Grow, Learn, Travel!

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Agritourism is a unique travel experience that combines agriculture and education. The destination can be a farm, ranch or winery and the goal is to learn what it’s like to live and work in a rural environment.

According to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, “farmers and ranchers rely on the natural resources of their land—the soil, water, air, plants, wildlife and scenery—to keep their family on the farm and the farm in their family.” For many farm and ranch owners, agritourism provides the supplemental income necessary to support their operation.

If taking a break from technology and the hustle and bustle of modern life sounds good, an agritourism vacation could be just what you need. There are as many different types of agritourist destinations in the U.S. as there are natural environments. Whether you’re interested in helping to care for farm animals or picking your own fruit and vegetables, you’ll find farmers who are willing to open their homes and businesses. You can visit a local farm on a day trip or travel farther afoot for a visit to a stay farm or ranch.

Families with young children may enjoy staying in an authentic farmhouse and helping to care for sheep at Leaping Lamb Farm, located an hour outside Eugene, Oregon. The owners offer educational programs on organic farming, sustainable land management, composting and crop rotation. In addition to sheep and lambs, animals on the farm include goats, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks and a donkey that’s featured in a children’s storybook written by the farm’s owner.

In Vermont, Liberty Hill Farm & Inn offers a glimpse into farm life of the past. The main guest house, built in 1825, features maple wood floors, a porch with rocking chairs and comfortable farm house furniture that makes guests feel right at home. A second more secluded guest cottage was built in 1782. The farm is home to a dairy that visitors are invited to visit. Nearby activities include tubing on the White River, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing.

Farms with corn mazes have become a top agritourism destination. Competition has upped the stakes and today’s mazes are more sophisticated and complex than ever, with some revealing images of sports mascots or famous people when viewed from above. One of the largest corn mazes in the Midwest can be found at the Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois. Besides almost 10 miles of maze trails laid out across 28 acres, this working farm features fall activities such as pumpkin picking, community campfires, wagon rides and a petting zoo.

The Big Island of Hawaii has become a major agritourism destination with several stay farms located in the region’s western greenbelt near the town of Kona. Gingerhill Farm is a combination working farm and wellness retreat. Accommodations include a suite in the main house and a private cottage, both with ocean views. For those who like to rough it, there’s a rustic cabin in a private bamboo grove. Tours of the farm emphasize self-sufficiency, sustainability and stewardship and visitors are invited to take part in the work of planting, harvesting and caring for the farm’s goats and pigs. Gingerhill also hosts a variety of special events and workshops, including yoga and art classes.
They used to be called dude ranches—cattle ranches that teach guests about riding, roping and wrangling. The Drowsy Water Ranch is a 700-acre family guest ranch situated 90 miles from Denver, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park. This award-winning working ranch provides a full-immersion Western experience for the entire family with activities such as horseback riding, pack trips, fishing, swimming, hiking, campfires and hayrides. More adventuresome visitors can try rafting or the zip line course. The ranch has about 100 horses available for every riding level; accommodations include authentic Western guest cabins and lodge rooms.

For horse lovers who are looking for something a little more sedate, the Bar SZ Ranch, located two hours south of San Francisco in San Benito County, is a working family ranch with three guest houses and two glamping units. Activities include helping with farm animals, horseback riding, skeet shooting and hayrides. A bonus attraction is Pinnacles National Park, just a few miles away.

Visiting a traditional farm is a great way to reconnect with nature, learn more about our heritage and meet people living a different kind of life. Farm visits and farm stay holidays have been popular in Europe for decades but are a relatively new trend in America. Interest here has grown as fewer of us have access to the places where our food is grown. Seeing the source of your food can be an eye-opening experience, especially for city dwellers. ■

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