Although the pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily lives, we still need to eat. Therefore, more than ever, we must value our local food systems and the diversity of crops and other products our farmers and ranchers continue to grow and produce.
To showcase their efforts, many farmers in North Florida and South Georgia are open for the 13th Annual Farm Tour on Saturday, October 10, and Sunday, October 11, 2020.
Millstone Institute of Preservation (aka Millstone), the Farm Tour host since 2016, has worked harder than ever to put together a fantastic tour and asks that everyone respect social distancing and rules of individual farms regarding masks and safety. Some sites will have extra precautions in place, including hand sanitizer stations, social distancing markers, and plexiglass partitions on site. With safety in mind, the outdoor Farm Tour can offer a great escape from being cooped up in isolation.
There are 32 farms, ranches, farm-to-table restaurants, markets, and gardens participating in this year’s Farm Tour, some of which have never participated in the past. The sites span nearly 100 miles east to west, from Greenville, Florida, to Chipley, Florida, and about 70 miles north to south, from Cairo, Georgia, to Panacea, Florida. These outdoor spaces are open for the public at no cost. They give participants the opportunity to explore local farms, purchase locally produced products, and learn how they can support local agriculture now and into the future.
You can read a summary about each participating site, see available amenities, find out specific times sites will be open, and learn about any extra protections sites are taking regarding the pandemic in the Farm Tour Booklet. There are even a few worksheet fun pages for young students to complete throughout the Booklet.
On the tour there are a variety of farmers who specialize in producing many unique products. Some of the animal products featured this year include grass-fed beef, heritage-breed pork, pasture-raised turkey, and duck eggs. There are also grass-based creameries on the tour producing many delicious dairy products, such as ice cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
Additionally, you can explore a variety of crops at the many fruit and vegetable farms on the tour, watch demonstrations on multiple ways of composting, join a Community Supported Agriculture program, learn about hügelkultur gardening, taste thirst-quenching Satsuma orange juice, roam a muscadine orchard, and marvel at acres of blueberry bushes. There will also be over 40 vendors setup at various farms with agricultural and artisan items available for purchase.
As the Farm Tour host, Millstone is opening its gate once again for participants to explore the beautiful view atop the hill looking out over Lake McBride. The Millstone Kitchen will be open serving food, and there will be demonstrations on weaving, blacksmithing, and even how to cook over a fire. Although Millstone has paused its workshops and classes due to COVID-19, they plan to restart as soon as possible, offering hands-on lessons on topics such as agriculture, gardening, sustainability, and folk and fine arts.
As this Farm Tour is self-guided, be sure to look at the map on the last page of the Farm Tour Booklet to help plan your route. There are many farms to be explored while also following safe social distancing guidelines. Remember to bring along your mask, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, hat, insect repellent, and water. Please also wear closed-toe shoes when visiting Farm Tour sites. If you think you might purchase fresh meats or produce, bring a cooler with ice, along with cash, as some farmers may not take credit cards.
And as always, please remember to support your local farmers! By valuing the people who produce our food locally, we can help build a strong and resilient food system that can withstand future challenges.