ASAP’s Farm Tour is coming up on June 23rd and 24th, and this month on Growing Local we’ll meet some of the farmers on the tour. The self-guided tour features more than 20 farms that produce vegetables, grains, meat, fiber, and much more. All of the farms are intriguing, and some are downright surprising.
When you drive up to Dr. King’s Farms you see the beautiful blue hillsides and rolling farmland of Leicester, North Carolina. You’ll also see animals that will make you do a double take. Camels graze under a weathered barn adorned with a traditional barn quilt, and bison roam the wide open pastures. Watusi cattle guard the hillsides with their massive horns that can measure eight feet tip to tip.
Dr. Frank King is the owner of the farm. He’s seen these gentle beasts live in harmony since he founded the farm in 1985. He wants to share his passion for these non-typical farm animals with guests on the farm tour.
“People can go through and experience the dynamics of the watusi, the largest horned cows in the world,” he says.
You can see the animals from the safety of a wagon during the tour. King says it’s fun for families who wants to get up close and personal with the animals.
“It’s comfortable for everybody,” he says. “There’s a wagon that has protective bars around it, and the braver ones can have range cubes that you can hold out and some of these big, 2,700-pound bison bulls will eat right out of your hand. Once you’ve touched the nose of a bison, your life can change its course.” He means that literally. He has degrees in chiropractic and naturopathy, and is an advocate for the health benefits of bison meat and camel milk.
“We love to share this with people because we’re all about anything that helps improve people’s health. That’s why we’re doing this,” he says.
If you’d like to taste for yourself, the farm’s meat is on the menu at several local restaurants, including 12 Bones, Ambrozia, and Jargon—all sold under the name Carolina Bison. A wide variety of meat will be for sale during the Farm Tour in June, and King says he’s looking forward to welcoming people to the farm.
“We’re very excited and honored to be able to share that with everybody,” he says.
Visitors can hop on a hay wagon ride through the bison, watusi, yak, elk, and camel pastures. The juxtaposition of these exotic animals against the familiar Blue Ridge Mountains makes for gorgeous photos to share on social media. Wagon tours leave at noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. on both days, and it’s a good idea to arrive 15 minutes early to load up before the tour departs.
Combine a trip to Dr. King’s Farms with other stops in Leicester. See produce in the fields at Gaining Ground Farm, meet a sweet donkey at Franny’s Farm, tour an edible landscape at Long Branch Environmental Education Center, and meet the family behind Addison Farms Vineyard. You’ll want to bring sunscreen, sturdy shoes, and water, plus a cooler so you can keep the meat cold while you visit other farms on the tour.
ASAP’s Farm Tour includes farms in Asheville, Fairview, and Candler—as well as Yancey and Henderson Counties. It’s a chance to learn where your food comes from and connect with farmers and new friends who support local food. Stay tuned to WNCW to meet more farmers on the tour, and purchase tickets at asapconnections.org/events/asaps-farm-tour/