More than a mansion, Ag runs deep at Biltmore

by | Apr 13, 2023

#EscapeWithNCAg is a year-long series that will focus on agritourism across North Carolina. Many farms, wineries and other agricultural businesses in our state offer events such as tours, yoga, educational classes, pick-your-own events and festivals, to entertain the public and teach them about our state’s number one industry. Each Thursday, we will feature a new site for you to visit with friends or family. Stay tuned and learn how to escape the stresses of life by diving into agriculture! 

Biltmore is one of the first attractions that comes to the mind of anyone visiting Asheville. From the beautiful historic home to the gardens and delicious wine, the estate offers a variety of fun and romantic events for friends and family. On the private west side of the estate however, is a whole other world that has actually served as the foundation of Biltmore since its inception. “I can’t think of more important work that we do at Biltmore than our agriculture program,” said Kyle Mayberry, Director of Agriculture at Biltmore. From beef cattle, goats and sheep to row crops and hydroponic greenhouses, Biltmore is a beacon of agriculture in our state that is calling out for your family to come and hear the story.

In the 1890’s, George Vanderbilt had a vision of creating a self-sustaining estate in Asheville for his family. “He certainly set out to build the house itself, but the land was a central focus,” Kyle said. The dairy opened on the farm prior to the estate opening in 1895. “Agriculture was the foundation and has been a part of who we are since before the beginning, I like to say,” Kyle said. Immediately following the opening of the house to George’s family and friends in 1895, agritourism began on the farm. Today, the estate’s property spans over 8,000 acres, and the agriculture program consists of land being used for row crops, like corn and soybeans, sunflowers, hay and livestock.

There are many activities at Biltmore that visitors can get involved in, including farmyard visits, horseback riding, flower petal art and carriage barn experiences. The horseback trails and carriage barn accommodate all individuals, from novice to experienced riders. These trails lead through the property and allow participants to see areas that are only visible on horseback. Both horseback and carriage rides are available seasonally and can be booked over the phone prior to your visit or after you arrive.

Farmyard visits in the estate’s Antler Hill Village are one of Kyle’s favorite activities because he gets to showcase the pride found in Biltmore’s agriculture program. “Visits to the farmyard in Antler Hill Village can be done 365 days a year,” he said. “This part of the estate truly immerses our guests in the agriculture story of Biltmore. In addition to visiting and interacting with farmyard animals like chickens, goats and cows, this is the area of the estate where our guests are able to see some of the farm equipment used by the family in the 19th century, as well as learn about how the farm is run today, including what we grow, the products we make and the livestock we raise.” A visit to the farmyard in Antler Hill Village is free with an admission ticket to Biltmore.

All of the products grown and raised on the Biltmore property are used to create products or dishes served at Biltmore’s various restaurants. Biltmore Winery is a large part of the agricultural story as well. Last year, Biltmore began bottling their own sunflower oil that is available for purchase inside the winery. They also produce honey, corn meal and grits that can be purchased upon visiting the winery. If you are looking for estate raised meat products, including steak cuts and ground beef, check out their online shop here: https://www.biltmoreshop.com/gourmet-food/biltmore-grown.html. “We are a member of the Got to Be N.C. program and are super proud of these products that help showcase our foundation and story,” Kyle said.

Recently, Biltmore began offering a new specialty package to the estate’s lodging guests that showcases the depth and heart of agriculture on the property. The Field to Table Tour and Taste Premium Experience can be added on to any lodging reservation for $165 per person. “We are very excited about this new two-hour tour offering because it fully immerses our guests in the agriculture history found here,” Kyle said. “It includes a variety of behind-the-scenes, exclusive experiences in the vineyard, greenhouses and around the farm. It also consists of food and wine tastings, featuring products grown and raised right here on the property.” The tour experience can be booked either upon reservation or when you arrive for a stay at the Biltmore. It is offered every Wednesday and Friday now through the first week of January 2024.

“I am excited about any opportunity at Biltmore that allows us to elevate our agricultural history and modern day practices, and I love to showcase the private west side of the property where much of our agricultural work can be seen,” Kyle said, “because it offers a fundamental picture of where our food comes from.” Through all of their agricultural offerings, Kyle and his team seek to educate visitors on N.C. Agriculture and how important it is to the future of our country and vitality of our economy. “Many individuals today were not raised on a farm and have had very few, if any, experiences with agriculture,” Kyle said. “It is always rewarding to have people come out to Biltmore, even if they didn’t intend to come for the agricultural story, and see their eyes light up as they look out at the land being used here for agricultural production. To hear guests ask questions and truly make a connection not just with the Biltmore but with agriculture in general is rewarding because it allows us to tell the honest story of our farmers. We are also able to show the lengths we go to ensure animal welfare and sustainable farming, and I believe this provides hope for a solid future for our state in this industry.” A full list of activities that guests can enjoy on the estate can be found on Biltmore.com, including farmyard visits and the new Farm-to-Table experience for guests of the estate’s lodging properties.

Behind the beautiful architecture and glamour, Biltmore is rooted in agriculture and passionate about it’s future. “We are Biltmore and there is a lot to be excited about and proud of surrounding what we stand for, but at the heart of it all, we are a Century Family Farm like many others found in this state,” Kyle said. “Agriculture is who we are. It was George Vanderbilt’s vision from the very beginning to be founded on agriculture in a similar way to the self-sustaining estates found in Europe during his day, and this is still our vision today.” Start planning your trip to Biltmore today and be sure to visit the estate’s agricultural areas and meet some of the agricultural team while immersing yourself in the rich agricultural history and experience found at this monumental attraction.