Written by Gina Smith
Digging into Western North Carolina’s Robust Local Food System
Apple seekers meandering the winding, rustic route toward Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard would do well to leave a little slack in their schedules. There’s always the possibility of trailing a tractor puttering along for a few miles from one gravel turnoff to the next. Plus, it’s nearly impossible not to slow down and savor the luxuriant green vista of Henderson County’s mountain-hemmed apple country, its patchwork of forests and fields dotted with churches and tiny stores.
Tucked along one of rural Edneyville’s countless curving lanes, carefully tended rows of apple trees neatly trace the hilly contours of the acreage Mike Stepp’s family has owned since 1964. For more than half a century, four generations of Stepps have shared their bountiful, apple-centric lifestyle with the community, welcoming visitors to the farm August through October to make lifelong memories wandering the orchards with loved ones, filling baskets with Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths, snacking on handmade apple cider doughnuts, or picking bouquets of sunflowers to bring home for the kitchen table.
Miles away in Fairview, Annie Louise and Isaiah Perkinson also offer Western North Carolina a generous taste of their family’s pastoral lifestyle at Flying Cloud Farm. Lush in summer with long rows of blooming larkspur, yarrow, and zinnias beckoning from the fields just before Charlotte Highway begins its serpentine ascent into the mountains, the farm invites guests to browse its picturesque roadside stand for edible and floral finds on the honor system, while also reaching into the community via tailgate markets and successful community supported agriculture and market-share programs.
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