There are many great destinations just a couple of hours away. Asheville and surrounding areas offer a unique mix of the best in nature, history, art and food. After learning of a unique excursion off the beaten path, we packed up the family for the Sandy Mush Farm and Artisan Tour, organized by the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association.
The inns of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association have partnered with area farms, artisans and a vineyard to give guests a glimpse of the beautiful Big Sandy Mush community in nearby Leicester (pronounced “Lester”), NC. Though only 20 minutes from downtown Asheville, the area attracts visitors for its remoteness, beauty and sense of place. The tour package includes two nights’ accommodations, a beautifully designed map of the tour at their inn, along with boxed lunches to enjoy at your stop of choice. From our experience, it’s difficult to visit every stop on the tour in one day, so allow a little more time if you want to see it all, or pick your favorites to visit.
As a family of four, our personal bed and breakfast experience is usually limited to getaways with my husband, but to our delight, the beautiful Sweet Biscuit Inn in Asheville also accommodates families with warmth and attention to detail. The entire family loved the stay there and especially the gourmet breakfast. Conversation and breakfast with other guests was a great lesson in etiquette for my children, as well. Whether it’s a family excursion or a romantic tour for two, there are 16 inns to choose from for your perfect visit.
Our day began at Sandy Hollar Farm, where we picked blackberries and pumpkins. Farmer June Hawkins gave us a tour on her “gator” of the picturesque 200-acre farm. The farm also raises sheep, longhorn cattle, llamas, goats, apples, honey bees and Christmas trees, supplying five produce stands. The farm was preparing for the Christmas season following the tour, when guests can enjoy wagon rides to select Christmas trees, hot chocolate, roasted marshmallows and their shop of handmade beeswax candles, honey, woolen crafts and other gift items.
Reeves Home Place Farm is also a working farm where they raise beef cattle, pigs, ducks, chickens and turkeys. Tour-goers can purchase frozen meat at a 10% discount, so be sure to bring your cooler!
Our next stop was Long Branch Environmental Education Center, a land conservatory, farm and education center, built in 1974 as an ecological sanctuary. Long Branch offers models and strategies in environmental design, organic food production, renewable energy, foraging, conservation, wildlife protection and more. Our family learned much and enjoyed picking organic apples, raspberries and blueberries. Leave time to explore the hiking trails of this vast property and hear the wisdom of founder Paul Gallimore. School tours are also welcome year-round.
Have lunch or finish your tour at Addison Farms Vineyard with wine in their beautiful new tasting room, enjoying panoramic views of the vines and surrounding mountains. Owners Jeff and Dianne Frisbee were inspired by a trip to Italian wine country and returned to convert the family farm from a tobacco farm to a vineyard. Each wine is named for a family event or memory, and Dianne designs the wine labels. Tour-goers enjoy 10% off wine purchases.
Artisan Stops on the Tour
Another must-see stop on the tour is Jones Pottery, where award-winning potter Matt Jones crafts traditional pottery forms with a modern twist.
Friendswood Brooms, the second-generation workshop of Marlow Gates, takes visitors back in time for a peek at the nearly lost art of handcrafted brooms. Each broom is a unique work of art.
Sky Dance Art Studio features the beautiful, inspired oil and watercolor paintings of artist Christine Hield.
The Sandy Mush Farm & Artisan Tour is open to Asheville Association inn guests by appointment at each stop through November 15th, 2015. Visit ashevillebba.com/abba-exclusives for more tour package information and inn availability.