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Touring mountain farms

Patrons may visit working farms in area

POSTED: June 13, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Northeast Georgia and surrounding areas are gaining recognition as a rapidly rising region for the production of local and sustainable foods. The 2013 Georgia Mountains Farm Tour will showcase some of the farms, farmers, markets, community gardens and restaurants making local food across the region.

Hosted by the Georgia Mountains Farmers Network and the Soque River Watershed Association, the event is from 1-6 p.m. Saturday, June 15, and Sunday, June 16.

The tour will feature 16 locations in Habersham, Rabun and White counties and include community gardens, a honey bee farm, a working grist mill, fruit orchards and optional meal stops with local foods prepared by acclaimed local chefs. Four new farms on the tour include the award-winning Mtn Honey, Trillium Farms (who specialize in microgreens), Chattooga Belle Farm, and The Happy Berry.

Tour participants may purchase one weekend pass to allow a carload of attendees to visit as many tour locations as they wish all weekend long. It is ideal for individuals wanting to learn how local, sustainable food is produced; for those looking to find local foods; for aspiring gardeners and farmers who’d like to learn sustainable growing practices; and for food lovers and inspired cooks.

Cost of the tour is $35 from any farm on the tour. Passes may be purchased online at www.soque.org or at one of the following locations: SRWA office in downtown Clarkesville; through the Northeast Georgia Locally Grown market website; at the Simply Homegrown farmers market in Clayton or Clarkesville Farmers Market on Saturdays; at the Root Cellar in Clayton; at Habersham Chamber of Commerce in Cornelia; at Jaemor Farms in Alto; and at Mountain Fresh Creamery in Clermont.

For those on a budget, volunteer to help with the tour on one day and receive a T-shirt and attend the other day for free.

The tour is ideal for individuals wanting to learn how local, sustainable food is produced, for those looking to find local foods, for aspiring gardeners and farmers who’d like to learn sustainable growing practices, and for food lovers and inspired cooks. Among the products featured are fruits and vegetables, pasture-raised eggs, certified organic beef and waterwheel-milled organic grains and associated baked goods. Other highlights include a farm demonstrating the lost art of horse-powered equipment, an aquaponic farm for fish production and several farms using hoop houses for season extension.

In addition to being able to purchase farm products, many farms and meal stops will have prepared foods to sample. On Saturday, chef Jeff Morris of the Copper Pot Restaurant in Clarkesville will prepare seasonal snack plates using vegetables harvested and served in the garden. On Sunday, Jamie Allred, the acclaimed executive chef at Lake Rabun Hotel Restaurant will feature numerous products from farms throughout the tour into small plates during brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 and dinner beginning at 6 p.m. (reservations recommended). Chattooga Belle Farms will also feature a lunch with ingredients grown on the farm. Meals are optional and are purchased separately.

Farms and gardens included on the tour include: White County — LoganBerry Heritage Farm and Nacoochee Valley Farm; Habersham County — Royal Oaks Farm, Melon Head Farm, Mountain Honey, Trillium Farm and Copper Pot Gardens; Rabun County — Burton Mountain Farm, Sylvan Falls Mill, Old School Garden and Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant; other areas — Taylor Creek Farm (Stephens County), Gibson Farms (Westminster, S.C.), Chattooga Belle Farm (Longcreek, S.C.), The Happy Berry Farm (Six Mile, S.C.), and Leah Lakes Farm (Macon County, N.C.).

The Georgia Mountains Farm Tour is a project of the Georgia Mountains Farmers Network. The GMFN is a collaborative of local and sustainable farmers throughout the Northeast Georgia region including neighboring states working to share knowledge and collaborate on projects that help increase the impact of local foods in the region. Local farmers began meeting bimonthly in January 2012, visiting each other’s farms and identifying projects to increase the impact of local foods. The goal of the Georgia Mountains Farm Tour is to highlight the vibrancy of the local food movement in the Georgia Mountains, introduce the public to local food sources and encourage more people to engage in the production and consumption of local foods.

“Farmers across the Georgia Mountains are working together in collaborative ways so more people know where and how to buy and eat fresh local food when they visit the area,” said Justin Ellis, Soque River Watershed Association director and organizer for the new farmers network. “The tour is an opportunity for the public to experience first-hand some of the innovative, sustainable food production methods our farmers are utilizing. It’s a great weekend to celebrate the dedication and hard work of our local farmers. And when you buy local, you’re guaranteed to eat well.”

Proceeds of the event will benefit the Georgia Mountains Farmers Network and their future collaborative projects.

For additional information and a copy of the brochure visit www.soque.org, e-mail soque@windstream.net or call 706-754-9382.


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