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May 30, 2023, 7:15 p.m.

Gastronomic Bliss: Farm-Fresh Finds in the Blue Ridge

man holding lettuce at a farm

The Blue Ridge Mountains have earned a reputation for being a foodie destination, and for good reason. The secret can be found at the hundreds of farms within a 200 mile radius. They provide local restaurants and farmers markets with the freshest produce, honey, herbs, and even farm-brewed beer. Here’s your guide to our favorite farm-to-your-table products, and where to find them.

Camp Grier

Using a state-of-the-art hydroponic system, Camp Grier in Old Fort grows lettuce, microgreens, and vegetables. They also have perfected the grow-bag system. They host over a dozen beehives, producing honey from tulip poplars, locust, and sourwood trees in addition to the surrounding fruit trees. They also produce organic eggs from free-range chickens. The best part is that they offer a summer camp where kids can learn about sustainable farming in addition to challenging themselves with rock climbing and paddling the rapids.

Crow Fly Farm

Of utmost importance to Crow Fly Farms in Marion is implementing regenerative farming practices through a holistic approach to farming. They raise 100% grass fed and finished cattle and sheep as well as forest raised organic fed hogs.  They are establishing silvopasture systems across the farm which includes, planting trees, prescribed burns, selective harvesting from their forest, and the introduction of native warm season grasses.  You’re invited to take a guided tour of the farm and see how they are using their animals to regenerate their land. Private tours are by appointment only. While visiting the farm you can purchase meat directly from them or order online and pick up at the farm. Starting in July 2023, overnight RV parking will be available as well. 

Note: Because visitors must traverse a ridgeline through uneven terrain in a cemetery, the route may not be suitable for those with limited mobility.

forest-sheep at crow fly farm in marion nc

Sweet Betsy Farm

Sweet Betsy Farm is quite literally the sweetest, most charming farm in Marion and the surrounding towns. It’s a small family apiary producing local honey, produce, and flowers. The good folks here are dedicated to offering a closeup look into hive life and discussing the importance of planting landscaping that provides pollinator habitats. We highly recommend you stick around for any delicious cooking demonstrations being offered at the time of your visit.

Be sure to take a selfie feeding the eager chickens and then buy a fresh dozen for an out-of-this-world breakfast or dinner omelet! Sample all of the honeys and purchase a jar to take home. Perhaps pick up some fresh flowers for your table or as a thank you to your hosts for a fantastic stay.

The farm is both wheelchair- and stroller-accessible.

Lee’s One Fortune Farm

Chue and Tou Lee have built a family-owned farm dedicated to selling high-quality produce and rice to restaurants and local farmers’ markets. You can visit their rice fields to see how they produce some of the most-popular and lesser-known rice varieties, such as purple rice and the sweet-sticky rice popular in many Asian dishes. They take pride in practicing the traditional way of growing food. If you time your visit perfectly, you may even catch demonstrations of harvesting and cooking the rice.

But the Lees don’t only specialize in rice. They also grow peaches, pears, melons, and persimmons. The difference in fruits you find in grocery stores pale in comparison to their fruits right off the tree.

Another notable farm is The Orchard at Altapass in Little Switzerland, a non-profit, U-pick orchard offering 20 varieties of heirloom apples, ecosystem exhibits, walking trails, and a general store.

Whaley Brewery Farm Stand

Whaley Farm Brewery

Reminiscent of English pub ales and continental lager styles, Whaley’s Appalachian farm beers are brewed with locally sourced fruits, spices, flowers, and herbs. Their brews utilize well-researched and regenerative techniques that showcase local ingredients, making the resulting beers truly unique.

Connoisseurs will want to know that their English pub beers are brewed in 7-barrel, 2-vessel systems poured through 2 Angram beer engines, while their continental lagers are poured through Lukr side-pull faucets. All we need to know is that the beer produced at Old Fort’s Whaley Farm Brewery is basically a health food.

In addition to growing their own food, Whaley has a produce stand right there in the brewery!

Also of note, Perry’s Berries Vineyard and Winery in nearby Morganton offers berry-picking along with a relaxing space with covered outdoor seating to enjoy your wine slushie, cider, or delicious homemade ice cream. They are a family-owned business specializing in everything blueberry.

Where to Shop for Farm Fresh Produce

Historic Marion Tailgate Market

Historic Marion Tailgate Market

You have an opportunity to shop for fresh produce and farm-made goods twice a week at 67 W. Henderson Street in downtown Marion. Pick from one of two days:

  • Every Tuesday, 3 - 6 p.m. from May through July
  • Each Saturday, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., from May through October

Buck Creek Country Store

Stop by this general store and trout farm along 226A in Marion. You can pick up some applewood smoked trout, snacks, local honey, jams and jellies — plus candles, T-shirts, hats, mugs and other souvenirs that are locally made. The store is open March through November.

Roaming Buffalo Outpost

This western-wear clothing store in Marion also has a freezer full of farm-fresh meats available. In the freezer, you'll discover a variety of beef cuts such as ribeye, sirloin, filet mignon, chuck roast, and tenderloin. Additionally, there are offerings like ground beef, oxtail, beef sausages, and beef liver and links.