Bridging the Farmer-Consumer Gap

Photo of Erika Shanks by Karin Strickland

Polk and Rutherford counties have joined forces for the NC Foothills Farm Tour, which highlights 18 farms. Foothills growers, upholding the region’s agricultural roots, will reveal their practices through live demonstrations, workshops, and product tastings. This includes everything from sizable commercial farms to micro-scale cultivation.

“Our theme is ‘homegrown,’” says coordinator Erika Shanks. For her, the idea is deeply literal, because Shanks’ Bearded Birds Farm in Saluda is a prime example of modern farming: She flipped her own lawn into an edible operation and grows her produce on less than a quarter of an acre. “When people visit, they’ll experience how much food they can grow in a small space, using every little part of their house or yard,” says Shanks, who sells her greens to local venues such as Saluda’s new French restaurant Azalea Bistro.

The ultimate goal of agritourism is to demystify farming for city and suburban dwellers. Visitors can learn how and where specific kinds of foods are grown, and meet the people who grow it. “It’s about bridging the gap from farmer to consumer, having the conversation about where your food comes from and building that relationship back with your food,” says Shanks.

The NC Foothills Farm Tour takes place Saturday, June 8, 9am-5pm. To purchase tickets, get the map, and see a full list of participating farms, visit ncfoothillsfarmtour.com. Bearded Birds Farm is on Facebook.

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