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Agri-Tourism and You
by Kathy Sullivan

From Wine Trail Traveler Newsletter, March 2008

Farming was a way of life during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today the small farm has gone the way of horse-drawn carriages and soda fountains. Encroaching suburban areas have snuffed out small farms. Housing is pushing farther and farther out from the center of cities and towns. Currently the large commercial farmer has hundreds of acres to farm. Recently, a young farmer from Indiana said that he farmed 1200 acres of land but lived in town with his wife and child.

Today agri-tourism offers many opportunities to visitors. Agri-tourism is the practice of attracting visitors to agricultural sites. Whether you want to pick fruit or vegetables, go for a hayride, eat at a restaurant, stay at a bed and breakfast, or visit a petting zoo, there is something for everyone. How do children learn where grape juice, milk or eggs come from? Visit agricultural destination sites and let children see for themselves. Vineyards and wineries make excellent agri-tourism destinations.

Agricultural tourism provides the opportunity for people of all ages to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. There is nothing more eye opening than a quiet drive along country roads. Remember John Denver singing “Country Roads?” Interstate roads may get you to your destination sooner, but the slower country roads give you more time to enjoy the countryside.

If you are planning a visit to a winery, check out their website. Some wineries focus on a “total” experience, not only a “tasting” experience. Find out what the winery has to offer. Some wineries are very receptive to having families visit. You may come across wineries that have chickens, cows, sheep or other interesting sights for children.

Another aspect of wineries and vineyards is the preservation of the land. Would you rather have a vineyard in your backyard, a strip mall or multiple-use housing? Harry Hepbron from Maryland’s Dove Valley Vineyards and Winery believes that building wineries and planting vineyards is a way to preserve the land for generations, and it provides a livelihood.

Black Star FramsDonald Coe from Michigan’s Black Star Farms is determined to help the small farmers in the area. An example of this was when a farmer told him he was only getting four cents a pound for his pears. Donald worked with him and now the farmer provides pears grown inside bottles for Black Star Farms. Today when you visit the winery, you will find bottles of brandy with a pear in each bottle. This provides a unique gift for the person who has everything. Black Star Farms is an agri-tourism destination. Not only is there a vineyard, winery and tasting room, there is a creamery with a viewing room from the tasting room that shows visitors the process of cheese making. The cheese pairs well with Black Star Farms wines. Stables, paths and farm animals are also found on the estate. A bed and breakfast inn provides lodging for visitors.

With the value of the dollar being so poor in Europe, now is the time to consider visiting agricultural destination sites in the United States. Whether you want to spend a day or two or a week, you will find just the perfect place to visit. More and more farms are promoting agricultural tourism.


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