Are you called to start a farm? Do you have a dream of offering agritourism on your farm and need guidance on what to do first?
With little more than my wits, a supportive community, and an indomitable devotion, I took 43 acres with an abandoned apple orchard and turned it into a destination for thousands every year who tour and shop to experience a working fiber farm.
This once-abandoned orchard:
21 years after deciding to raise alpacas on a mountaintop, Apple Hill Farm is now home to
9 kinds of animals: alpacas, llamas, angora goats, zebu cattle, horses, pigs, donkeys, chickens, and livestock guardian dogs. The farm includes 15 fields, 4 barns, and a farm store. We, a dedicated team of 15 mostly part-time employees, care for the animals, land, and folks who visit. We are open year-round hosting a number of educational animal experiences. After years of learning how to successfully run a farm that has become a destination for agritourism, I want to bring your farm and agritourism vision to life.
Do you need help with a specific challenge? Are you up and running and want a fresh set of eyes on how to take your farm to the next level? Are you an existing client with a need for more one on one consulting time? One-on-one consulting sessions can be tailored to your exact needs.
1 session: $300
2 sessions: $550
4 session: $1,100
“This is not just ordinary consulting. Lee understands how to make hospitality work practically, tailored to what works within our own story and operation. She has helped us incorporate agritourism to add profit streams in a way that complements and supports our specialty food and farming business, instead of just adding new initiatives to compete with scarce time and resources. I’d like to see every family farm in our region incorporate Lee’s insights, because of the impact she can have on helping local farms be not just sustainable, but healthy, profitable businesses that last for generations.”
– Gray Shipley, Partner in Shipley Farms Beef; Adjunct Lecturer, ASU Department of Management
Lee Rankin is a farmer and founder of Apple Hill Farm, a successful and award-winning first-generation farm in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. She is an advocate for farmers through her leadership and involvement at a local and state level. Lee speaks, teaches, and consults frequently as a first-generation woman farmer on the topic of alpacas, entrepreneurship, and the benefits of diversifying your farm portfolio through agritourism. She has been teaching a one day Agritourism Works! workshop on the farm since 2019 for small farmers wanting to add agritourism activities to their farm. Her Agritourism Works! message is being featured on an International level with her recent participation in the CAMELIDynamics Conference and an engagement with the International Agritourism Workshop.
Positions of involvement in agriculture:
Apple Hill Farm is a destination for thousands every year who tour and shop to experience a working fiber farm on top of a mountain. Income sources for the farm come from breeding and board of animals, sales of products in the store, tour fees, and agritourism classes and consulting. Agritourism activities include Barn Quilt Painting Classes, Goat Yoga, Tot and School Tours, Knitting with the Alpacas, and classes in agritourism. In 2021, we led over 1,600 educational walking tours of the farm.
More than a farm, Apple Hill Farm is built on story. In 2001, Lee Rankin found herself in a corner. Having recently fought breast cancer, she was a solo mom with a toddler in Kentucky with a dream to raise alpacas on a mountain top. Armed only with that vision and a toddler, Lee marched into Banner Elk, North Carolina to open an alpaca farm.
Fields were cleared, planted and fenced. A barn was built and in 2003, the first alpacas arrived on the property just in time for Christmas. Spring brought the alpaca show season with 4 year old Will showing a fawn alpaca named Millie to the oohs and ahhs of the crowd. In May, the farm suffered an unfortunate event, a mountain lion attack and four out of five alpacas died. With the help of farmers from out West, a plan took place to continue to raise alpacas with llamas on the inside of the field and donkeys on the outside. Meat goats were added in an unsecured field as an offering to the predators if they came back.
And another story was born, that of the lady on the hill who had had a mountain lion attack. The story spread and people began to seek out the farm. It was the beginning of Apple Hill Farm offering agritourism activities and inviting folks to visit. From farm tours offered on Saturdays to being open year round and offering a variety of educational activities and a store full of alpaca products, the farm has grown into an award winning venture.
Apple Hill Farm was Lee’s dream of a mountaintop alpaca farm in 2001. From dream to today, Lee’s passion is alive and strong for others pursuing or leveling up their vision for a successful farm venture that includes agritourism. As we as a culture move further towards urban and suburban living, many have lost connection to what it is like to live and work on a farm. Farms open for agritourism activities are giving people an educational experience on a working farm and a chance to get back in touch with what is real. In the process of sharing our farms, we (farmers) are refueled with passion for what we do, which makes us better at sourcing food, fiber and forestry.
We’ll start with a discovery call to set a goal and decide which option feels best to you.
Learn more about agritourism first-hand from Lee. Includes a tour and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Apple Hill Farm, a successful agritourism farm.
Please fill out the form below and Lee will be in touch.