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In this issue, American Roads is beginning
a new column, Agri Lanes. We all enjoy eating and surely traveling, so what
better than exploring the unique places our food comes from. Agritourism is
becoming mo e and more popular fueled by the trend of farm to table and no
doubt by the alarming recalls and warnings about processed food and salmonella
outbreaks. Also in more urban societies, children have no concept of where
food comes from. A classic example is the person seeing tongue on a menu
exclaims, "I don't want to eat anything that has been in an animal's mouth
. I'll have an egg sandwich instead."
For this first column, we are going to present a mini view of some of
the great farms, wineries, ranches and other places that bring their
products to you table and let you come visit and see how the product is
produced. So if one or more of these little appetizers about great
agritourism spots whets your appetite, the future issues will give you
the whole enchilada. In fact, the next issues will all be featuring one
of these very places.
Lane Southern Orchards:
David Lane III told me "If I went to the bank for a loan today to open a
packing house and orchard five miles off the interstate, they would
probably laugh at me."
But in 1908 when family patriarch, John
David Duke, started as Diamond Fruit Farms in Fort Valley, GA there was no
interstate and no one imagined that people would want to visit a packing plant
or orchard to see fruit packed or picked. Today, managed by fifth generation
descendents of John David, the orchard had three hundred thousands of visitors
last year flocking to see the peaches or pecans packed. They throng to ride
the orchard tour wagon to see the peaches ripening on trees or pick their own
If seeing all that fresh fruit makes them
hungry, they can just go into the orchard's own Peachtree Caf� and chow down
on freshly prepared meals or enjoy some peach cobbler. But whatever you do,
try the homemade peach ice cream. It is the best you'll ever taste which is
ironic as it started accidentally. David explained they never planned to sell
ice cream but one hot day they got out an old ice cream maker and pealed a
bunch of peaches and made some peach cream for themselves. A few visitors came
by and asked if they could buy some. They shared it and the visitors loved it.
So they decided to use up some of the less than perfect peaches and sell a
little ice cream. They hired a high school girl, and set her up with a folding
table out front. She sold out and had visitors clamoring for more. So they
hired two girls and set up another table. Again they sold out and had people
begging for more. Thus the tradition was born. Today people from all over come
for a taste of that mythical ice cream. They have to set aside and freeze
hundreds of bushels of peaches to have enough to last to the next season.
Farmhouse Inn at Hundred Acre Farm:
If you want a getaway to a real farm and still have gracious
accommodations, this is the place. Innkeeper, Crystal Johnson, and her
husband Ellis will welcome you to some down home fun and excitement. The
Farmhouse Inn is a bed and breakfast with a country style twist. The
rooms are in a white clapboard farmhouse-style tin-roofed building and
decorated in a cozy farm style. A community room with a fireplace and
lots of games is there if you choose to enjoy some indoor time.
But there is so much to do outdoors at the
farm. You can hike �or if you constrained by time or health take the golf
cart� and explore the farm. There are lots of chickens, cows and goats to
visit. Then you can fish or canoe in the river or lake on site. There is even
a basket with binoculars and identifying information for birders. You will
find other wild life there, too. I was excited to spot a few fox squirrels.
Breakfast is a real delight . It is served
in the Red Barn Meeting Room with lots of large double style doors that open
onto a wide veranda overlooking a green pasture where you might see any type
of bird as the Farmhouse Inn is located in a flyway area. The food is fresh
and mostly local. Crystal showed me the fresh eggs from her chickens. They
were beautiful, all large, some brown and some a lovely pale green. The cooked
version lived up to the beauty of those fresh ones. There is so much more I
want to tell you about this place but it will have to wait for the feature on
it that will be in an upcoming issue.
Olive Forge Herb Farm:
Marsha and Darryl Herren are an amazing couple. Seniors, who are their
own best advertisement for staying healthy with herbs, they run
Georgia's only licensed herb farm. This place is amazing. You can find
over 350 varieties of culinary, medicinal and wreath herbs. Their
gardens and gift shop, The Still Room, are available for browsing.
Rosemary rules there. One bush is almost
the size of a small tree. I was so impressed with a new variety of rosemary
they have produced by crossing some existing plants. The butterfly garden is
another impressive place. Darryl explained that in order to have a complete
butterfly garden, you need not only the beautiful flowering plants that the
butterflies love, you must also have the plants they need as caterpillars and
those used to devout and to create their cocoons before hatching into the
beautiful flying jewels everyone wants to see in their garden.
