This is the time of year when folks head for the mountains and the cool breezes to be found there.
For those of you who are yet to discover the splendor of Asheville's hills that quickly expand into peaks, come on over and visit...and you may just choose to stay. There's some local exploring to be done. So grab your picnic basket, fill it with locally-grown and baked goodies (more on our fabulous eateries later) and discover the art of relaxation all over again.
THIS IS A SERIES ON PICNICS and the sustainable culture that's on the rise in the Greater Asheville area. Check back for a number of day trips you can enjoy in the mountains just to the north of Asheville in and around neighboring towns and villages of Mars Hill, Marshall, and Hot Springs, all located in Madison County, North Carolina.
Today we're off to Mars Hill in Madison county.
Madison County, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, is a rural county. It is only about half an hour or so from Asheville, but with approximately 3,500 small family farms, agriculture is the largest industry in the County. In fact, agriculture accounts for half of the gross income in the County.
When you pack a picnic and head to Madison County, where streams and pastures and coves abound,you may look out your window as you drive the scenic country roads and notice tobacco crops. That's because Madison County is the largest burley tobacco producing county in North Carolina. In fact, there are approximately 2,350 farms with burley tobacco quotas. A decade ago, burley tobacco accounted for $10 to $12 million for agriculture income annually. But recently, as you may suspect, the demand for tobacco has been on the decline.
Not to be defeated, local farmers have become creative. Crops are changing, and farmers are diversifying. You now will find local growers cultivating the most amazing organically-grown crops. Vegetable and organic and nursery crops have increased dramatically in the last 20 years. . Stop by the family-run vegetable, fruit, and flower market just as you come in to Mars Hill, and you will see what I mean.
And/or you simply could stop by a tailgate market at Mars Hill College. Tomatoes are almost in season. Time for the famous lettuce and tomato sandwich on home-baked bread? You can collect the ingredients all right there, then stroll across the street to campus (see photo I took not long ago, just below) for an incredible picnic.
Fresh. Old-fashioned. And sweet. What do you think?
All we need now is a banjo and a fiddle.
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