This September, Real Local RVA is hosting its third annual Urban Farm Tour. Meant to introduce city residents to the urban farmers around them, the bus tour will start at the Lakeside Farmers’ Market pavillion and stop at four local farms for a day of food tasting and lessons in urban sustainability.
Beth Furgurson, director of Real Local RVA, explained the farm tour is meant to educate people on the benefits of eating locally grown foods, while showing just how tasty they can be. Furgurson said each stop will have “tastes of local food,” where something from each farm is incorporated into a snack.
After the tour, Real Local will host an after party at the Lakeside pavilion featuring local food and beverages from breweries, wineries, farms, and markets that sell local produce.
“At Real Local, we’re working really hard to build a more sustainable food system,” Furgurson said. “And a big part of that is supporting the farmers that have chosen a lifestyle, chosen a career in this sort of mobile food arena.”
According to the National Agricultural Law Center, agritourism is “a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.” And that’s exactly what Real Local RVA is planning to do with their upcoming farm tour.
“So let’s teach people how farmers are growing in the city,” Furgurson said. “What can be grown in the city, and how close all of the students are and how short of a distance they would have to travel to reach the consumer.”
She said this farm tour is important, as it’s something that feeds our community by supporting them and contributing to the whole ecosystem, while helping to build a sustainable food system within our city.
During the tour, people will be introduced to four farms that will educate their farm-tourists on their individual missions. The participants include farms like Tricycle Urban Ag, who seek to revitalize neighborhoods and transform abandoned spaces into community gardens, urban farms, and orchards. Ferguson explained that Tricycle’s focus is “engaging thousands of neighbors to show that the simple act of growing food is an incredibly powerful way to impact the overall health of our community.”
Another participant, Bow Tide Farms, is a new for-profit farm in Richmond’s Northside growing organic vegetables for local restaurants and their neighborhood community through a CSA program. They have secured a partnership with Tazza Kitchen and practice organic, bio-intensive gardening. Located off Brook Road, Bow Tide is improving the relationships with restaurants in the city and paving the way for future farmers to replicate this same idea.
Community Food Collaborative is a non-profit farm located next to Fairfield Middle School in the East End. What began in 2014 as an after-school service learning program held in a small school garden has evolved into a six acre diversified farm that serves thousands of students and families through sustainable food production, education, and economic opportunity.
They are currently cultivating a little over an acre, and planning for more with cover crop. Located next to a Chesapeake Bay watershed, they are incorporating more than just farming principles into their education program with the school. For the first time, next year they will pilot a program that works with the required standards for learning in the school for hands on education about the watershed. They have a small CSA program and vend at a few farmer’s markets.
The most local of the participants, at least to the start of this tour, is Lakeside Tiny Acre, a small, organic farm run by Kyle Anderberg, a former Broadfork Farm apprentice. The farm is in its second year and mostly sells directly consumers at farmer’s markets each week. They grow a diverse range of vegetables, and raise chickens. Lakeside Tiny Acre farm owners Peter and Sharon Francisco also own the Lakeside Farmers’ Market.
The event will be Saturday, September 29 and begin at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are available through September 15, after which ticket prices will increase.