Public can tour 30 farms

Families can hang out with cows, pigs, chickens, goats and sheep during the third annual Charlotte Area Farm Tour on Sept. 17 and 18.

On the tour, sponsored by Davidson-based Know Your Farms, children will learn where their food comes from. Adults can see natural and sustainable production methods to use in their backyard gardens. Cooking and nutritional tips for healthy meals also will be offered.

The tour is scheduled for 12:30-5:30 p.m. each day at 30 local farms, including fruit and vegetable growers, livestock producers, an ostrich farm and North Carolina's first certified organic dairy farm.

Many farms will have fun activities such as hayrides, petting zoos and cooking demonstrations. Several farms will be new to the tour this year.

The Charlotte Area Farm Tour is self-guided. Participating farms are in clusters all around the Charlotte region for easy touring.

To take the tour, get a map and buy a vehicle ticket at

The cost is $25 in advance per vehicle or cycle group. Tickets also can be purchased on tour days at every tour farm for $30.

Proceeds will support the work of Know Your Farms, a family-run business that works with farms in the Charlotte region on alternative ways to distribute what they grow.

The tour includes, among others, Commonwealth Farms in Cabarrus County, which raises organic produce and herbs and edible flowers; Barbee Farms in Concord; beef producer Big Oak Farm in Denver; Birdbrain Ostrich Ranch in Sherrills Ford; Landis Gourmet Mushrooms in Landis; and Maple Lane Homestead in Concord, which raises sheep, goats, poultry, grains, bread and organic produce.

Book Garden preliminary budget approved

The Davidson Board of Commissioners approved a capital project fund and budget July 12 for the Davidson Public Art Commission's book garden project.

Corporate, citizen and nonprofit donations and revenue from tourism-related taxes will fund the $102,650 budget.

The book garden will be on Main Street between the public library side porch and the CVS store. It will honor Davidson's literary and academic history, provide a sheltered spot for reading and realize an artist's creative vision.

Town officials said the garden will reinvent an often-overlooked public space and increase Davidson's popularity as a regional tourist destination.

Davidson Finance Director Eric Hardy said advantages of a project fund are that it doesn't expire at the end of a fiscal year, so funding is preserved independent of the fiscal calendar. It also provides protection and accountability for the revenue and assures that it won't be mingled with the town's general fund, he said.

A capital project fund and its accompanying budget ordinance needs to be in place before expenses can be paid on the project. That's why the town board approved the capital project ordinance to establish the budget. The project is expected to be completed this fall.

The budget includes the following expenses:

$5,000 to complete construction documents.

$20,000 to buy three sculptures by artist Lydia Musco.

$3,500 to trim, fertilize and preserve the tree at the site.

$74,150 for construction.

Landscape architect J'Nell Bryson hasn't received final bids on construction costs. If that cost exceeds $74,150, the Davidson Public Art Commission will either solicit more donations or scale back the scope of the project.

Donations totaling $89,600 have come from Wells Fargo, Davidson residents David and Betsey Stewart and the Arts & Science Council. The remaining $13,050 is 5 percent of the tax on hotel room occupancy and prepared foods that town receives from the state. It must be used for travel and tourism.

Louis Stephens, developer of the CVS building, owns part of the property on which the book garden is planned. He is helping the Davidson Public Art Commission with required easements.

In 2009, an agreement secured 15 percent of Davidson's hotel room occupancy and prepared foods tax to fund public art, town officials said. Budget constraints forced the town to suspend that funding for a year. The budget for fiscal 2012 restores one-third of the money.