5th Annual Meet Yer Eats Farm Tour Held in Central VA
5th Annual Meet Yer Eats farm tour
On Monday, an annual farm tour gave people a chance to see where their food comes from and meet the farmers who make most things on our plate possible. The 5th Annual Meet Yer Eats farm tour took visitors all across central Virginia this Labor Day.
Bellair Farm in Albemarle County is typically quiet, but Monday dozens of tour groups took to the farm to explore. From the greenhouse, the barn and the chicken coops - visitors saw it all.
"It's great to be able to get community members out here, because we really want to be a resource to the community and so do all the local farms around here," said Jamie Barrett, owner of Bellair Farm.
From Afton, to Madison, to Albemarle County - 19 farmers welcomed the public out for a tour put together by Market Central.
At the "Best of What's Around" farm, children met animals you don't see every day and visitors got a chance to chow down on food right from the farm. Organic, cage free, free range and the list goes on - Barrett says it's nice to have a chance to break down produce terms.
"When you are contacting your local farm you can learn all that and it's just a really great opportunity to think about your priorities as a consumer and what you want in your food," said Jamie Barrett if Bellair Farm.
Visitors also learned about community supported agriculture (CSA). It's a way for people to connect with a farm that's growing their food. Instead of hitting the grocery store, they stop by the farm each week to pick up their own produce.
For more information about local CSAs, click here.
Market Central Press Release
On Labor Day, over 1, 000 people are expected to hit the backroads surrounding Charlottesville for a local foods enthusiast's ultimate field trip: the Meet Yer Eats Farm Tour. In its 5th year, the tour highlights producers from the Charlottesville City Market, and 19 farms will open their fields, barns, and greenhouses to visitors this year. By presenting the tour annually, Market Central aims to strengthen the relationships between producers and consumers, and encourages support of local farmers as key to economic, physical, and environmental vibrancy in our area.
A $15 car pass admits everyone in your car on tour day to all of the participating farms, and most visitors will see 3 or 4 farms on tour day. According to tour coordinator, Kathy Kildea, "We've talked with many visitors who look forward to the annual event, and target a different geographic area each year. The line-up of host farms changes a little every year, so it's never the same tour twice." The variety of farms assures that there is something for everyone: fruit, vegetables, beef, chicken, pork, cheese, mushrooms, cut flowers, cider, and freshly-milled grains will all be represented on tour day.
Although the title of the tour is "Meet Yer Eats", the event is really focused on getting to know your farmer. The Charlottesville area has emerged as a prominent force in the local foods scene (Forbes called it the "locavore capital of the world"), owing at least in part to growers' willingness to be transparent in their operations. Kildea said, "They're proud of their farms. They take great care in both the foods they produce, and in their production methods. So they're not just great food producers: they're gentle and conscientious land and water stewards. I'm constantly impressed by the work they are doing, and their willingness to share what they've learned with each other, and with consumers."
This camaraderie beckoned Phyllis Hunter to call Charlottesville "home". A few years ago, Hunter was considering relocating to Charlottesville, and while exploring what the area had to offer, was excited to learn that the Meet Yer Eats tour was happening during her visit. "I was thrilled to see the interest in local foods and farms, and it helped convince me that Charlottesville was going to be our new home." But more than setting up a household, Hunter was exploring options for starting a new retail business, one that relied on a thriving food community to succeed. Hunter opened The Spice Diva in the Main Street Market in 2011, and building relationships with local producers and chefs has been a key to her shop's success. "When I was researching potential locations, I received great advice from The Rock Barn's Ben Thompson, advice which later proved to be spot on. He had spent much of his working life getting to know the food network in Charlottesville, and encouraged my dream for my own business." Hunter is always on the lookout for new partnerships. "I talk with producers, not only about what their needs are from me, but also about sourcing products to feature in my shop. The food knowledge base in this city is incredible, but the willingness to share ideas is priceless." Hunter partners with many of the farms who participate in the Meet Yer Eats tour: her herb blends are used in some of Caromont Farm's cheeses, Sharondale Farm's Reishi Mushroom tea is sold in her shop, and she even discovered a family connection to the owners of Vintage Virginia Apples/Albemarle Ciderworks.
While the novice backyard gardener is likely to pick up ideas for their own garden, more experienced gardeners will pick the experts' brains more intensely on tour day. And in the food community, information flows freely. "You won't get that kind of reception at a large-scale, commercial grower", said Kildea. Many farms are offering special workshops and tours throughout the day that are specifically designed to share that knowledge. "It's part progressive farmers market, part classroom, and a whole lot of fun for families, foodies and farmies, alike."