Hundreds flock to 2014 farm tour

04/28/2014 12:54 PM

05/02/2014 11:42 AM

Twice a day, herd manager Allison Sturgill and her staff steer 29 Jersey cows toward the milking barn at Chapel Hill Creamery off Bethel Church-Hickory Grove Church Road.

Milking is done in a clean room, where workers quickly apply an antibacterial solution to each cow’s teats and attach the tubes. As the raw milk is pumped, it’s collected in large glass containers. Jersey cows are known for their rich, creamy milk, farm staff said. They produce about 7 gallons a day.

The amount of milk to make cheese depends on the variety, with softer cheeses requiring less, cheesemaker Brian Goodall told the Piedmont Farm Tour crowd Sunday afternoon. The 19th annual farm tour, a partnership with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, featured 39 farms in Orange and parts of Alamance, Chatham and Person counties.

The tour is self-guided over two days, and since most visitors can only fit in four or five farms a day, many return every year. Most farms on the tour had snacks and produce for sale, and many also had stations for learning about soil and water, solar energy, blacksmithing and other farm techniques.

At Fickle Creek Farm in western Orange County, visitors wandered the 145 acres watching chickens and ducks scrounge for bugs, and laying hens peck and preen in the shade of roosting “trucks.” Six shaggy, white Great Pyrenees livestock dogs kept close watch to make sure no one went astray, and the smell of pizza baking in the outdoor oven wafted over the hill.

The farm hosted more than a thousand people this weekend, farm staff said.

Chapel Hill residents Susannah Richardson, Emily Richardson, Margaretha Richardson and Daniel Knight found a spot under the shade trees to watch pigs rooting in the dirt. Fickle Creek was their fourth stop in two days, they said.

“We really liked being able to collect our own eggs,” Susannah Richardson said.

Margaretha Richardson opened her bulging carton carefully. Two eggs stood above the rest by an inch or more, drawing a crowd of amazed onlookers.

“Have you ever seen eggs this big?” she asked.

Helping local farmers find new customers is only one reason for the tours, organizers said. They also want to spread the message of sustainable, organic farming. Two more tours – the Triad and Upstate farm tours – will be held June 7-8 in Alamance County and points west.

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