Farms & Gardens
Farm-to-table chefs in Lexington have it pretty darn good. Dozens of small farms dot the surrounding countryside, and a hometown butcher shop processes locally grown beef and lamb. Micro-seasons keep the local produce selection fresh and diverse year-round.
What does this mean for visitors? At Virginia Gold Orchard it means free samples of sweet and juicy Asian pears. For a taste, stop by during harvest season, which runs from mid-August until the first frost. Bring a picnic, wander the orchard, buy some pear marmalade, and browse the many varieties of pears. Pears have been carefully cultivated here for 24 years.
Picking blackberries is the draw at Orchardside Farms in Raphine, a family friendly destination open to the public from mid-July through August. There's no fresh produce at Cabin Spring Farm, but if you're interested in wool processing and fiber arts, give 'em a call, and they'll show you around their studio. Their annual sheep shearing, in mid-April, is open to the public.
Country Stores & Farmers Markets
No time for a farm visit? Stop by Layne's Country Store, home to fresh produce, country-cured ham, old-fashioned candies, and countless jams. For fruit and vegetables straight from the field, join the floppy-hatted farmers at the Lexington Farmer's Market in downtown Lexington on Wednesday mornings (April-Nov) or the Rockbridge Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings at the Virginia Horse Center (May-early Nov).
If there's a history buff in your car, beeline to McCormick's Farm. Inside the farm's blacksmith shop, Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper, which could harvest grain more quickly and efficiently than a team of farmers. His invention, patented in 1834, revolutionized farming and kick-started the industrial age. Down the road, check out Wade's Mill, a 1750s working flour mill with a towering water wheel. Visitors can purchase stone-ground grains and poke around the grounds.
Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden
We're not exactly sure how to describe Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Garden, a 15-acre horticultural wonderland where whimsy, education, and 2,500 species of trees collide. Your inner six-year-old – and your real six-year old – will find it pretty darn cool. The Play Trail, with its mud kitchen and forts, will entrap inquisitive youngsters for hours. And if you see a mailbox on the grounds, open it.