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Agriculture in Catawba County generates $52 million in direct economic impact with even more from indirect sources, and there are over 700 farming and agricultural operations in the county. Would you like to learn more about this important sector of the local economy?

Catawba County’s annual Agri-Tourism Day, set for Saturday, October 18, 2014, is a tour of a dozen farms across the county that will demonstrate the wide range of local agricultural production.

“Agri-Tourism Day is a chance to explore local agriculture and get to know our farmers,” said Kellyn Montgomery, Local Foods Agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension – Catawba County, which is hosting the event. “This is a self-guided, family-friendly tour, so bring the whole family and have fun learning about local food!”

Tour maps and site descriptions will be available at the Catawba County Government Center, all city and town halls across the county, the Chamber of Commerce, public libraries, and at so participants may plan ahead.

“Participants may attend as many sites as they like but are encouraged to pick their favorites as there may not be time to visit every farm,” Montgomery said. “Farm sites will be open at different times, so we suggest you plan the day accordingly.”

Farms on the tour include:

Red Wolf Farm- open 10:00am - 5:00pm at 4137 Providence Mill Road, Maiden, will host its annual Pumpkin Patch Festival. Enjoy hayrides, pumpkin picking, a carnival maze, horseback riding, farm animals, and vendor booths in the Artisan Village. Food trucks will be available in the picnic barn. Fee is $8 per person and children under 12 months are admitted free.

LFR Farms & Greenhouses- open 8:00am - 12:00pm at 2952 Lou Hoyle Lane, Newton, has over 1,000 acres and grows vegetable plants, annuals, perennials, and hanging baskets in its greenhouses. The farm also produces corn, wheat, and soybeans.

HOPE Garden- open 9:00am - 12:30pm at 701 1st Street NW, Hickory, produces fresh vegetables and fruit for Western North Carolina Epilepsy Association members, Hickory Soup Kitchen and East Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry to help those in need of nutritious food. HOPE is made possible by community volunteers of all ages. Information on volunteering will be available.

Shady Oaks Farm- open 8:00am - 3:00pm at 3487 Yount Road, Newton, produces a variety of naturally raised fruits, vegetables, honey, and free-range eggs. The tour is a great time to pick up fresh fall green beans, broccoli, turnip greens, white cucumbers, bell peppers and okra.

Sipe Angus Farm- open 8:00am - 3:00pm at1338 Balls Creek Road, Newton, continues to research the best genetics programs to provide a quality eating experience with no additives or hormones. Kids can see roaming beef cattle while parents pick up grass-fed beef to take home.

Two Shoes Farm- open 10:00am - 2:00pm at 204 2nd Avenue SW, Hickory, is a mushroom farm providing local chefs with gourmet Blue Oyster, King Trumpet and Lions Mane mushrooms. Learn the processes and techniques required to produce these varieties.

Devine Farms- open 2:00pm - 9:00pm at 2675 St. James Church Road, Newton, raises cattle, sheep, goats, and produce and is offering wagon rides, a corn maze, and other activities for $5 per person for the day. There is no fee for kids age 5 and under. Free wagon rides to a pumpkin patch are available for those who would like to pick and purchase a pumpkin without participating in other activities.

Buffalo Beals Animal Park- open 9:00am - 6:00pm at 3259 Water Plant Road, Maiden, spans 40 acres of easily accessible viewing grounds where you will encounter elk, antelope, camel, giraffe, chimpanzee, buffalo, kangaroos, monkeys and other exotic and domestic animals. The park will be open free of charge for the day. Visitors may pick a pumpkin and enjoy a hayride for $8 per person.

Ironwood Estate Orchids- open 8:00am - 4:00pm, at 3757 Sandy Ford Road, Hickory, grows and sells a wide range of orchids from around the world that may not be seen in big box stores. Learn about growing different types of orchids and enjoy the peaceful environment in the greenhouses.

Calderon Farms and M&M Produce- open 8:00am - 3:00pm at 9177 Cooksville Road, Vale, are both owned by the Calderon family and have multiple fields for tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. Come enjoy a tour of the farms’ shared facility and learn about the operations.

Bird Brain Ostrich Ranch- open 8:00am - 3:00pm at 6691 Little Mountain Road, Sherrills Ford, raises ostriches and sells farm-fresh eggs and ostrich meat. The farm is free for the day.

Other activities planned for Agri-Tourism Day include tours at Murray’s Mill, ice cream at Udderly Delicious, the Hickory Farmer’s Market, fishing at Herman’s Fish Lake or you may stretch your legs at Baker’s Mountain, Riverbend, and St. Stephens Parks in the County parks systems.

Orchid growing classes will be offered at Ironwood Estates at 9:00am for beginners and 1:00pm for intermediate students. Pre-registration is required for both classes, and a fee is charged. Call (828) 294-3950 to register.

Pets should not be brought on the tour as they pose food safety threats, can damage plants and are dangerous around livestock. Children should be supervised closely. Please ask farm owners before taking photos.

“The Agricultural District signs that you see throughout the county indicate landowners that have voluntarily signed a conservation agreement which protects the land from nonfarm use or development for at least ten years.” Montgomery added. “These districts encourage the preservation and protection of farmland and recognize the importance of agriculture to our local economy. They also help the public to understand where working farms are located and to expect agricultural activities, such as slow-moving tractors, in the area.”

For more information regarding Catawba County’s Agri-Tourism Day on Saturday, October 18, contact Cooperative Extension at (828) 465-8243 or County Manager’s Office at (828) 465-8203.