Buncombe cheese business takes production to another level

Fairview's Looking Glass Creamery, which started in 2009, is one of 15 stops along the WNC Cheese Trail. But that number's about to increase by one -- a major one. Looking Glass is headed 40 miles south, while also staying in Buncombe County. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

There's a push to lure visitors to the mountains, away from the hotels and restaurants of Asheville. It's called agri-tourism, and a popular cheesemaker is expanding to join the movement.

Fairview's Looking Glass Creamery, which started in 2009, is one of 15 stops along the WNC Cheese Trail. But that number's about to increase by one -- a major one.

Looking Glass is headed 40 miles south, while also staying in Buncombe County.

Harmon Dairy is 226 acres of farmland near Columbus in Polk County.

Looking Glass owners Jennifer and Andy Perkins decided to go traditional, literally, farm-to-table.

"Milking goats and milking sheep is what brought me into the business," Jennifer Perkins said. "It is a respect for the past, keeping it a dairy farm and also moving forward with a new venture that will help protect it all."

Doug and Alan Harmon insisted it stay that way, to prevent development where their father began working the soil in 1947.

"The Harmons have been farming for 70 years at that location, and, now, we know that Looking Glass Creamery's going to be there for a long time to come," Patrick McLendon, of Growing Rural Opportunities, said.

There will be 60 milking cows, a full processing plant, tours and education. And the Fairview operation will stay open and be expanded.

An important part of the cheese-making process is the caves that will be be built on the farm.

"The quality of our cheese will improve, because each cave will be dedicated to a certain type of cheese, that needs a specific humidity and a specific temperature, and we can give it exactly what it wants," Jennifer Perkins said.

The Harmons will partner with the Perkins for a while until they learn the ins and outs of dairy farming. Cheese making they know, agri-tourism across two counties is what they hope really takes off.

"I think it's much more sustainable and will yield a great destination, and people can visit us in Aasheville and then decide they want to come down here and see the farm," Jennifer Perkins said.

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