Sunflowers and corn are among the many crops grown at Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve.

Cheryl Ferguson leads tours of Plum Granny Farm in King including the u-pick blackberry patch.

Visitors meet truffle dog, Dazy, and learn her role in harvesting truffles at Keep Your Fork Farm in King.

Meeting goats and tasting fresh feta cheese are part of the experience at Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton.

KING — The growing interest in fresh, local food has made farm tours more popular in recent years. The Northern Triad Farm Tour was held Sunday, inviting the public to visit five diverse farms in the region.

Cheryl Ferguson, of Plum Granny Farm in King, developed the tour after learning that this year’s Carolina Farm Stewardship tour was cancelled. “We participated in the tour last year, and had over 150 people visit the farm,” said Ferguson.

Understanding that consistency is key to establishing events, Ferguson reached out to other farms that participated in the 2014 Carolina Farm Stewardship tour. “There was no hesitation,” Ferguson said of the other farmers’ willingness to participate.

Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve in Westfield, Truffles NC at Keep Your Fork Farm in King, Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton, and Yellow Wolf Farm in Walkertown joined Plum Granny Farm to create a wide array of experiences. All the farms were open to visitors with no admission fees from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tour goers could choose to spend the whole afternoon at a single farm, or follow the map to visit several.

For more than 20 years, Bill and Margie Imus have cultivated Minglewood Farm. Bringing together Margie’s background in flowers and education with Bill’s interest in food crops and forestry, the farm has been turned into a nonprofit with a focus on outdoor education and nature preservation.

“We have seen a growing nature deficit in children, so it is our goal to help them find a connection with the outdoors,” said Bill.

Minglewood serves schools, youth groups, seniors and families. “We cater our programs to the needs of the group,” said Margie, explaining that offerings are endless ranging from digging in the dirt and harvesting vegetables, to art classes using all the senses, or nature hikes identifying native birds.

At Keep Your Fork Farm, Jane Morgan Smith grows truffles and makes products such as truffle butter and truffle salt under the name Truffles NC. Visitors had a chance to learn about the inoculation process and the dogs trained to assist in harvesting the ripe product.

Harvesting 10 pounds of Black Perigord truffles over a three-year period, Smith said, “There is a lot of mystery in growing truffles.” A pioneer in the field, Keep Your Fork Farm is participating in the first research grant for best practices in North Carolina, hoping to pave the way for future farmers.

Plum Granny Farm is a USDA certified organic farm supplying local restaurants, farmers markets, and individuals in their u-pick area. Ferguson explained the process of becoming and remaining certified organic, “to me it is the most important thing that we grow organically, so we are not poisoning our workers, our customers, our environment, or our selves.”

“We do pick-your-own weeds,” teased Ferguson, when explaining that no herbicides are used on the property. Garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes, blackberries, apples and a variety of herbs are among the crops grown on the 47-acre farm.

Johnny and Robin Blakley operate Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton. The micro dairy breeds and raises the goats, then milks them and makes cheese on site. “We process about 125 pounds of cheese each week,” said Johnny.

The Blakleys also raise chicken, lamb and beef which can be purchased at area farmers markets or in the store located at the farm. “We also like to support other local farmers by offering their products in our store,” said Robin.

Goat’s milk soaps and lotions as well as a variety of preserves can be found at Buffalo Creek Farm.

Located in Walkertown, Yellow Wolf Farm focuses on humanely raised livestock. Raising heritage breeds of sheep, pigs, goats, rabbits, and poultry, the farm offers fresh meat, eggs, and goat milk products each Saturday and through their Community Supported Agriculture memberships.

With hundreds of visitors to the five farms, the Northern Triad Farm Tour provided an opportunity for the public and farmers to make connections. Angela King, a guest at Plum Granny Farm, said, “I’m interested in local food, and this was very informative.”

A diverse group, the farms were brought together by more than geography. They all share a passion for educating people about where their food comes from in an up-close and hands-on way. One visitor to Buffalo Creek said, “I grew up on a farm, but this is the closest my grand kids may ever come to experiencing that.”

Each of the farms can be found online at: www.minglewoodpreserve.org, www.trufflesnc.com, www.plumgrannyfarm.com, buffalocreekfarmandcreamery.com, and www.yellowwolffarm.com.

Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.

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