The gift shop, filled with their own
handmade soaps, candles, teas, lotions and books on herbs, is part of their
beautifully rustic home they build lovingly by hand. They invited us in to
enjoy some of their homemade bread, cake, lavender cookies and redbud tea.
This is the kind of place you need to visit
www.facebook.com/pages/ Olive - Forge /28328162630
Watermelon Creek Winery :
Located in Glennville, GA, this is the newest muscadine winery in
Southeast Georgia is owned and operated by Charles and Debra Tillman,
Watermelon Creek Winery may be new but the roots run deep here. It's
located on the homestead of generations of Charles's ancestors.
This is a boutique winery where most of the
work is done by hand in the state of the art processing room. The love and
care put into each bottle shows when you sip one of the wines. You can do that
sipping in the tasting room which is an amazing blend of the latest trends and
the heritage that links the winery to the past.
We took a tour of the ancient buildings
still preserved on the property and rode through the vineyards being tended
according to the most advanced techniques.
From the way Georgia is embracing the trend
towards "Georgia Grown" I doubt this will be the newest winery for long but I
expect it will stay around for many years and earn the title "One of Georgia's
Crane Creek Winery:
This is one of the old traditional North Georgia mountain wineries.
Located in Young Harris, it grows several kinds of grapes, some of the
French ones not usually associated with North Georgia such as Cabernet
Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and produces some tasty local wines. The
tasting room, open Tuesday thru Sunday, is at the vineyard in the old
Bryson farmhouse. You can drop in and have an impromptu picnic perched
on the deck or spread a blanket on the rolling hillside. Their gift shop
even has some gourmet cheese and some crackers and a bottle of one of
their fine wines You will find vines planted to take advantage of the
unique mountainous countryside in North Georgia suited to the European
varieties of varieties of Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and
Villard Noir along with the modern hybrid Chardonel and native American
varieties of Norton and Catawba Try their Sweet Sally for a perfect
In season, you can tour the winery. Crane
Creek also offers festivals and several culinary events throughout the year.
The had a small apple orchard and a culinary garden that provides mush of the
food for these events.
Hunter Cattle Company Began as and still is a place where cattle, pigs
and chickens are raised in the most humane way and at the same time fed
without chemicals growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics. The result
is tastier meat and the eggs richer than those bought at the grocery
store. It began as Del Ferguson's dream. He had ran a successful
business in Savanna for 25 years but dreamed of the day he could get
away back to the farm. He convinced his wife, Debra, and they began to
raise quality beef adhering to the highest standards of the American
Grassfed Association and the organization Animal Welfare Approved. As
the ranch grew, he convinced his daughter, Kristin, and two of his sons,
Anthony and Hunter to join them.
"So many people are disconnected from the
way their food is produced now." Del explained. " I want to go back to doing
things the way it was done 100 years ago."
He found that as the farm grew, people
would come and just visit. To accommodate the growing number of people who
want ot "visit" he has adapted an old tobacco barn into two visitors' suites.
"Don't snort when I say old tobacco barn," he said. "We fixed them up really
Hunter Cattle also provides camping
facilities if you want to bring out your RV or tent. You can hike the nature
trail, ride a horse or just relax on the porch if you don't want to do any of
the hard work of raising cattle.
Moo Ma's Farm Store, at the ranch, sells
their grassfed beef, pastured pork, free range chicken and eggs. They also
support neighboring family farms by carrying locally grown vegetables and
This fourth generation family run orchard located in Blue Ridge, GA
offers tours and u-pick fruit in season. You are driven around the
orchard in a wagon pulled by a tractor and can pick vine ripened fruit
that has been grown with a minimum of chemicals. Inside the shop, you
find the seasonal fruit as well as many other local produce items. There
is also a variety of unusual products from other areas and unique gift
items. Try their bakery and deli for delicious fried pies, sandwiches
and other goodies. Be sure to try their own pressed cider and fruit
R and A Orchards:
This is one of Ellijay, GA's family owned orchards located on the
stretch of highway 52 East known as Apple Alley for its abundance of
orchards. Every weekend in September they offer farm tours on a huge old
fashioned wagon and pick-your-own apples usually from June to February.
They also offer other tours at other times of the year such as Apple
Blossom Tours in April. The store is open all year and sells great fried
pies and fresh produce. They have about 60 acres of varied apples and
about 10 acres of peaches and nectarines.
