Ever wonder why there are so many horse farms around the southern NC mountain towns of Tryon, NC, Rutherfordton, NC, Saluda, NC and Landrum, SC? Much of it has to do with the extended growing season associated with the Geothermal Belt located in the Area. This term was first documented and named after Silas McDowell of Franklin, NC in 1858.
A “thermal belt” is simply a zone or belt on a mountainside where frost or freezing temperatures are less likely to occur then at higher or lower elevations a position of obvious importance to farmers impacted by growing seasons. The highest elevations generally receive the coldest parts of weather patterns due to the reduction atmospheric pressure, however have you ever watched the weather on tv, if you live or visit the mountains when a meteorologist refers to radiational cooling factoring into valley frosts on cool clear nights? This happens regularly in the deep mountain valleys of North Carolina. This thermal belt sits between these elevations and is generally protected by higher mountains to the north and west.
As a result, these previously mentioned locations generally experience fewer frosts in the Spring season when blooming fruit trees are at their most vulnerable thus increasing the probability that the fruit will be able to be harvested in the Summer and Fall. Owners of horse farms consider this a benefit of determining where to locate their farms. In addition to the benefits of better harvests and more vegetation available to the reduced number of frosts, the animals are exposed to freezing temperatures less often then other locations.
The next time you travel through or visit this area and see these majestic animals running and feeding on the natural landscapes remember the term “Isothermal Belt” and you will know why you will see miles and miles of horse farms in these great regions of the Carolinas.