Altapass Orchard, a 280-acre historic farm on the Blue Ridge Parkway that provides apple sales, tours, trails and events to the public, has built a food service building called the “Lunch Wagon” to offer locally grown food to visitors. The aim is to increase the number of visitors to the farm and extend the time they spend there.
The 20-foot by 14-foot wooden building houses a grill, smoker and fryer with an exhaust fan. The certified kitchen includes counter space for preparing food, a freezer and refrigerator.
The menu offers dishes made with grass-fed beef from Harrell Hill Farm, fresh pork, hotdogs and bologna from Soggy Bottom Farms, and fresh seasonal produce including potatoes from Tater Hill Farms. The kitchen also makes specialty items such as Apple Butter BBQ Sauce, Bone Suckin’ Sweet Hot Mustard, and pickled veggies and relishes. Visitors can find the recipes for these times in Altapass’ new cookbook, which is sold at the store.
“By providing great healthy food, Appalachian music and dance plus the outdoor experience, we will entice them to stay a little longer and venture off the Parkway into Mitchell County,” said Starli, the Mission Manager of Altapass Foundation, Inc. “We can maximize our farm resources by providing more for our customers so that they can spend the entire day enjoying all the Orchard has to offer.”
The Orchard offers Saturday activities such as 18th century toy making, kids and family flatfooting lessons, harmonica playing, National Park Service Rangers survival training, and hayrides. The organization’s founder Bill Carson insists that music and dance should be accessible to everyone.
The orchard at Altapass has a long history. In 1908, Clinchfield Rail Road planted the trees, and then hauled apples to markets from South Carolina to Kentucky. Gerby Baby Food then used Orchards York apples to produce apple sauce baby food from 1938 to 1955. During the next few decades, orchard production dropped, and markets declined as local juice factories left the area. In 2000, new owners started rejuvenating 10 acres of 3,000 trees, now offering 30 different heirloom apples.