As I wrote about last week, saving our farmland is vital not only for the food it provides us all and the livelihood it provides our farmers, but also because it contributes to environmental quality, provides fiscal stability to a region, and it can promote and protect regional food systems.
I also mentioned that one way it provides fiscal stability is through agritourism. Agritourism takes many forms and includes such diverse activities as farm tours, bed and breakfast farm stays, Christmas tree farms, corn mazes, agricultural/historical museums, petting farms, farm markets, food festivals, pick-your-own produce farms, roadside produce stands, nurseries, greenhouses, and wineries.
Many farms also enhance the visitor’s experience with home-cooked meals, pies and desserts, gift shops, picnic areas, hayrides, train rides, and even cooking and gardening classes.
Through your support of local, sustainable agriculture land will be preserved for agricultural production. You can also see how farming fits into the natural landscape while providing a living to farmers.
I also mentioned I would be looking at some specific agritourism regions. Since I am from California and have been writing about California farms for over a decade, I am very familiar with the agritourism regions throughout the state. And, California is still the nation’s number one agricultural producing state, so, I am starting with my home state.
The most well know agritourism areas in California are the Napa Valley for wine tasting and Apple Hill for apples, but associations have been formed throughout the state in Sonoma County, El Dorado County, Placer County, Brentwood, Oak Glen, and the Central Coast to produce farm trail maps and to market their farms.
The state now has nearly 30 organized farm trails to make things easier for travelers and locals alike, with trails from San Diego in the south up to the Gold Country. One way to find these is through UC Davis’ California Agricultural Tourism Database. It allows you to search by category or region so you can search by activity or commodity such as type of produce, wine, educational activities, or accommodations, or, you can search by area. There is also a link to California Farm Trails on this site.
Different regions of the state are known for certain commodities: Oak Glen and Apple Hill for apples, Sonoma and Napa Counties for wine, and lesser known areas such as Edna Valley’s vineyards in San Luis Obispo County and Leona Valley for cherries, For those not familiar with these, organized sites like these will help you identify and find these regions.
But, California is not the only state with a well-organized system of farm trails and regions. Even Hawaii now has an Agritourism Association. Other states where you can find plenty of farm destinations include Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, and Vermont.
We will explore these other states and more over the next several weeks. In the meantime, if you know of a great farm, region, or state, let me know. And, to get you started on our nationwide hunt, you might want to think about a farm stay. Here are a couple of new blogs that will help you find one. The Farm Stay Project focuses on farm stays in the eastern United States from Florida to Maine. The other is Farm Stay USA, which has a menu you can search by state.