Dozens of farms, ranches and groves are participating in the 14th annual family-friendly event
Kiona and Chris Wagner were both working in higher education when they decided to quit their jobs in Miami and start a new, very different life in Monticello.
The result: The Wagners are now owners of Rocky Soil Family Farm, where they grow about 40 crops, bake bread, raise chickens and harvest honey with plans to start farm-to-table events — all the while taking care of a teenage son and 19-month-old twins.
“We’re excited to share the reality of two people with young children and a teen following their dream and the progress we’ve made,” said Kiona.
The Wagners will have that chance during the 14th Annual Farm Tour, which takes place October 9 and 10 across eight counties around Tallahassee, from Cairo, Georgia to Panacea on the coast and from Florida cities Chipley to Lee. The tour will feature 45 destinations which will offer the public a chance to see working farms, ranches, groves and gardens, all listed in the Farm Tour Booklet, which you can download.
“It is just a great weekend out in the country and it’s free,” said Majken Peterzen, executive director of Millstone Institute for Preservation, which has been the Farm Tour host since 2016.
“The purpose is to have a vehicle that links people with their farmers, so you can know where your food comes from, see what’s behind the gates, and for farmers, to meet more of their customers,” said Majken.
The tour has “evolved a little bit,” she said.
Joining longterm farmers, “there’s a trend particularly with younger people under 40 and those who are retired. They’ll buy five or 10 acres and live off the land,” said Majken. “So many of them are interested in workshops so they can talk to seasoned farm people.”
There’s plenty of opportunities to gain knowledge during the tour. Farms are wildly diverse.
Just an example:
- You can see cows being milked at Cindale Farms and Southern Craft Creamery in Marianna.
- Learn about large-scale commercial beekeeping and extraction at Faircloth Apiaries in Bristol.
- Take a hydroponics workshop at Martin’s Harvest in Marianna.
- Find out about wine making at the Monticello Vineyards.
- Visit fields, hoop houses and attend a workshop on using certain tools at organic Handsome Harvest in Quincy.
- Home growers can discover tips and tricks for growing fruit at Florida-Georgia Citrus in Monticello
- See how sausage is made at Johnston’s Meat Market, the patron sponsor of the food tour for the third year.
Hal Bennett is the owner of Johnston’s, which was opened by his in-laws in Monticello in 1926. For him, the tour is an opportunity to talk to visitors about the workings of an old-fashioned meat market, in which customers can still buy a half or quarter cow among other products.
“So many kids come to our store and they have no idea where food comes from,” said Hal. “They think it comes from a box.”
Johnston’s grows its own cattle, slaughters, ages and processes the meat, and sells it at the store. During tour hours, the market will be roasting four pigs, and there will be “real pig pickin’ along with attractions like antique vendors, lemonade and boiled peanuts and live music, with rock ‘n roll on Saturday and gospel on Sunday.
Some places will be selling food, others will distribute samples. Many will have a family friendly festival vibe, with activities to please the kids. Boyd Farms Fresh and Schmoe Farm are teaming up to present a Farm Festival & Tour at Blackwater in Quitman, Ga. for the event on Saturday and Sunday, featuring live music with Dabbit, hay rides, grilled Boyd burgers and Schmoe sausage and a farmers’ market.
Another draw: Seeing animals up close. The Mini Moos Alpaca Too Farm in Monticello, for instance, is a sixth generation farm raising alpacas, llamas and mini cows, sheep, and goats.
The Redemptive Love Farm in Miccosukee cares for 120 animals, with 20 species — they even have a camel — plus owners take in more than 100 animals in need of rescue, rehab or relocation. Redemptive Farm has a petting area, free pony and horse rides and animal presentations every half hour.
At Millstone Institute for Preservation, perched on a hill with a view of Lake McBride, you’ll see alpacas, goats, horses and donkeys plus demonstrations on weaving, basketry and woodworking.
Following a dream
This is the second farm tour for the Wagners of Rocky Soil Family Farm and they are eager to show people how much growth and progress they’ve made in the past year.
The Wagners were both working at Johnson & Wales University in Miami when they were at a turning point in their careers. Kiona was the director of Student Life and Student Affairs Coordinator and Chris was director of culinary operations. His background includes years as a pilot and master chef in Germany before moving to the United States.
They found their dream farming opportunity in Monticello in 2019, quit their jobs and had their crops in the ground in February 2020, just before Covid shutdowns. They couple put some plans on hold but they’re finishing up a commercial kitchen so expect European pastries and culinary events. Soon.
The Wagners are now growing herbs and vegetables that include radishes, bok choy, arugula, cucumbers, eggplant and radicchio and they also make their own bread, which they sell online and at the Tallahassee Farmers’ Market.
“I’ve always enjoyed gardening and farming and all of that,” said Chris. “I don’t know if we’re crazy to turn a 9-to-5 career into one that’s 24/7, with more work than we’ve ever done, but it’s something we love, and it’s good to help the community to live healthier, with wholesome food grown without pesticides. Good food needs to be affordable to everyone.”
Getting the word out is one purpose of the tour, said Millstone’s Majken.
“The tour is a perfect opportunity to get outdoors, meet people and find healthy products and healthy lifestyles,” she said. “We have some really great farms.”
Tips for your tour
If you’re going on the tour, here are a few suggestions to enjoy all those great farms.
- First, read the Farm Tour booklet, which has a thorough guide to all the places you can visit. Pay close attention to the days and hours the farms are open for visitors and times for workshops and classes. You can download the guide at https://drive.google.com/…/1uT…/view… If you want a printed copy, one option for finding one is the Community Co-Op Market, at 1235 Apalachee Pkwy.
- Don’t bring pets but do carry suntan lotion, bug spray, water, a tote bag and cash in case the farm doesn’t take credit cards.
- Bring a cooler if you intend to buy meat or produce.
- Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes and carry a hat.
- If you can, include a stop at the Millstone Institute Of Preservation where you’ll find animals, craftsmen, food and representatives of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance and Leon County Extension. It’s at 6500 Old Millstone Plantation Rd., Tallahassee. For more information about the tour, call 850-294-3918.
- If you want to find out more about our farmers’ markets, see our guide on this website (Under Farming) at https://www.tallahasseetable.com/tallahassees-farmers-markets/
Here’s a gallery from our past farm tours and farmer photos.