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Monday, September 23, 2019

Visit a Hidden North Carolina Mountain Destination: The Apple Hill Alpaca Farm in Banner Elk

The name may be misleading, because the Apple Hill Farm has not been an apple farm in many years.  This hidden gem in Banner Elk, North Carolina is a great day to spend with your family learning about many animals and taking in some great views!

Every animal has a specific job, and many have a story as well! In addition to farm animals, Apple Hill Farm is also home to the largest selection of alpaca products in the High Country of North Carolina.

Apple Hill Farm, originally an apple orchard, was created by Lee Rankin after she was inspired by a personal connection with an alpaca at a Kentucky fair.  According to Lee, "That connection awakened my inner questioning of my life as I had known it. All I could express at the time was that whatever was next would involve alpacas."  Now she shares her vision and hopes to inspire others by making the farm open to the public since 2006.

The drive to the Apple Hill Farm is twisting and turning into a rural area that we know as a place frequented by cyclists hoping to get some hill time.  Then we traveled deeper into the high country down a long dirt road, not knowing what to expect, but as you enter the farm you are greeted with faces of welcoming animals and friendly staff that are there to help!  Expecting to see alpacas right off the bat, we were surprised that donkeys welcomed us first!  Soon the story of every animal became clear as our tour guide Brianne Harris, store and team manager, took the time to explain the working family-owned farm.  Brianne clearly understood the details of the farm, and we learned that she has been working at the Apple Hill Farm for more than 8 years.  

We quickly learned that the donkeys are there as a warning alarm to the farm when predators are near.  Donkeys make a loud sound developed in order to maintain contact with other donkeys over wide spaces in the desert.  A donkey will bray as a warning when it sees predators, such as coyotes or mountain lions.  Mojo, one of the older alpaca, survived an attack by what many believe to be a mountain lion in its earlier years according to Brianne. 

Fiber from the angora goats is made into mohair and sold in the farm store. Also sold in the store is alpaca yarn made individually from each alpaca, so visitors can pick out yarn from their favorite alpaca with names like Billy, Meadowlark and Mojo.  Over the years, Apple Hill Farm has become more of a destination for families and groups to experience the animals and serenity of what the farm has to offer.

While the growth allows for these amazing creatures to impact our lives, care of the animals is a top priority for the farm staff!

Before you go, understand the specifics of natural fibers and yarns so that you can pick out something nice at the Apple Tree Farm Store!  This is a great resource and please support our blog by clicking on the photo below to learn more at Amazon!  Thank you!

Who knew that some Alpaca love to photo bomb your selfie?  Apparently this one does!  Brianne warned us!

Zeke is a miniature zebu cow that calls the Apple Hill Farm home.  Zebu are cattle that are originally from the jungles of South Asia.  They adapt very well to warm weather, and their smaller size is thought to be one of the reasons they do so well in warm climates. They are “known” for their unique characteristic of a hump on its upper back, located right behind their head and neck.  

Various events are planned throughout the year, so check the calendar!  Beginning on November 15, 2019 Apple Hill will be starting its Christmas celebrations. This includes mini-tours Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as homemade hot cocoa and Christmas cookies.  To learn more about visiting the Apple Hill Farm click here.

Of course we recommend a stop at the famous Mast General Store in Valle Crucis after your visit to the Apple Hill Farm for some nostalgia, soda, candy or ice cream (or all of them)!  It's not often you will see us recommend something not so healthy but sometimes it's nice to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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