NOTE: Due to Hurricane Irma, this event has been rescheduled for Sept. 23.
If you’re looking for a family activity with some education – and cute animals – this is your weekend.
Sustainable Midlands has organized a tour of sustainable farms in Richland and Lexington counties. Each farm has something unique to feature, whether it’s a niche product or a farming system such as aquaponics. Here, a look at the farms on this self-guided tour. The ones with an asterisk are new to the tour this year.
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This place serves almost like a “miniature growing laboratory” for Anson Mills, with fields of buckwheat, sorghum, heirloom peas, Carolina Gold Rice farmed by Eufren Ninancuro, and indigo grown by Carolina and David Harper.
The Harpers are hoping to revive the heritage crop of local indigo (Indigofera suffruticosa) as it was once grown successfully in colonial America, with exports of more than 1 million pounds of indigo to England by the time of the American Revolution.
What’s available on the tour: Dry goods such as grits, stone cut oats, Carolina Gold Rice and dried peas; indigo-dyed fabrics by Carolina Harper (CHIdesign Indigo)
Carolina Bay Farms*
5301 Lower Richland Blvd., Hopkins. www.facebook.com/CarolinaBayFarms/
This site, originally settled around 1760, is today being operated by James Hopkins Helms and Sharon Ray as what is currently the only animal welfare approved farm in the Midlands. The 6-acre farm sitting on the edge of an 80-acre Carolina Bay is home to heritage breeds of pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys and guinea fowl.
Carolina bays are oval-shaped, swampy depressions that crop up throughout the Atlantic coastal plain, varying in depth and size but usually with a northwest-southeast alignment. There are roughly 500,000 of them along the Atlantic Coastal Plain, stretching from Delaware to northcentral Florida.
What’s available on the tour: Non-GMO chicken and duck eggs and pork products. Wolf Pizza food truck will be on site for those who want to grab lunch.
2101 Cedar Creek Road, Blythewood. www.dokofarm.org
This is a fourth-generation farm owned by Amanda and Joe Jones. The duo specializes in pasture-raised heritage meats, including Narragansett turkeys, Buckeye chickens, Saint Croix sheep and American Guinea hogs.
The farm has been in the Jones family since 1839, and the name Doko is the original name of the train depot and surrounding settlement that later became known as Blythewood.
What’s available on the tour: Doko’s heritage meat products as well as Congaree Milling Company’s organic polenta, corn meal, grits and corn flour and Big Belly Farm’s small-batch, hot processed goat milk soaps.
Fire Barrel Farm*
306 George Derrick Road, Swansea. www.facebook.com/GoatDairyFarm/
Now’s your chance to try and milk a goat! This 30-acre farm is home to a Grade A goat dairy, in addition to some pigs, mules, chicks, guinea hens and a couple of peacocks. The farm also features vegetables and fresh eggs.
What’s available on the tour: Fresh produce and goat’s milk soap; items from Oak Grove Farm in Sandy Run; and rustic wood work artisan pieces from Swansea Market Place.
Leesville Aquaponics Homestead*
105 Sugar Bottom Road, Batesburg-Leesville. www.facebook.com/leesville.aquaponics/
A model of homesteading – the practice of living self-sufficiently – this small, organic family farm raises tilapia, rabbits, chickens and turkeys and then processes them on-site. An aquaponic greenhouse extends the growing season year round and serves as home for the fish. Poultry is free-range and non-GMO.
Leesville Aquaponics Homestead also offers classes on aquaponic production and sells greenhouses.
What’s available on the tour: Fresh eggs, culinary herbs, vegetables, and chickens
Meador Acres Chestnuts*
5525 Fish Hatchery Road, Pelion. www.meadoracreschestnuts.com
A member of the Chestnut Growers of America, LLC, Meador Acres grows Chinese chestnuts and is one of the few chestnut orchards in the South. The nuts can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted, are a third the calorie content of peanuts, are high in fiber, and are used in recipes (James and Katrina Meador make a delicious chestnut spread).
Come by and learn about beekeeping, feed some ducks and play a game of horseshoes.
What’s available on the tour: Chestnut products (the season is September-October), homemade jellies, and chicken, duck and guinea eggs. Pelican SnoBalls and Blended Bakery Trolley will be on-site 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Six Berry Farm
179 Bama Road, Gilbert. www.facebook.com/sixberryfarmsc/
Home to pygmy goats, fainting goats, Nubian goats, chickens, horses, miniature horses, cats and dogs. Six Berry offers farm fresh eggs and goat’s milk soaps.
What’s available on the tour: Goat’s milk soap, fresh eggs, naturally made pet products, light refreshments
Terra Kotta Farm
2412 Lewie Road, Batesburg-Leesville. www.facebook.com/TerraKottaFarms/
An education-focused organic farm where visitors can observe sustainable agriculture in practice. The farm is home to humanely raised chickens, goats and bunnies and a variety of produce. Learn about off-grid food production (solar automated high tunnels and hoop house) and the farm’s weekly produce basket program.
What’s available on the tour: Eggs, tomato pies, pasteurized chicken, goat cheese, seasonal produce. Demonstrations will be offered on composting, rainwater harvesting, chicken processing and models for pasteurized poultry.
Up on Cedar Knoll*
140 Cedar Knoll Court, Blythewood. www.uponcedarknoll.homestead.com
This 30-acre farm is where you will find pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, non-GMO heritage Bourbon Red turkeys, Dominique, Cochin and Dark Brahma chickens. The birds are raised cage-free and harvested on site, by hand, to reduce the stress of transport to a processor.
The kitchen garden uses composting methods and rainwater collection, and many of the vegetables are heirloom varieties.
What’s available on the tour: Chicken, eggs, vegetables, herbs, potted plants, firewood and kindling, birdhouses and planters made of reclaimed wood; “Bunnies’ Brew” from The Barclay School at Magnolia Farm; local works of art.
The Winery at Mercer House Estate Winery
397 Walter Rawl Road, Lexington. www.mercerhouseestatewinery.com
Mercer House Winery produces hyper-local, sustainable Amber wines, field-blended through five unique vineyards with 50 varieties of native Pepulus grapes. Field blends include Gamecork, Red Dog and Neal Anne. In addition, The winery creates flavors such as fruit spiced coffee, jalapeno, and bloody mary.
What’s available on the tour: Tastings, tours and bottles of wine
Midlands Farm Tour
WHEN: 11 a.m-6 p.m. Sept. 23
WHERE: Various Midlands farms
COST: $15, all-inclusive for all farms on the tour, available at www.midlandsfarmtour.com. Free for children under 10, and for families and individuals who are WIC, SNAP or EBT beneficiaries (with proof of eligibility).
INFO: Download a tour map and guide at www.midlandsfarmtour.com/farm-tour-guide/