees or interns. He says that surprises some people when they take in just how big the operation is. He adds that seeing farm animals on the hillsides instead of in confinement can be an ‘ah-ha’ moment for some visitors.
“People expect chickens and pigs especially to have been raised inside, so seeing pigs outside rooting in the grass and everything is kind of a shocker for some folks,” he says.
Over at Full Sun Farm in the Sandy Mush area of Buncombe County, a group of people peer into a vegetable patch, admiring the basil, squash, and cucumbers. Duane McMullen is across the way checking out the hoop houses. This is his fourth year coming to Farm Tour from his home in Etowah, about an hour away.
He says he comes to the Farm Tour each year “to learn one or two things at every stop. If you plan your day and hit four or five places, you learn 10 things that are going to make a huge difference in your own growing,” he says.
Colin Kirkman and Tony Carollo recently moved to Pisgah Forest from Atlanta. They came on the tour this weekend to get to know the farmers who will grow their food now that they’ve made Western North Carolina their home.
“We’ve really enjoyed meeting the farmers and we’re really appreciative that they’re opening up their homes and their farms. It’s really exciting to see there’s such a vibrant community around that here,” she says.
Next year’s Farm Tour is already in the works for June 2017. Until then, keep up with all of ASAP’s events and programs at www.asapconnections.org