We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. At no extra cost to you, I only recommend products I have experience with. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Agritourism. What is it, how to do it, how to find farms, why do agrotourism with kids? These are all questions I had before I embarked on a trip to the Sunflower State of Kansas. I worked in partnership with the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Soybean Commission to explore what agrotourism is, why it’s important, and how to find ways to include the United States and Kansas farm tours in your next family vacation.
What is Agritourism?
First off, just what is agritourism. The definition of agritourism is essentially agricultural tourism on local farms.
Types of Agritourism as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) include educational experiences, hospitality services, outdoor recreation, alternative marketing, and the creation or sale of value-added products (think farm stands where farmers may sell their own fruits and vegetables).
In terms of family travel, it can be done through be some of the following ways I interacted with farms in Kansas:
- Pizza Farm – Events at Juniper Hills farm include making handmade pizzas from ingredients found on the farm and cooked in their on-site pizza oven. You can also visit their pumpkin patches for picking. Juniper Hills Farm is just getting started setting up their agritourism side of business by hosting events and I’m excited to see where they go.
- Touring, sampling, and purchasing a variety of dairy products from Hildebrand Farms Dairy. Try the root beer milk and the ice cream located in their on site store. Hildebrand Dairy also holds events throughout the year that goes beyond their tours.
Agriculture Marketing lists these other agritourism activities that you could experience:
- Retreat and rendezvous centers
- Nature centers
- Farm tours for families and school children
- Farm-based lodging and cross-country ski or snowshoe trails
- Children’s educational day camps
- Country overnight bed and breakfasts
- Bird or big-game hunting preserves;
- Bird and wildlife watching
- Corn mazes and haunted forests
- Petting farms
- Hands-on U-pick farms
- Winery tours and Vineyards
- Horse-back, hay rides, sleigh, vintage tractor, snow-machine or sled-dog rides
- Farmers Markets
- Rural weddings
Why Should Farm Tours be a part of your family travels?
As you can see from that list above, there are a lot of ways farmers are inviting visitors to experience the activities of the farm.
We may do the family farms near our homes, but have you ever considered doing a working farm tour as part of your family travel?
When we visit farms in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world, we can see just how far-reaching travels our food may take.
For instance, when you think of apple picking, I’m sure you don’t think of my home state of Florida. As Floridians, we would travel north to enjoy apple picking at an orchard.
When we visit a working farm, we can talk to the farmers and learn about such things as the growing season, varieties, how to keep the apples healthy. We may eat a lot of apples, and they don’t come from across the street!
Additionally, you have different landscapes when you travel. Living in Florida, we have large stretches of marshy lands. During my visit to Kansas however, I viewed wide open grasslands as far as the eye could see. In fact, one of my fellow travelers marveled how far she could see without a mountain in her view line.
How to find Farm Tours
When you’re in a new area, finding agricultural activities may not be as easy. I was pleased to find on the Kansas Tourism website an entire section devoted to agritourism operations throughout the site. I often turn to the state and local visitor’s bureau websites to find new things to do.
Additionally, when you’re in a new area, you may search for agritourism near me to find a farm experience.
Plus, don’t overlook stopping by a farm stand while you’re out driving. Talk to the farmers to see if they offer agritourism events.
How to do Agritourism with kids
Agritourism with kids provides a harvest of educational opportunities. Visiting farm animals and learning about where our food comes from is important. Plus, because it’s on a farm, you’re definitely getting some outdoor activities.
A couple of things to note before visiting:
- Encourage the kids to ask questions. Farmers want you to know what goes into your food. Got questions about GMOs and pesticides. Ask, you may be surprised by the answers.
- Go a step further and get educational resources ahead of time. The Kansas Farm Bureau has Ag Education DIY kits and classroom kits to encourage learning. What I especially like about this site is that it’s not just for younger kids. There’s plenty of teenage appropriate guides here as well.
- Not all family farms are the same. Be sure to follow the rules. Some farms are approved for petting the animals, others are not. Set the expectation before you go, as it’s for the health and safety of the farm animals.
- Yes, you can take kids to winery. There’s a lot to learn about the growing process of grapes. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might wander into a grape stomping season!
Learning about Row Crops while Driving
Even if you can’t visit a farm, if you’re like me, you spend many hours in the car driving. Every time we venture out for a road trip, we’re destined to see large fields of row crops.
A row crop is just that, a crop planted in rows. Typically along the side of the road, you’ll see rows of corn and soybeans. Thanks to Kansas Soybean Commission, I learned not only what I’m looking at, but what soybeans are used for.
Also, thanks to Kansas Farm Bureau, I learned what sorghum is, what it looks like, and what it’s used for. Kansas is first in the nation in sorghum production. It looks like corn in the fields except with a gorgeous burnt red tassel at the top. It’s used primarily as a source of feed for cattle but is also considered a “cereal” crop.
A couple of things you can share with your kids next time you’re road-tripping next to a soybean farm:
- Soybeans might be powering your car. They are an important part of biodiesel.
- Some of the plastics inside of your car are made from soybeans.
- Did you know that one acre of soybeans can make 82,000 crayons?
If you have younger kids, you can use the Bean Team activity sheets found here to keep the conversation and road trip occupiers going.
Related: How to create a Road Trip Activity book.
Why is Agritourism important?
Agritourism is important both for the farms and the consumer.
Offers farmers need a way to diversify their revenue by providing additional income through tours, sales of products, event space, farm stands, or even a place to stay.
It provides educational opportunities to the community such as the ones mentioned above.
Agritourism events promote understanding and appreciation for farms, farmers, and what it takes to grow the food that feeds us.
Plus, it encourages interactions that empower us to engage with our local food system. Did you know how much the average American is removed from their food? According to a 2011 survey, (while 10 years old, I’d wager not much has changed) farmers feel that 86% of consumers have no or very little knowledge about modern farming in the US. Agritourism can change that.
Most farmers will tell you they do this job because they love it. However, the cost of farming can be astronomical. Some equipment costs upwards of half a million dollars. Agritourism operations provide a supplemental income to bring in added revenue and educational opportunities for the community.
Farm Stay – How to Stay and work a farm
If you really want to get up close and personal with a farm, try a farm stay. There’s a couple of ways you can do this.
Farm Stays in Kansas
I found several stays on Hipcamp in Kansas that mention farms. If you use my code TONYADD11F63 at this link, you can get $10 off your first stay with Hipcamp. Similar to an Airbnb, Hipcamp allows folks to camp on private lands, such as farms. This doesn’t mean just tents either. You can park your RV and often they may have cabins or rooms to rent through Hipcamp.
If you want to get your hands in the soil, farm operations in rural areas may be able to host you through WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF is an organization that promotes educational exchange and practical skills through organic farming. In exchange for room and board, you may work the farmland. Each farm is different in work expectations, but worth checking out for a 100% unique opportunity. Click here to find WWOOFs in Kansas.
Harvest Hosts in Kansas
If you want to see the farm life without working the farm, another option is Harvest Hosts. Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms, and attractions that invite RVers to stay in 2377+ stunning camping sites. The $99 yearly membership gives members unlimited access to stay overnight at any one of our Host‘s locations. They kindly ask our members to support their Hosts by purchasing one of their local products with each stay!
Not only do I think you should add agritourism opportunities to your next travel, consider adding the ones in Kansa. It’s a surprising state with plenty of folks ready to show you why they love Kansas.