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N.C. agritourism gets boost with 19th annual Piedmont Farm Tour

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Hands-on learning is the best way for families to understand and support their local sustainable farming movement, according to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. Every spring, N.C. farmers open their gates and welcome families to the farm to get a glimpse of farm life during the annual Piedmont Farm Tour, sponsored by CFSA for the past 19 years. This year, the tour will be April 26-27, rain or shine.

With an expected attendance of over 3,000, this nationally-recognized farm tour is the largest of its kind in the nation. The self-guided tour comprises 39 farms in Alamance, Chatham, Durham, Orange and Person counties. Visitors can meet local farmers, learn about their work and tour their farms.

"We see such a diversity of people on the tour, from families with young children, to aspiring farmers looking to see farming models in action," commented Laura Stewart, Education Director for CFSA. "And we think the farm tour has something to offer everyone: fresh air, baby animals, farming and gardening experts, and, of course, delicious food!"

The tour is self-guided. All the farms feature in an online Farm Tour brochure, and visitors can plan their route with a handy interactive map. Both brochure and map are available at www.carolinafarmstewards.org/pft. The cost is $25 per car for admittance to all 39 farms or $10 per car for each farm. Each day, tours runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The best planning tip is to focus on regions, and visit a region each day. Families also should plan their day by expecting to visit 3 or 4 farms each day, factor in drive time and allow about 1 hour to 1.5 hour at each farm.

The CFSA hosts farm tours throughout the year. N.C. is still very much a rural state with a strong emphasis on farming and farm-to-table dining. Agritourism helps bring the concept full-circle.

"After taking the tour, participants report back that many of them of purchased one of the farms CSAs, are shopping more often at their local farmers market, and when they see their favorite farm's name listed on the menu of a farm-to-table restaurant, they can say they have been there!" stated Stewart. "Setting foot on your local farm is a wonderful way to support your local farmer and become familiar with the story behind the food that is grown and consumed here in North Carolina. Once your local farmer is on your radar, you can follow them on Facebook and know when the newest harvest is about to come in, your understanding of weather events is expanded as you see how farmers use hard work and creativity to overcome droughts and floods, and your access to local and "fresh-as-it-gets" foods is greatly expanded!"

Participants are encouraged to bring a cooler because local produce will be for sale on the tour.

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