(Continued from this post, on the 10th annual Upstate Farm Tour)
|Earlybird Farms in Hodges, SC|
From Possum Kingdom Kreamery in Belton we headed to Happy Critters Ranch in Honea Path. While we waited for our tour to begin we enjoyed a glass of sweet tea under the giant oak, at a long table decked out with a checkered tablecloth and flowers picked that morning (the farm was a meal stop, though we had just eaten at the previous farm and so stuck with the lemonade and tea).
The tour took us from the fields to the wooded trails where the farm’s animals are pastured, the children marveling at the piglets. A tom was gobbling and strutting his stuff while a half dozen turkey hens grazed nearby. We sampled pork breakfast sausage made on location in the ‘up-cycled’ smoker and were so impressed, that we bought a couple of pounds to stick in the freezer. And finally we admired the old chimney and foundations that at some point could have been the main house on the farm.
The farm’s poultry, beef, lamb and pork products can be purchased at the farm on specific days of the month, online, and through a HCF membership; see website for details.
Our next stop on the tour was Bio-Way Farm. You might recognize the name, as they have a booth at the TD Saturday Farmer’s Market on Main St. in Greenville and the Slow Foods Earth Market at SRC&G on select Thursdays. The result of a transformation of a hunting retreat into a small market farm, the farm is the brainchild of Chris Sermons. Since the late 1990’s Bio-Way has been providing row crops and perennials to the Greenville market, including Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery, Whole Foods, Bacon Bros. Public House and Stella’s.
The three boys were impatient before the tour even began, and soon after Chris started I realized we would be disrupting the experience of the rest of the group if we stayed on. With apologies to Chris we headed on a short self-guided tour: an exploration of area around the greenhouse and fields, and a quick foray into the forested gardens. Beyond the blueberry bushes we found landscaping featuring native plants, edibles and soil enhancers, with special attention paid to pollinators, woodland medicinals, mushroom production and foraging opportunities. After picking up some fresh-from-the-fields veggies we hopped back in the car and made tracks for the last farm of the day, Earlybird Farms.
|minnows, to be sold as bait|
Located on Highway 25 in Hodges, this farm is rather far from Greenville; probably due to the distance it wasn’t on my radar. Now, after having visited and taken the tour, we will be on the lookout for Earlybird products such as mushrooms, honey and fish emulsion fertilizer. The unique homestead featured three acres of gardens, a commercial-size greenhouse and a worm/minnow farm (sold as fishing bait). We were impressed with the waste not/want not approach towards every aspect of the operation, for example the minnows that died before being sold would go into the fish emulsion fertilizer, while those that were too big were relocated into a large pool until they would be eaten. Ducks, turkeys, rabbits – all raised as food, not pets, and a homemade chicken plucker brought that point home. In terms of teaching the boys where their food comes from, this was the most valuable stop on the tour; I thank Earlybird for their honest and educational approach while captivating our interest on the last stop of the day.
|During the heat of the summer the greenhouses are utilized to grow mushrooms|
I had penciled in two more farms on my list, just in case we made it through the first four in record time… However, it was not meant to be; it was already past six as we headed back towards Greenville from Earlybird Farms, and all five of us were happily exhausted from the day’s adventures. A big thanks to Carolina Farm Stewardship Association for another awesome Upstate Farm Tour; you can bet we’ll be back out next year to explore more of our local farms!