The Launch of the Visit NC Farms App
02 Aug 2019
The Launch of the Visit NC Farms App
By Chrissy Neville
You know what they say - whether you need to access music, maps, the weather, social media or your favorite place to shop - there’s an app for that.™ The days of using a phone book, stopping for directions, or watching the 6:00 p.m. news are nearly gone as technology usage has grown. Connectivity has even found its way to the back roads and taken on rural roots with the launch of the Visit NC Farms Phone App, a product of N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. With the new platform, finding your favorite Sandhills farms and farm-related services is now just a click away.
An official launch party for the new App was held June 20th at Black Rock Winery in Carthage by the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). The CVB’s monthly Connect event hosted industry leaders including farm owners, fresh-to-table restaurants, event-space proprietors and other agricultural service providers. Participants such as Paradox Farm, Happy Goat Ranch, Ashten’s Restaurant & Pub, and Sandhills Farm to Table among others offered products for sale, samples to share and information to visitors in attendance.
Deborah McGiffin, Director of the Moore County Cooperative Extension Office, explained that the App, which went live online that same day, is managed by her office locally for the benefit of all Sandhills residents.
“We are thrilled about the App,” she said. “We want to connect visitors with local agricultural experiences in Moore County. The farmers want to let you know where they are, what they grow or offer, and what you can buy.”
Moore County was the fifth North Carolina county to sign on with the App, with some 50 plus farms and venues already represented. While connected to Wi-Fi, you can download the Visit NC Farms App from the App store and start exploring. Users can peruse through sections such as Farm and Fisheries, Farmer’s Markets, Farm Stays and Lodging, and Local Food and Drink. You can download the App or go to www.visitNCfarmstoday.com for more details. Directions are provided for iPhone and Android users.
Connecting to Late Summer peaches at Highlanders Farm
One local farm optimistic about the Visit NC Farms App is the local Highlanders Farm, a sixth-generation family 45-acre produce farm. Owners John and Vicki Blue live on the site settled by Blue descendants who migrated from Scotland in 1804. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Highlanders is located at 5784 Highway 22 in Carthage.
Of the App opportunity, Blue said, “I think it will be great for business. Moore County is blessed with having a lot of young people who connect with technology readily. You can look around and see how people are tuned into their devices so I think this new App will help them tune into us.”
Highlanders Farm specializes in fruits and vegetables sold at their roadside produce stand which also features an ice cream concession and a country store chocked full of gifts, crafts, yard and home decor items, and value-added products like cheeses, jams and jellies. Their savory Sandhills Salsa, chow-chow, and pickled beets are popular products. Though not a registered kitchen, the Blues supply their farm-fresh ingredients to Fine Foods, a distributor who makes and bottles the Blue family’s signature recipes.
The summer months are just peachy at Highlanders due to the nearly 700 cling and freestone peach trees the Blues grow on five farm acres. The peach season lasts from late May through the first part of September and brings the fleshy, golden goodness of Redhaven, Carolina Gold, Flame Prince, and Contender varieties to the eager hands of their many regular customers. China Pearl is the one white peach option they have for those with a desire for the delicate.
A close competitor, if not favored son, to Highlanders’ peaches is their spring strawberries. The Blues offer “we pick or you pick” varieties such as Chandler sold early-to-mid April through the end of May. Always a favorite with kids, the pick-your-own system often leaves more in the belly than the basket.
A recent addition has been blueberries and blackberries which the grower said may be a pick-your-own product in the future.
Aside from fruit, Highlanders Farms grows and sells an assortment of spring and summer vegetables including lettuce, kale, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, melons and sweet corn. So many choices, so little time to put up, cook or eat it all.
Speaking of time, as the summer days start to wax and wane, you should run, not walk, to Sam’s Creamery, the ice cream stand named for the Blue’s son Sam they added to their market a decade ago. It’s a homemade harvest in every bite, or lick, to taste such cool confections as peach, strawberry, pineapple, almond coconut, vanilla, chocolate swirl, peanut butter, or John Blue’s favorite, Butter Pecan. They also serve a few Mayfield ice varieties for the kids, for example, the always popular Birthday Cake.
Come get a cone or a cup and set a spell on their covered porch with benches, tables and chairs. For something different, try a milkshake, sundae or a date-night banana split.
A lifelong local, Blue never moved away other than the two years he spent at N.C. State earning an Associate of Agriculture degree. He loves his job and says success comes with making changes and trying new things. While the row crops he and his father grew in the past, tobacco, corn, soybeans, and the like, were the staple that kept farmers afloat, today Blue is rowing a boat called Diversification, even treading the waters of growing some hemp, which he says may be the next cash crop.
It’s not the controversial plant many think it is, he explained, adding that the Moore County town of Robbins was once called Hemp during the WWII era of textile production.
Highlanders Farm is open mid-April until Labor Day, Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-3:30, and occasionally on Mondays during peak season. Just like choosing new things to grow, Blue is looking forward to meeting new faces and friends via the Visit NC Farms App.