courtesy Gritt's Farm
Published January 01, 2018
The farms of the South have so many unusual experiences to offer, from taste-testing fresh oysters and herb-infused honeys to meeting impressive animals such as buffalo and towering Clydesdale horses. The next time your group is looking for a revitalizing venture outside the city, consider taking them to one of these little plots of paradise.
Buffalo, West Virginia
Gritt’s Farm in Buffalo, West Virginia, has been a staple of the Kanawha Valley area for more than 90 years. The 400-acre homestead farm was established in 1927 by Italian immigrants Veto and Nellie Gritt, who handed down the family business through four generations.
During the 1950s, second-generation owner Lee Gritt began experimenting with greenhouses, becoming the first person in West Virginia to grow hydroponic tomatoes. Today, Gritt’s Farm uses greenhouses to grow a wide range of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers that guests can pick up from the farm store or order through the farm’s gourmet Community Supported Agriculture program.
In 2012, Gritt’s Farm featured its first professionally designed corn maze, which was an instant hit with locals. Soon after, the farm began adding more attractions to entertain visitors, including a wagon train, human hamster wheels, apple cannons and rubber duck racing. On Slide Mountain, guests can race down three giant slides built into the side of a hill. Bunnyville features little houses with cute rabbits inside.
“We’re always adding new attractions. The first question anyone asks when they come is ‘Oh, what’d you add this year?’” said Brad Gritt, fourth-generation owner.
Recently, the farm has begun hosting farm-to-table dinners using locally harvested ingredients to make delectable menu options, such as pumpkin pie soup, apple fritters and slow-roasted chicken with parmesan grits.
Seven Springs Alpaca Farm
In the foothills of the Clinch Mountains in southwest Virginia, Seven Springs Alpaca Farm produces high-end alpaca fabrics for clients around the world. Deborah and Dwight Bailey purchased the land in 1998, and brought home their first alpaca about three years later.
“I love working with textiles, so alpacas were a natural choice,” said Deborah Bailey. “You can press their wool against your face, and it doesn’t itch. It’s hypoallergenic and very insulating.”
At present, the property houses more than 100 huacaya alpacas of premier breeding stock. Though some farmers raise alpacas as a hobby, the Baileys employ a selective breeding process to ensure the quality of the fiber, sometimes traveling across the country to handpick the finest alpacas available.
Seven Springs Alpaca Farm offers guided tours throughout the year that take visitors through highlights of the farm, including the veterinary facility, the quarantine barn and the birthing room. Guests can also visit the farm store to pick out their own alpaca sweaters, scarves or socks.
Bailey suggested that groups visit the farm in the spring or fall, when birthing season is in full swing.
“Alpacas are normally standoffish like cats, but the babies come up to you and nibble on you or smell you,” said Bailey. “They’re very curious. They love little children, and they’re not much bigger than the kids themselves.”