York County’s Ag and Art Tour brought more than 2,000 visitors to local farms, greenhouses and restaurants over the weekend.
The free, self-guided tour included 26 stops with attractions such as a family-run horse farm in Rock Hill, peach sheds in York and Filbert, a farm and pottery studio in Hickory Grove and a beekeeping operation in Clover.
Six restaurants serving locally-produced food were also part of the tour.
The experience gives exposure to farm life and appreciation for a lifestyle some are unfamiliar with, said Mary Charles Churchill-Nash, an artist whose work was on display during the tour at the Ketchen Place Farm off S.C. 5 in Rock Hill.
Churchill-Nash, 61, lives in Rock Hill. She was born in Kentucky and raised in Tennessee.
“I’ve been a horse person all my life,” she said.
Churchill-Nash is a watercolor and mixed-media painter, and most of her artwork focuses on animals.
She met the owners of the Ketchen Place Farm in Rock Hill through mutual friends interested in breeding and showing horses.
At the farm, she painted pictures of the horses and sold her jewelry and art to those on the tour.
Ketchen Place Farm, a 30-acre horse farm, is part of a 200-acre tract that’s been in Mary Quarles’ family for generations.
“Historically, it has a great deal of sentimental and family value to us,” she said.
Quarles, 52, runs the 20-horse farm with her sister. They grew up in northern Virginia and have worked on horse farms all their lives.
On Saturday and Sunday, they greeted Ag and Art Tour guests as visitors strolled around Ketchen Place’s “green” barn.
The barn was specially built five years ago to be an environmentally-friendly home for the family’s horses, which now include two foals born earlier this year.
Unique roof angles on the barn allow hot air to rise and an open-air design keeps a breeze flowing through, helping cut down on bad smells and heat.
The family uses pelletized straw in the horses’ stalls, which is great to compost and recycle in gardens, Quarles said.
The barn’s design also makes use of natural light which saves electricity.
During the Ag and Art Tour, Quarles shared the history of her family’s land with visitors.
Her mother’s great-aunt Vivian Lee Neely Ketchen, born in 1888, left the farm land to Quarles’ grandmother.
She lived in what is now known as the Ketchens-Neely-Long House on Ebenezer Road in Rock Hill.
The horse farm property was once used to grow crops to support Quarles’ grandfather’s dairy farm in York.
The West Mount Gallant Road dairy farm land is still owned by family members who run a beef cattle operation, Quarles said.
“And we hope that we’ll be able to pass it on to the next generation.”
Organizers first held York County’s Ag and Art Tour last year.
This year’s Ag and Art Tour grew from 20 stops to 26, drawing in visitors from Columbia, Greenville and Charlotte.
About $6,000 from York County’s hospitality tax helped pay for marketing the tour, and Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension service in York County covered other expenses.
For more information about the local artists, farmers and restaurant owners on the tour, visit www.agandarttouryc.com.