By Emily Buehler, Website Coordinator at Weaver Street Market
Last month, the Piedmont Farm Tour celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. In spite of rainy weather, over 5600 visitors were out touring farms. The event raised $16,800 for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. We went out on Saturday to visit four long-time participants: Turtle Run Farm, Peregrine Farm, Perry-winkle Farm, and Eco Farm.
We caught the end of a tour at Turtle Run Farm, where farmer Kim Meehan was showing visitors the migrating worm compost pile. After they left, we asked about how best to store fresh produce. Kim launched into an explanation of “post-harvest” techniques and led us through the coolers and sheds used on the farm. She also showed us the greenhouse, where a home-made germinator heated newly planted seeds. Before we left, Kevin Meehan showed us a bin of fermenting alfalfa, a sweet-smelling fertilizer he invented on the farm.
At Peregrine Farm, Alex Hitt led a tour group past the hoophouses, which are on giant sliders that allow management of the ground and plants underneath. Lilies filled the greenhouse, and across the farm, fields of Betsy Hitt’s flowers added some color to the gray and green day. Alex described the battle against a tomato blight; they now grow all tomatoes under high row covers that protect the plants from pests. He also pointed out the rows of lettuce that would be appearing on Weaver Street Market shelves in a month.
The yardbirds met us in the driveway at Perry-winkle Farm. Out in the fields, Cathy Jones and Mike Perry stood in yellow ponchos with a group of visitors. The chickens out in the fields live in mobile hen houses that migrate around the farm. While we stood admiring them, they suddenly retreated to the shadows of their houses, herded by the roosters: far across the fields and trees, a hawk perched on a branch.
At Eco Farm, John Soehner demonstrated how to innoculate a log with shiitake mushroom spores. He led a group back into the trees, where dozens of stacks of logs wait to sprout. We admired the turkey in the chicken coop, who faced off with the children across the fence; the Soehners rescued the turkey after it was the guest of honor at a UNC frat party. We walked out to the strawberry fields (not quite ripe) and learned about drip irrigation and making furrows for row crops.
Whether you have gardening questions, daydream about farming, or just want to see where local food comes from, there’s always something to learn on the Piedmont Farm Tour. If you missed this year’s tour, plan to attend next April.
View a gallery of Piedmont Farm Tour photos from 2008 to the present.