BANNER ELK — The sun danced between the scattered trees as the gravel road hugged the side of the mountain. The road twisted and turned, as if with every motion one was traversing farther away from the Avery day-to-day.
Once the trees opened up, the gravel road came to an end on top of a wooden fence with apple trees scattered around the property. However, most people don’t come for the drive up, rather for the creatures that call this sanctuary a home.
Apple Hill Farm is an alpaca farm nestled in a pastoral pocket of the High Country, serving as a functioning farm as well as providing tours and events with the livestock.
The farm not only has alpacas but is also home to goats, chickens, cows and more. Apple Hill Farm, originally an apple orchard, was created by Lee Rankin and made open to the public in 2006.
Brianne Harris is a store and team manager and has been working at Apple Hill for eight years.
“Every day is different,” Harris said, “You make a to-do list and you throw it out the window.”
The farm provides private and public tours, as well as an on-site store and provides events and workshops to the public.
Harris said that over the years, Apple Hill becomes more of a destination for families and groups to experience the serenity of what the farm has to offer. Just this past year, there has been a 20 percent increase in tours, according to Harris.
While this growth allows for these amazing creatures to impact more people’s lives, the animals’ care is still a top priority for the staff on the farm.
“Customer service is our top priority right behind making sure all the animals are happy and healthy,” Harris said.
With each new season at the farm comes changes, and as Apple Hill grows in popularity, the farm continues to grow. Along with this growth are exciting events that the public can participate in.
National Alpaca Day is a national holiday in which alpaca farms like Apple Hill invite the public to learn and participate in the community in which the animals create.
According to Harris, this year Apple Hill is conducting the events a little differently and allowing people to have self-guided tours. Alpaca Day will be held on Sept. 28 and 29.
On Sept. 21, Apple Hill Farm will be holding an Agritourism workshop in which guests will be able to view the behind-the-scenes action of what it takes to create a community around the farm. The full-day workshop is $75, with all activities and meals included.
Beginning on Nov. 15, Apple Hill will be starting its Christmas celebrations. This includes mini-tours Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as homemade hot cocoa and Christmas cookies.
The farm doesn’t only hold the livestock, but it also has a store where the products being sold are made from the wool of the animals on the property. Alongside the farms products, the store only sells fair-trade items made in the United States.
Harris and her co-workers strive tirelessly to ensure that the farm remains true to its roots and do this while their family is growing. Next September, the farm will be adding two female alpacas, according to Harris.
The public is able to come and visit the furry friends in their home at 2 p.m. Sunday to Monday and at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, click to applehillfarmnc.com.