Embrace Fall In The Mountains of Asheville
PHOTO: The North Lodge on Oakland. (All photos by Susan Young)
What better way to enjoy the fall leaf color of Western North Carolina mountains, than to pair that experience with a Bed and Breakfast stay, along with a tour of local farms and artisans. It’s the perfect marriage of food, fun, shopping and gorgeous views. From September 16 to November 13, the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA) is sponsoring the second annual Fall Farms and Artisans Tour Package.
The sixteen inns of the ABBA are partnering with three Western NC farms, a vineyard and five local artisans in the Sandy Mush community of Leicester, NC. After a scrumptious breakfast, your Inn will pack you a savory lunch and send you off, with a map of the farms and artists, to the Addison Farm Vineyard. There you’ll be treated to a glass of wine to complement your lunch along with a lovely view of mountain ridges and grape vines. If you’re lucky enough to book a September stay, you might witness the harvesting of the grapes.
PHOTO: Grapes from Addison Farm Vineyard.
Just 15 minutes from Asheville, the Sandy Mush community, in Leicester, is named for its creek with valleys comprised of lush farms and mountain views. Many local restaurants, throughout Buncombe and Madison Counties, serve meat, chicken, fruits and vegetables raised from these farms which proudly carry on family traditions, some of which go back over 100 years.
The community is also a model for conservation as the Reeves Home Place Farm demonstrates. If a farm owner needs to sell off parcels of property, but is worried about future development in the area, they can reach out to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, which helps fund land purchases for conservancy easements. This is a win-win for both the farm owner and the community in that the integrity of the land is preserved and everyone benefits from its harvest.
You’ll also visit the Long Branch Environmental Education Center, an institute originally set aside, in 1974, as an ecological sanctuary and land trust. It teaches sustainability in the areas of design, organic food production, renewable energy, wildlife protection and more. Part of their mission statement is “Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology.”
Your self-guided tour will lead you to pottery, quilts and broom artisans, among others. Sandy Hollar Farms owner, June Hawkins, is a fiber artist, creating designs with the bounty sheared from her own llamas. You’ll also find honey, beeswax candles, and the biggest blackberries in the world. Well, that might be an exaggeration but I dare you to find bigger, juicier berries than those at Sandy Hollar.
Some of the local artisans have connections to the B&Bs, as does Friendswood Brooms. Marlow Gates is the current creator of artistic brooms but his dad, Ralph, started the business in the early ’70s, leasing the Reynolds Mansion at the time. The story goes that Ralph Gates left his job with NASA, living on Florida’s Space Coast, to start a broom business in the mountains near Asheville. Billy Manes, owner and proprietor of the Mansion, explains that the only room remaining carpeted is one which covers up damaged wood floors, left from the group of some 20 hippies who worked on their craft in that room.
READ MORE: Highlights on Asheville NC’s Urban Trail
The choice of Inns is varied. In addition to Reynolds Mansion, you’ll find the North Lodge on Oakland B&B, located closest to the Biltmore Estate; or the Engadine Inn & Cabins at Honey Hill on 12 acres, 15 minutes from downtown Asheville. Who wouldn’t want to sleep in A Bed of Roses B&B, located in the historic Montford District, within walking distance of downtown restaurants?
If you are traveling to Asheville to check out its funky downtown shops and restaurants, take time to visit the farms and artists which supply those shops and restaurants, as part of the Fall Farms and Artisans Tour Package. It is this kind of environmental sustainability and culinary diversity which puts Western North Carolina on U.S. News & World Report’s list of "Best Foodie Destinations in the USA," and Travel + Leisure Magazine’s "The Best Cities in the U.S."
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