The High Country is home to sprawling mountains, rivers and hills along with an abundance of fresh air. Among the varying landscapes offered by the location of Northwestern North Carolina, is rich soil perfect for farming.
Agritourism, which is defined as any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch, has become increasingly popular as part of the state’s agricultural industry.
Apple Hill Farm is a working fiber farm with the mission of creating a space to connect and ground people through experiences with their animals.
At Apple Hill Farm there are 24 alpacas and llamas, as well as several Angora goats, donkeys, livestock guardian dogs, pigs, chickens, horses and cows.
The property was an apple orchard and Christmas tree farm before Lee Rankin, owner of Apple Hill Farm, bought the property in 2001 with the dream of owning and running an alpaca farm.
The farm is open year-round with many visitors flocking to the location.
Apple Hill Farm offers guided walking tours throughout the year, along with open store hours and several special events.
Tours are offered Wednesday-Sunday, every half hour from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Private and group tours are offered by appointment.
According to Farm Manager, Tiffany Breindel there were more than 13,000 visitors last year and more than 900 tours were given.
“We have always strived to keep our tours small to give our visitors the best farm experience possible,” Breindel said.
Tour sizes vary from 10-15 people. Public tours are $15 for adults and $10 for children. There is free admission for children to age 3. Senior and military discounts are available.
The Apple Hill Farm Store, which contains many items ranging from socks to needled felted figures, offers a great selection for visitors to make purchases for themselves, family and friends.
“We always get rave reviews for our dryer balls and socks. They are highlighted on our tour and we always hear how customers share our goodies with friends and family members and have to purchase more as gifts,” Breindel said. “Once you’re hooked on alpaca socks, it’s hard to go back.”
According to Breindel, people love that the majority of the store consists of items from local or U.S. businesses. They also have a large selection of products that are fair-trade from Peru, which is where alpacas and llamas originate from.
Another product available for purchase is their own alpacas’ fiber which they have spun into yarn and labelled with that animal’s name. So if visitors have a unique connection with a particular animal while on a tour, they can purchase that animal’s yarn to take home with them.
Two events which are hosted by Apple Hill Farm are Shearing Day and National Alpaca Farm Days, which are both great opportunities for people to experience the farm.
Shearing Day is always the first Saturday in June and allows visitors to see the alpacas and llamas get their annual haircut and what that process looks like. The shearing takes place in the orchard in front of the main barn. During this event, there are fiber artists doing craft demonstrations such as skirting and spinning, on-site.
National Alpaca Farm Days, which will be held Sept. 26-27, is an opportunity for visitors to see the alpacas and visit the store. More than 1,000 farms participate across the country in celebration of National Alpaca Farm Days. Tours will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. There will be a $5 admission fee for all visitors to take themselves on a self-guided tour of the barnyard and orchard area for the full day. On these days, part of the farm is open as a self-guided tour to see the alpacas, llamas, donkeys and pigs. There will also be in-depth, guided tours offered.
There are also opportunities for Zoom calls with the alpacas and Llama-bombs for virtual meetings and special events throughout the year like knitting with the alpacas and unique Photography Tours.
Knit with the Alpacas is scheduled for June 13, July 11, July 25 and Aug. 8. On these days, participants can enjoy a few hours of care-free crafting together as the alpacas graze around them. Crafting will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at noon. The cost for this experience is $10 per person and each participant will receive 10 percent off in the farm store for the day, including tour fees. Registration can be completed on the website.
Farm Photo Tours are scheduled for June 27, July 5, July 25, Aug. 1, Sept. 5 and Oct. 10. On these dates, participants will join local photographer, Cindy McEnery and the team at Apple Hill Farm for a two-hour photo tour. Both McEnery and farm staff will work with participants to find all the best spots to capture great photos of the landscape and animals. Those participating may bring any digital device used for capturing photos and all levels of photographers are welcome. Pre-registration is required for this event and can be completed on the website.
The $40 fee is for one date of the participant’s choice and the tour will take place rain or shine. Payments can be completed on the website or over the phone.
Additional Information about tickets, tours and events and can be found on the website at www.applehillfarmnc.com.
The farm can also be reached by phone at (828) 963-1662 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.