Every summer locals (and visitors) to the Upstate have the unique opportunity to tour dozens of sustainable farms right here in our backyard; not only to discover the delicious meat, dairy, fruits, veggies and other commodities produced right here in the Upstate, but also to learn more about the workings of our local farms and to stock up on all sorts of goodies! This annual self-guided tour is organized by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA), a farmer-driven, membership-based non-profit organization that helps people in the Carolinas grow and eat local, organic foods by advocating for fair farm and food policies, building the systems family farms need to thrive, and educating communities about local, organic agriculture.
Participating in the Upstate Farm Tour is simple. We bought our button (a ticket, if you will) at Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery, then downloaded the Upstate Farm Tour Guide. The guide includes a map and description of the participating farms, and we chose four to five to visit each day (Saturday and Sunday, 1-6pm). Then on the weekend you load up the car and take off, remembering to bring a cooler so that you can take home some of the fresh farm products available for sale at the various farms. Shortly after lunch Saturday we headed east from Greenville to Woodruff SC, home of Kornerstone Farms – one of the 7 new stops on this year’s tour. It isn’t possible to visit all 20+ stops in the two days as they are spread throughout Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Laurens, Greenwood and Spartanburg Counties, so we had chosen an itinerary based on clusters of farms. Family owned and operated, it was members of the Kaiser family who gave us the tour, showing us first the 6 acres of forest where their pork products originate, next their free range laying hens, then finally their pastured meat birds, which we visited via hay ride to the back pasture. Items for sale included eggs, chicken, pork, turkey and goat milk soaps.
A short car ride away in Gray Court was our second stop for the day, Bethel Trails Farm. Another small family farm, the animals are raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics, free ranging on pasture. Several popular Greenville restaurants including Stella’s and Bacon Bros. Public House use Bethel Trails as a source for their meat, which was also available for purchase on location. The boys were most intrigued by the guard emu, which protects the animals from predators.
Not an official stop on the 9th Annual Upstate Farm Tour, but necessary to stave off farm tour revolt was a stop at Happy Cow Creamery. With an on-the-farm milk bottling operation the farm can offer fresh milk directly from its own dairy cows: whole milk, chocolate milk, cultured buttermilk, and strawberry milk are just a few of the products offered at the on-site-store. We settled in at a picnic table adjacent to the pasture with vanilla ice cream, and cheese and milk were tucked into the cooler before we continued west to our next stop.
At the City Scape Winery in Pelzer we strolled through rows of muscadine grapes and sampled a few wines made of local grapes as well as blackberries and peaches. The kids had a blast feeding the pet goats, and although they were a tad disappointed the fantastic-looking tree house was roped off (safety first!) they were quickly distracted by running up and down the rows of grapes. Yes, those were my kids. No, they didn’t tear anything up. Yes, we bought a few bottles of wine to make up for our sporadic participation in the tour.
Our final Saturday stop was to the distinctively-named Possum Kingdom Kreamery. Named for the community near Anderson that is found by following the directions "just up the road a ways" or "just down the road a ways” depending on whether you ask the folks down or up the road, the physical address is in Belton, SC. A raw milk dairy and creamery, we saw goats, free range hens, ducks, Teddy the guard llama and a couple of Drum Horses. This relatively rare breed of horse gets its name from the two large solid silver kettle Drums they carry in addition to a fully outfitted rider in the Queen of England’s Band of the Life Guards. Controlled entirely by reins attached to their rider’s feet, their calm and quiet disposition was noticeable on our visit. However the llama was pretty calm and quiet too – I’m thinking it might have something to do with the serene surroundings. In addition to artisan cheeses and goat milk products for sale, there were a few other local vendors selling produce, including peaches from Gray Court which we enthusiastically added to our stash. After feeding the boys a snack and choosing a feta in smoked olive oil and a goat cheese spread from the creamery for our cooler, we were on our way north back to Greenville…
Stay tuned for part two of the 9th Annual Upstate Farm Tour, including Berry Acres, Forx Farm, Split Creek Farm, Lucky Acres Farm and the Seneca Treehouse Project!