Out in the country of North Carolina, deep breaths come a little easier. Perspective is close at hand. And when spring comes around, the fruit tastes a whole lot sweeter.
Out in the country of North Carolina, deep breaths come a little easier. Perspective is close at hand. And when spring comes around, the fruit tastes a whole lot sweeter. Lucky for folks near Greensboro, area farmers are happy to open their fields to visitors hungry to share the bounty. An easy drive from downtown, these four farms treat their guests to a tasdte of life in the country.
From its perch on the northeast edge of Greensboro, the fourth-generation Rudd Farm feels a world away from city life. The largest strawberry producers in Guilford County, Joan and Kenneth Rudd — alongside their two children, Ken and Matt — tend 14 acres to cultivate springtime’s juicy delicacy.
“Our drive-in service circles through the back side of the farm, so you can see the strawberry plants growing,” Joan says. Cruise past two lakes and a stand of lush, shady trees before placing your order at the drive-thru stand.
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If you’re planning to don your apron for a farm-to-table feast, base your order on the month. In May, the vegetables complement the strawberries. “In our greenhouse, we grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers,” Joan says. “And later in the month, we’ll start to harvest lettuce, kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.”
Around the third week of June, stop by for juicy cantaloupes and watermelons, and in July comes summer’s stars: ripe garden tomatoes and sweet corn. “Starting in September, we have sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and gourds. There’s even a little pick-your-own pumpkin patch,” she says.
Now in their 20th season, the Rudd family is proud to supply their visitors and local farmers markets with fresh fruits and vegetables. “When you’re back here, you feel like you’re in the country, even though you’re still in Greensboro.”
4021 Hicone Road
Greensboro, NC 27405
Maybe it’s no surprise that, as the third-generation owner of Ingram Farm, Rhonda Ingram thinks about her ancestry when she answers the question she’s inevitably asked each April. “People always want to know what makes those first strawberries of spring so special,” she says. “And I think it’s a little bit of a throwback.”
That first, perfect bite, marked by warm, sweet juice making a beeline to your elbow, is a sign that you’ve survived the winter. “On the farm, our ancestors ate out of the root cellar all winter — beans and vegetables they canned — and strawberries were their first real fruit of the year. It was a celebratory occasion. You made it through the hard winter, and spring had arrived.”
And with the first few days of May, cars also arrive, as the Ingram Farm parking lot fills with locals grateful to celebrate the season with a bucket of strawberries. Late April is “pre-picking time,” where you can come by and buy a bucket curbside, or you can come in early May and on into June to pick your own. (Check their Facebook page for updates on when the berries are ready.)
Rhonda and her family will give you a bucket, and you can fill it in a field close to the parking lot, or, if you’re up for an adventure, you can take a walk to a patch deeper in the farm. When you’ve picked your fill, they’ll weigh your bucket and you can pay by the pound. Don’t leave without a trip to the desert barn, where the Ingrams sell preserves, cakes, pies, cobbler, and their newest addition: homemade strawberry ice cream.
“Last year, a first grader asked me how long we’d had strawberries,” Rhonda says. “Next year will be 40 years. That’s a lot of strawberries, families, and memories.”
6121 Riverdale Drive
High Point, NC 27263
Driving south of Greensboro down Highway 421, the landscape gives way to rolling hills, forest lands, and river valleys. Here, in the town of Climax, sits one of the largest goat cheese operations in the southern United States. This is not your ordinary cheese. There’s a raw cow milk Gouda made from cultures from Holland; an aged goat milk cheese similar to Parmigiano; a bloomy rind cheese, and 11 different flavors of their chèvre logs, including the best-seller “fig & honey.”
It all started back in 1995 when “the Goat Lady,” Ginnie Tate — along with her brother and sister-in-law — moved to Randolph County from Chicago and Minneapolis to transform an abandoned tobacco farm into a new dairy barn.
Carrie Routh Bradds started as an intern one year later, and today, she and her husband, Bobby, have taken the reins. Through the years, their motto hasn’t changed: If you can change a person’s relationship to their food, you change them — and the world.
“Every time I interact with a customer, I try to put a lot of emphasis on buying local whenever you can. It’s the only way small farmers can be sustainable,” Carrie says. “And for our health, it’s important to eat what’s in season.”
Carrie adds that she loves it when people come to visit their working farm — no appointment necessary. “Today a couple came to pick up a log of our roasted red pepper chèvre, and they brought a picnic. We also have a great big porch that’s right by the pond, and you’re welcome to sit and relax for a while, and walk around and see the chickens and the dogs. It’s quiet and peaceful.”
Today, the Bradds lease their goats to a farmer down the road. “We buy the milk back from him to make our cheese, which makes both our farms very sustainable,” she says. “My dad is 75 years old and retired, but he still trucks in the milk five days a week.”
Goat Lady Dairy
Climax, NC 27233
If you take a pencil and draw a line straight from Grove Winery in the Haw River Valley to South Sonoma wine country, it’s a straight shot. “We’re actually the same latitude,” says owner and wine maker Max Lloyd, who grew up in Greensboro, where his father was also a wine maker. “Then I did some work in Sonoma and really caught the bug.”
That was 18 years ago. Today, on his 44-acre property in northeastern Guilford County, Lloyd grows 80 percent of the hand-harvested grapes he needs to make Grove Winery’s European-style wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, and Merlot. He’s aided by the Haw River, less than a mile away. “We have beautiful flowing hills and good cross-drainage. And that cool, well-drained, older soil allows us to grow European grapes,” he says.
Just seven miles north of Greensboro, Grove Winery is an easy drive for city dwellers hoping to escape to the country for an afternoon. From the tasting room’s picturesque patio overlooking Lake Cabernet, customers can buy a bottle of their favorite variety and pair it with locally sourced cheese and meats.
Lloyd encourages his guests to stick around and explore the property’s orchards and peaceful country roads, on foot or two wheels. “We also play host to a number of canoeists paddling the Haw River,” he says. In fact, some employees even ride to work on horseback.
“One of our favorite events is the Food Truck Rodeo at Grove, with local food trucks using local ingredients,” says Lloyd. “It’s a nice way for people to get outside, pair a glass of wine or local craft beer with good food, and enjoy the fresh air.”
Grove Winery and Vineyards
7360 Brooks Bridge Road
Gibsonville, NC 27249