Saturday, March 6, 2010

Trippin' into agritourism

Going Green Mama is giving serious consideration to dragging her kids to the National Maple Syrup Festival this weekend ...

Growing up, our trips were largely relegated to two locations: my grandparents in Wisconsin and to the Rocky Mountains for camping. The idea of field trips on a weekend wasn't largely entertained, that I remember.

With two kids under the age of 5, spending dollars on amusement parks, water parks, skiing (yes, we do that in Indiana) and other high-ticket activities seems to be a waste of money. Instead, we've centered our activities - when naptimes and attitudes allow - on taking in the local (or regional faire).

We're regulars at many farmers markets. We check out the newborn cows at a dairy. We indulge in ice cream from cows noshing yards away. We hit festivals and even drag our poor kids to wineries.

Yep. We've become supporters of an up-and-coming trend in tourism: agritourism. It's hot, because of the economy, our growing awareness of keeping our communities sustainable, and a desire to eat more locally. There are Web sites entire guidebooks devoted to the subject - including one for Indiana - and you can take in everything from a brief stop to scheduled activities to a stay on a working farm.

Strangely, it was something that evolved over time. Have a nine-hour drive to Kansas? Where can we take a break that's more interesting than a fast-food restaraunt or dingy rest stop?

Going someplace new? What's the random thing we can do that will detour the kids' desire to rip off the car seat straps?

And somehow, we found activities that help the local economy and make memories. Each year, we make plans to visit an apple orchard in the region, to stomp the grounds, have carmel apples and visit the petting zoo. My daughter still talks about the time we stopped for ice cream at a "cow place" (a seriously large dairy off the highway) south of Chicago. My toddler son couldn't stop talking for weeks about his first brush with "cows" - a term that quickly included everything from those that moo to those that cluck!

If you're forcing off that cabin fever this spring and are looking for a change of pace some weekend, forget the mall. Put off that trip to the indoor water park. Instead, get a little dirty and frequent a farm, orchard or other agritourist spot. A little slowing down never hurts!


Lynn from said...

This all sounds so wonderful! My little ones have been dying to milk cows! Ironically, my late father was a dairy farmer, but now I have no idea of where to go to do this! Sounds like if I was in Indiana, I 'd be all set!

Wonder-ful said...

We've got three big agri-events in our area (ok, two... the other is a cheese factory tour).

In May we've got the Gilroy Garlic Festival (I love garlic, and you can't drive through Gilroy without smelling it!) Also a good place to pick up recipe ideas as they hold a cooking competition there too.

There's the World Ag Expo. I always wondered if this was an ag version of a World's Fair.

There's the Hilmar Cheese Company's tour...

Oh, and I found out that a short drive north and you'd come to a building expo (the bilboards say to come see the green building stuff). But that's not directly ag related.

I just may have to take a trip to one and share some pictures with you. Though yours sounds so much more enjoyable (Maple Syrup?!? Yay!!!)

Stevie said...

Do you have any local Farm Tour events? Here in NC we have 3 different regions that enlist farms to open their doors for a weekend. It costs about $25 for a "ticket" to see as many farms as you want or $5 per farm. This year there are over 40 farms signed up for the Piedmont (my region). My 4 kids and I love this special weekend in April every year. People wonder why we do the tours when we have our own farm but, really, can you ever pet enough farm animals and taste enough farm fresh food?????

concretenprimroses said...

We always visited apple orchards and sugar houses when I was a kid (and that was a long time ago.)
Must be a New England thing. I loved it as a child. Still enjoy pick your own. My mom and I did a nostalgia tour of a bunch of sugar houses a few years ago. Love maple syrup!

Jenn the Greenmom said...

My husband's going to drag us to a maple syrup festival next weekend, I think--I'm the type who needs to be dragged out, because I tend to be a couchveggie, but once we're on the move I have a great time, so I'm very grateful to him. He's how we discovered the nature museums, the Reptile festivals, the stuff at the arboretum, and the not-so-very-local apple orchard we drive to every Columbus day. (I mean, yes, it's local, but it's a couple of hours away, so it makes a full day kind of trip.) He keeps track of these things and makes sure we get out of the burbs every so often. It's a good thing. :-)

Robbie said...

Lynn, at least at ours you don't get to milk it, but you're in spitting distance of the cows.

Wonder-ful, first *love* garlic... And those festivals, as corny as they sound on the surface (we used to go to the Weston Apple fest when we were in KC) can be a lot of fun. Didn't get to the maple syrup festival, though. Wound up road-tripping to a different town to check out their winter market, play at the park and get garden stuff instead.

Stevie, we do have local farm events; ours are usually in the fall.

Jenn, I agree - getting out of the burbs IS a good thing! ;-)

Daisy said...

Wonderful! I love the farm market. My son, now 18, still goes along - ostensibly to hear his favorite buskers, but we know he loves the atmosphere, too.


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