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15th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour

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After a girls' night out, I usually find myself the next morning stretched out on a futon in my friend's apartment above Johnny's store in Carrboro (901 W. Main St., 969-0031, www.johnnyscarrboro.com). Owner Brian Plaster has found a niche selling local artisan foods. One particular summer Sunday memory stays with me.

"Want breakfast?" my friend asked. "I have one duck egg left!"

She reached into her fridge and pulled out the egg, almost double the size of a chicken egg, tinged a creamy, faded, cool blue. With a quick strike against the cast-iron skillet, the thick shell cracked to release a vibrant orange yolk into sizzling, fresh butter. It was hearty and satisfying, a spirited indulgence on a Sunday morning.

The egg came from Duck Run Farm (www.duckrunfarm.com), a newbie on this weekend's 15th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour, April 24 and 25, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. At the end of a winding dirt road in Pittsboro, Keenan McDonald raises at least four breeds of ducks. They waddle freely in rows and V-shaped cliques or swim and play in the pond. She sells her duck eggs at Johnny's every Saturday morning as well as through her CSA, Baker + Farmer (www.bakerfarmer.com), offering eggs, meat, poultry, produce and homemade bread. Her ducks yield 15 to 18 dozen eggs each week. "Ducks lay more effectively than chickens," she says. Their eggs provide a fluffy texture when whisked or beaten, complementing baking recipes and even thicker textured egg-based dishes, like ravioli and pasta.

A chicken lover, McDonald was struck by duck love while helping Eliza MacLean at Cane Creek Farm (also on the Farm Tour) a few years ago.

"I remember that first time I picked them up," McDonald says. "At first they are so skittish, and then they become these soft, squishy things, all of a sudden relaxed. I thought, this is the most amazing animal."

Sponsored by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (www.carolinafarmstewards.org) and Weaver Street Market (www.weaverstreetmarket.coop), the tour features 40 farms.

Cathy Jones and Mike Perry of Perry-winkle Farm have participated every year. They remember being just one of seven farms during the first tour in 1995.

"Customers have an interest to see where their food is raised and see whether we, as farmers, are being honest about our representation of ourselves and our production," Jones says. "And they can see some of the creative places we call home. It's wonderful to see how much they appreciate the work we do. Our hearts are filled."

The thriving farming community featured on the tour includes many unique spots like Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm in Roxboro, a 200-year-old family farm home to the state's second-largest herd of bison; two biodynamic farms, Beausol Gardens in Pittsboro and Whitted Bowers Farm in Cedar Grove; and Eco Farm in Chapel Hill, where happy pigs share the spotlight with farmer John Soehner's shiitake mushroom logs.

Tickets are $25 per car for the entire tour. Visit the CFSA site for info on how and where to purchase tickets.

Know about a fun food happening in the Triangle? Send it to Now Serving at food@indyweek.com.

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