Many people associate agritourism with pick-your-own farms, pumpkin patches and choose-and-cut Christmas trees. For Bill Carson, co-owner of The Orchard at Altapass, it’s a chance to share part of the state’s agricultural history with others and preserve it for future generations.
That’s why each weekend from May through October you can find Carson on the back of a hayride sharing stories about the history of the N.C. mountains from pre-Colonial days to the present.
A storytelling hayride is just one of the activities available at the orchard located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The orchard also offers live music, birdwatching, a butterfly conservatory, homemade food and desserts, and of course, apples.
Opening up the apple orchard to agritourism activities has helped preserve and protect the original orchard, which was started by the Clinchfield Railroad when it moved through the area in the early 20th century. At its peak, the original orchard produced 125,000 bushels of apples a year.
Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway cut the property in half and production declined. In 1994, Carson’s sister Kit Trubey bought the land and the siblings started preserving the orchard to its former glory.
The Orchard at Altapass is a member of the Agritourism Networking Association. The group consist of about 250 agritourism farms across the state. Throughout the year, the association hosts workshops, networking events and conferences for farmers to share ideas and learn how to improve their operations.
To learn more about the Agitourism Networking Association or to find an agritourism farm near you, go to the agritourism page on the department’s website.