Red Earth Farms:
At Red Earth Farm owners Raven Waters and
Janisse Ray strive to produce a large selection of vegetables, pecans, fruit,
honey, and heirloom seeds, as well as meat and eggs organically. They use no
chemicals on the produce. Their animals are grass fed and not fed hormones or
antibiotics. One way they do thsi is by raising hogs with a wild ancestor
instead of regular domesticated ones. These are less succeptible to
desease.They do much of the farm work on their 46-acre historic farm in
southern Tattnall County, Georgia as it was done when their 1850 farmhouse was
You will find their own homemade sodas (birch beer, ginger ale, root beer,
raspberry, cream), jams and jellies, lye soap, woodcut note cards, baked
goods, and farmhouse granola when you visit.
One of the most fun aspects of Red Earth
Farms are the workshops on organic gardening, cheese-making, fermentation,
canning, solar dehydration, backyard chickens, and other sustainability skills
such as their "Build a Cob Oven Workshop" and "Cheese Making."
(Click formore about Kentucky's Bourbon Trail
The distilling of spirits goes far back
into man's primeval past. Probably before written history, primitive man was
attempting ot ferment alcohol in gourds or stone jugs. Barton Brands of
Kentucky is one of the Kentucky bourbon distillers that have followed in the
time-honored tradition and using more modern methods have turned it into an
art. It apparently is an art many people are interested in because at the new
Visitor Center at Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Ky. The place teems
with visitors. It the base of operations for the Distillery's tours.
Here you can learn about the history of the
130-plus year-old-Distillery, visit the area grain loading facility,
hammermill and the still. Next you can go inside an aging barrel warehouse,
called a rickhouse and smell what distillers call the "angels share," that
portion of the alcohol content that is leached out into the air due to the
expansion and contraction of the barrels. Next stop on the tour route is the
bottling hall, where you will find several bottling lines filling the
different varieties of bourbon made here. Then it's back to the visitors
center to go for the gold and have a taste of some of their finest spirits.
Heaven Hill Distillery:
You may be thinking you are in Heaven at
Heaven Hill Distillery. Here the most interesting stage of the process is the
bourbon warehouse. Billy Joe Nalley, one of the guides, explains "The
warehousing process is more than just a storage area. Bourbon's unique taste
is created while it ages in white oak barrels that have been charred. The
place it is stored is referred to as a rickhouse and whether a barrel is
placed near the fifteenth or the first floor makes a huge difference in the
�Parker Beam Taste of Heaven� is a
barrel�shaped tasting room. These products are also similar yet subtly
different from other bourbons, a result of a different storage time and
Willett's Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is a
real family business. You may be greeted by brothers-in law, Drew Kulsveen and
Hunter Chavanne. They along with Drew's father, Even, and sister, Britt,
operate this boutique style distillery. Here you can see the entire
distillation process. You will love their little pot still. Hunter explained
to me why their bourbon is a little higher in alcohol, "Once you add water,
you can't take it out and we want people to enjoy our bourbon as they see
Jack Daniels Distillery:
Although Kentucky produces 95% of the
world's supply of bourbon, the Jack Daniels Distillery is the oldest distiller
in the country. It did shut down a few times first when a Tennessee
prohibition law was passed, again for national prohibition and for a short
time during World War II. It is not exactly considered bourbon (even though U.
S. laws governing spirits say it is) but Tennessee sipping whiskey. Located in
Lynchburg, TN, a dry county incidentally) this is a trip into the past. From
the barrelhouse to the cold air rushing from the cave where the spring water
is pumped, everything is unique. Even the story about Jack Daniels meeting his
demise from kicking a safe. He developed blood poisoning and refusing to go to
a doctor to treat the injury.
Special preview: Paradise Hills
Resort & Spa in Blairsville has planted 300 vines and are planting
another 50 in a separate �test vineyard' by the lodge. Construction on the
winery has begun and equipment is ordered. They hope to get it completed by
this fall so that they can begin some production of wine with grapes from
other vineyards this year. If all goes well, they will have wine in their
tanks by the end of the year. The tasting room opening is still up in the
air�. Their county has no farm wineries; they will be the first, so they are
working with the commissioner to make it happen smoothly. For now, it is
planned for the spring 2013 to open the tasting room; though, it is available
for events & banquet reservation right now
For another great agri-tourism destination