Over the past several weeks, I have been writing about agri tourism destinations throughout the United States. These are farms that offer on-farm fun for visitors of all ages. I have been leading virtual visits to states that Care2.com readers have requested via comments.
This week, we “visit” Illinois. Illinois might be known as a producer of corns and soybeans, but it also leads in the production of pumpkins and horseradish. The state has over 75,000 farms, with 85 percent of these being owned by individuals or families (USDA).
There are farms all across the state that are open to the public, and a good starting point is the Illinois Farm Direct Farmer to Consumer Directory created by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This is a direct-to-consumer site that helps you find fresh, locally grown food and lists 600 growers and processors and 200 farmers markets that sell directly to consumers.
Not only can you search by commodity or zip code, but you can also learn about local foods and get some tips on what to look for when you shop directly at a farm.
The site also features information and links to the Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program at the University of Illinois, so you can keep up-to-date on the sustainable food movement in Illinois.
Another site that lists agri tourism destinations, comes from the Illinois Agriculture and Tourism Partners of Illinois, and is called Ag Fun. It lists attractions by region and even includes those close to Chicago in a section called Chicagoland. The activities found on the site include fruit orchards, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, agricultural museums, markets, wineries, breweries, inns, and even elk farms.
You can even follow Ag Fun on Twitter.
Perhaps one of the state’s most famous farmers is Farmer John Peterson of Angelic Organics, a biodynamic CSA. He is the eccentric and entertaining farmer from the film, The Real Dirt on Farmer John and Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt.
And as I always mention, Local Harvest is another great resource for finding farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and other sources of farm fresh food. There are about 340 farm listings for Illinois on Local Harvest.