Natural Heritage

Travel the North Georgia Farm Trail

By Christopher Barker, Smoke Signals

Growing opportunities to entertain the senses, especially taste, are bringing more traffic to the North Georgia Farm Trail in 2014.

Farmer Dick Mills
Anyone wanting fresh produce can find plenty at a variety of stops along the North Georgia Farm Trail. Photo by Joyce Dumas

Agritourism travelers exploring the areas around the Highway 515/76 corridor between Jasper and Hiawassee can hear music at festivals and wineries, touch alpaca fibers, see historic places and handmade creations and, of course, smell and taste food and drink worthy of a farm trail.

The North Georgia Farm Trail along the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway began consolidating information about the area’s customer-pick farms, orchards, wineries, farm-to-table restaurants, farmers markets, heritage sites, bed-and-breakfasts and other places to stay and more in 2013. A printed guide available in the state’s welcome centers, local chambers of commerce, military bases, tourism offices, lodging rental offices, participating trail locations and elsewhere now guides the public along the trail route, presenting options for places to visit.

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MVF Cooking It Up for History

by Lawton Baggs of Marble Valley Friends

Twice each year Marble Valley Friends sponsor a barbecue chicken fundraiser from the Old Tate Gym.  The anticipated fall event is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 23.  On that date, experienced cooks will tend the large outdoor grill as they prepare chicken halves slowly over charcoal.  Inside, the ladies of Marble Valley Friends will be busy slicing home-baked cakes and arranging plates of slaw, baked beans, and bread for diners.  Meals may be eaten on-site or orders of four or more to the same location will be delivered.

To assure the availability of an adequate number of chickens, the largest order must be placed by the 15th.  Most tickets must be pre-sold during the next two weeks.  Members of MVF will be contacting businesses and individuals for orders during the two-week period.  However, not many “extra” meals will be prepared.  To avoid disappointment, customers are asked to call Penny Davis at 770-735-2564 or Lawton Baggs at 706-692-6598 to get on the “eatin’ list”.  The cost remains $7 per plate.  Meals will be served beginning at 11a.m.

Marble Valley Friends is an historic preservation/educational organization stiving to preserve the history, personal memories, buildings and culture of the area streatching from Ball Ground to Marble Hill.  The Old Tate Gym is the organization’s headquarters.

The cost and the quality of the meal have made this semi-annual fundraiser a favorite event in the area.  MVF invites former customers to be at the Old Tate Gym on the 23rd.  To any that have not previously participated, an invitation to try it is cordially extended.  It is believed you will become a satisfied customer.

Jason Cantrell: FFA inspiration

One of the heroes of Pickens County

Jason Cantrell

This is the 2nd in a series of portraits of “Heroes of Pickens County”.  The portraits and interviews were a project of the Pickens High School SnapDragons photography club, led by teacher Lisa Payne.  The project is supported by the Georgia Council for the Arts.

Serving as one of Pickens High School’s key agricultural department educators, Jason Cantrell is all about the agricultural connection.  Cantrell currently serves as the high school’s Agricultural Education Adviser while  doing what he loves best; spreading his influence through the county’s local Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter and encouraging local youth to become involved in their agricultural-based community as well as developing their individual qualities to establish ideal leadership in a changing world.

It’s no surprise that the FFA are steadily establishing themselves as one of the high school’s most popular student-run organizations!  The FFA not only specializes in promoting quality leadership among America’s agricultural-oriented youth but also specializes in promoting hands-on activities with youth involving multiple agricultural-based lifestyles such as livestock, crop production, and animal sciences.  The Pickens County chapter also extends its green thumb to the community by maintaining the local canning plant.

Cantrell also expresses his passions for agricultural education through his belief that “American farm working can, and will, hold true.  This will possibly be the only hope for coming out of the economic crisis we are in so I would like to encourage students to really get involved and listen to your teachers.  You are going to have to learn how to plant a garden and you are going to have to learn the old basic ways of life because they are coming back and it is a part of our heritage as well.  Just listen and become involved. Whether it be 4-H, FFA, or anything; just listen and get involved in agriculture because it will hold true.

Grand plan for Roper Park

Roper Park could be a focal point for families in Pickens County… and that’s just one of many ideas.

No idea is too big or too optimistic to be considered when citizens come together to design a greenprint.

And in the next few weeks and months, Pickens County resident can offer their ideas for consideration.

The Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia is working with county and city officials to host public meetings, beginning tomorrow and going through April. More meetings are ahead:

+Tomorrow, Saturday April 23, 11 am to 3 pm at Sharptop Arts Center in Jasper

+Tuesday April 26, 9 am to noon, Pickens County Chamber of Commerce Community Room

Possible meeting in Hinton is also to be announced.

Greenprinting is a community-based planning process that identifies areas for permanent protection as well as lands for park, greenway and waterways development.

This results in a Greenprint that provides a graphic inventory of scenic corridors, cultural and natural resources to be protected and those to be developed – and a plan for doing so.

