Melanie Black | Henderson County Tourism Development Authority
As we enter the spring growing season, now is the time to start thinking about agriculture and the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority (HCTDA) is “growing” its efforts for local farmers too. In Henderson County, agriculture and agritourism make up a huge part of the local economy – not to mention a huge part of the county’s acreage!
As of 2017 (the most recent data we have), there are 455 farms in Henderson County, which consist of more than 41,000 acres, a whopping 17.2% of the county’s total acreage, and the agriculture and agribusiness industry in Henderson County represents nearly $70 million of the county’s local economy.
In fact, Henderson County ranks 49/100 in the state for overall market value of agricultural products sold, ranks #1 in the state for apples, ranks #2 for “fruit, tree nuts & berries,” and ranks #3 for “nursery, greenhouse, floriculture & sod.”
Agriculture is the #1 industry in North Carolina. Agriculture and agribusiness, including food, forestry and fiber, contributes $95.9 billion to the state’s economy.
With this in mind, Visit North Carolina, the state’s official tourism marketing office, decided to partner with the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, individual counties and the North Carolina Farm Bureau to create the “Visit NC Farms” app, a free mobile app that enables its users to find the farms closest to them.
This February, the HCTDA joined the program and it will continue to develop.
Currently, the app includes eight separate categories, Farms + Fisheries, Pick Your Own, Farmers Markets, Local Food + Drink, Shop Local, Farm Stays + Lodging, Itineraries + Trips, and Special Events, with potential to expand to include wider ranging agriculture-related businesses in the future.
Henderson County businesses that are listed in the app include any orchards or farms that are open to the public to visit, roadside stands, wineries, restaurants that offer farm-to-table fare, and much more.
While agriculture in Henderson County remains strong the number of small-scale farmers across the country has sharply decreased in the last few decades, as farmers age out, children of farmers have less interest in going into the family business, and crop failure and regulations make it a harder industry to participate in. The Visit NC Farms app is meant to serve these farms while also serving locals and visitors.
Visitors often express interest in dining at farm-to-table restaurants, visiting farms and enjoying local wine at wineries. Additionally, with the rise in popularity of short-term, whole-house rentals, more travelers have access to kitchens while on vacation, meaning many of Henderson County’s visitors are looking for local produce, baked goods and more to cook for themselves at their own accommodation – and why not? After all, we are known for growing exceptional produce in Henderson County!
For locals, this tool may help you to discover local agricultural options, support the growth of the community, and offer you an opportunity to be more environmentally conscious, as local produce does not have as far to travel from the farm to your table.
Local farms also offer a wide range of fun activities for individuals and families to participate in, including special events and pick-your-own at the farm, farmers markets, and CSAs (community-supported agriculture).
Programs like this help to keep the community connected to its roots and to keep the small-town-feel that so many love about Hendersonville.
Unlike some other programs available to farmers, there is no cost to be included on the app, the HCTDA just needs to know about the business. If you know of a farm or agribusiness that is missing from the app or to find out if you qualify, please contact Karen Baker at the HCTDA, firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 828-693-9708.
You can download and start using this app through your phone’s app store or by going to www.VisitNCFarmsToday.com.