Saturday, June 22: Up earlier than usual — 4:00 a.m. to be exact — the morning unfolded beautifully. As dawn gave way to daylight and temperatures warm without being hot, the staff and volunteers of ARC&D made final preparations for the Spring in TN-Farm Fresh Appalachia Farm Tour 2019. The majority of our farms along the Washington County and Greene County routes were at market for the morning, finishing up only about an hour before the tour began to rush their remaining products back to cold storage and prepare for on-site farm visitors.
Would any farmers be too rushed between market and Farm Tours? Would they be exhausted between late week harvesting in between bouts of rain, spending the morning at market, and then setting up for the tour? Would all of our volunteers make it to their designated farms on time? Had we missed anything on our checklists? The meteorologists predicted sunshine until at least 2:00 p.m. — would that give the tour guests time to get started on the tours before poor weather convinced them to stay in? These were my thoughts as I drove up the winding drive to Serenity Knoll. As I grabbed my gear and stepped out of the car, the first drops of rain fell on my sunglasses. Within 30 minutes, sprinkles became showers and from the look of the sky via my hilltop view, the clouds had no plans to relent in the near future.
As it turned out, the weather folks had it backwards; we had steady showers until around 2:30 when the sun broke through and the air felt like it became hotter than an oven baking a blueberry pie. What effect did this have on our farmers and tourists? None whatsoever. Car and van loads of festive visitors unloaded, mixed and mingled, tasted wonderful treats along the way, picked fruits and vegetables, learned a new craft, and not a single person seemed less than joyous to be where they were that day, at that moment. Reports began to filter in from the farms and the volunteers, all went well — not a single complaint about the weather. A good day was had by all.
Sunday, June 23: As I woke and the events of Saturday began to fill my yet-to-have-had-coffee head, I felt a bit silly in my worries from the day before. Of course it went well, this is Appalachia and these folks are farmers —resiliency is in their blood! Even those farmers who weren’t born and raised here soon build this special immunity to the adversities that weather and other unpredictable circumstances hand us.
But my Eureka! moment this morning came when it dawned on me that our farm tourists had the same buoyancy as our farming friends. The final numbers aren’t yet in, but we estimate approximately 200 people began the tour in the pouring rain and finished in the sweltering sun. THAT, folks, tells an undeniable story about who we are in this region and what is important to us. Even if you “aren’t from ’round here,” it isn’t long before the effervescence of our local food culture seeps into your veins. Our communities have spoken: Locally produced, high-quality food and farm products provided by real people that you can meet at your local market, become a friend with on social media, or visit on a Farm Tour is what you want.
We at Appalachian RC&D Council pledge to continue to support our local agricultural markets as we conserve our Appalachian agricultural heritage, protect our environment, and adapt to new challenges. We thank all of our local farms for graciously hosting farm tourists throughout the day, the many folks that braved the rain and heat to tour the farms, and for the support of our volunteers. Without any of you, this day could not have been possible, and we appreciate every single one of you.