The resulting greenprint provides cities, counties, and communities with a broad understanding of their resources.

It also is used as a road map to secure public and private funding for the purpose of protecting lands and developing public recreational facilities.

You can view a video of a previous Greenprint meeting here:

See parts 3 and 4 on the same Bambuser page.

For more information, contact Liz Cole, Executive Director of the Trust, at 706-253-4077.


Let the wild rumpus begin!

C'mon Mom, it's fun!

Jasper ArtFest is HERE!

Starting tonight, downtown Jasper is firing up for a full weekend of events – and it’s all about YOU.

You can cut a record or win a painting… You can feed your face or beautify your face… You can run, dance, or chalk on the street… You can weave a basket or wave at the camera…

It’s all there, all weekend, in downtown Jasper – and Main Street will be blocked off, so come early so you don’t miss anything!

Chris Smith birdhouse, Finding Nemo

Festivities start TONIGHT with the Feathered Event: Friday April 15, 5 to 9 pm, Burnt Mountain Trading Company at 14 Mark Whitfield Street: Eat, sing, and get a fabulously creative birdhouse!

This festive fundraiser for Sharptop Arts Association will support Visionary Gardens at the center. Tickets are $10.

The first-ever Jasper ArtFest starts Saturday morning with the FlapJack run sponsored by the Jasper Optimist Club. Eat a pancake breakfast hosted by 61 Main (which is actually at 49 S. Main) – AFTER you run that 5k!

Registration starts at 8 am. (Those of you who are not quite ready to run can just watch the race and then stuff your face).

Janet Smith pottery: Just one of the great artists exhibiting at Jasper ArtFest

Official start of the ArtFest is 10 am, and you can check out dozens of arts and crafts booths! Fifty local and regional artists will show and sell their work. Sample the who’s who by clicking here.

Handcrafted goods by 4M Leather Design

A group of local artists are donating their work to be included in a raffle, too.  There will be several items on the board, and you do not have to be present to win. Tickets will be on sale at the ArtFest Committee Booth.

On Sunday, Sharptop will hold a reception for local high school artists, whose exhibit was there this month. Come from 1:30 to 3:30 pm and support young talent.

A parade of Model A’s will purr into the south end of Jasper at 11 am for the classic car show. And Sunday, trucks will roar into that same space!

Get a lick on Pickens County by tasting local foods from the eight-vendor Food Court, too.

Hans Rueffert knows drama in food

Saturday, local celebrity from the Food Channel Hans Rueffert will be staging a Biergarten at his Woodbridge Inn Restaurant. The menu will feature traditional German food that is portable along with an assortment of beers.

For wine-lovers who prefer country to city: the local Preserve at Sharp Mountain is holding an open house on Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm – you can tour the community and then finish with a glass of wine at the Sharp Mountain Vineyards.

Be on the lookout for a special surprise from Tater Patch Players…. we won’t say where or when!

Don’t miss the local businesses in those lovely old buildings just behind the booths on Main Street. They’ll have goods for sale, street-fair style, so check them out.

Other activities – sponsored by PACA – include weaving the world’s largest kudzu basket (trying to, anyhow), chalking up the street with sanctioned graffiti art, getting your face painted by an artist, and making up a cedar sachet to protect wool clothes…. and that is not all of it, but you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

If you’re more of a singer than a looker, be sure to stop at the booth for Jasper Muse. They’ll have a portable studio set up, where you can record yourself performing (with real musicians, if you like).

Artist Robin Tundra : Crazy Dog Art

For those whose friends bark rather than hum, there’s Dog Day in the Park at Lee Newton Park, 10 am to 3 pm Saturday. From low-cost rabies shots to a show-off contest, there’s something for all dog lovers – and it’s all to support the Pickens County Anti-Drug Coalition.

Photo by Lisa Schnellinger

For train lovers and history buffs – do NOT miss the two-day open house at Tate Station, Highway 53. It’s the first time the public will have access to the station in 62 years!

You can run your hands across that century-old wood and get a good look before the station moves across the street. Local photographers will also sell postcards and prints of the station to help raise money for that project.

And finally – tell us about your experience! This is the first ArtFest, and we want to learn what to do next year.

Talk to the PACA volunteers, and look for our roving videographers and photographers who will be reporting LIVE from the festival all weekend long.

You can also send us your thoughts – use the Contact form on this site, or email your own photos, videos and audio.

See you there!

View Jasper ArtFest WEEKEND in a larger map

Launch into RAMPS!

There are 3 types of people when it comes to ramps: those who LOVE ramps, those who HATE ramps, and those who don’t know what a ramp is.

That is it. There are no blurring of those lines, no middle ground.

And once you have chosen your type, you will change your type about as quick as a Georgia Bulldog fan will change to a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fan.

So if you find yourself in that third type – the one that hasn’t experienced ramps yet – you might want to put some thought into your ramp introduction.

Ramps are a member of the onion family that are found wild in the Appalachians. They have a stronger Continue reading

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