Autumn has arrived, and with it, a prime season for agritourism. Take advantage of beautiful fall weather, the outdoors, and the opportunity to eat, can, and bake with whole food ingredients this autumn by traveling to your nearest organic u-pick farms and orchards. In the mood for something different? Read on to learn where you can find pizza farms, cheese trails, and organic wineries.
What is agritourism?
Agricultural tourism, or agritourism, encompasses working farms, ranches, wineries, and orchards that include an element of commercial enterprise for guests. Agritourism includes the usual suspects — roadside fruit stands, u-pick orchards, farmers’ markets, and pumpkin patches — as well as more unique travel experiences ranging from farm stays and organic winery tours to guest ranches and pizza farms.
While agritourism exists in most parts of the US and Canada, the sure fire way to find the freshest and most abundant harvest selection is to follow the foodie: regions and communities with the most farm-to-table restaurants, organic food trucks, and organic wineries or breweries most likely have the best produce to pick from… literally! If you’re ready for a unique, local dining experience, check out these top spots for agritourism in the US.
1. Charlottesville, VA
With a greater restaurant-to-visitor ratio than any other city in the country, Charlottesville takes the cake when it comes to organic produce and fruit. While strolling Charlottesville’s City Market or Farmers in the Park, agricultural tourists rub elbows with local chefs and restaurant managers. (Personally, I’d just trail them and ask them what’s for dinner.)
If you’d rather pick your own produce, spend a day at Carter Mountain Orchard, where over 30 varieties of apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, and pumpkins are available seasonally (19 of apples alone). Buy jams, jellies, and apple butter at the on-site store, and get pie recipes from the staff.
2. Northampton, MA
You may not think of Western Massachusetts as farm country, but the outlying communities of Northampton at the edge of the Berkshires would disagree. Starting in June, local organic u-pick farms burst with berry fields, lending to a rich apple-picking season through October. Any time of year, enjoy the handfuls of local breweries. My favorite is The People’s Pint, located in nearby Greenfield. What sets it apart? The People’s Pint won’t take credit cards, and reuses resources like napkins, to cut down on garbage. In fact, even on their busiest nights, they claim to produce only one bag of trash. Best of all, The People’s Pint uses only local ingredients in their pub food and beer-making. Yes, this means they sometime run out of popular items, but knowing you’re eating what was grown or raised right down the road more than makes up for it.
3. Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley, OR
Situated in the fastest growing winery region of the US, the Rogue and Applegate valleys of Southern Oregon enjoy a Mediterranean climate rare in this part of the US. Visitors can follow the Applegate Wine Trail (once the route of the famed pioneer trail) for organic wines, farm-to-table food, and beautiful views. My favorite stop: Troon Vineyard, where guests might catch a glimpse of local hang gliders landing.
Medford, OR, in the heart of the Rogue Valley, is also home to Harry and David, famous for pears, produce, and gourmet holiday baskets. Harry and David offers an extensive tour of their kitchens and operations, including time on the soil in their pear orchards and on the concrete of their production floors.
4. Niagara, NY
Niagara is not just about falls. With over 80 u-pick farms and orchards (many of which use organic farming methods) in Niagara County, travelers can be kept busy bringing in their own harvest. End your labors at Becker Farms, where you can tuck into one of their 100 Radius Meals, with ingredients grown within 100 miles or less of the farm.
The Niagara Wine Trail will keep adults busy, while pumpkin festivals abound for families in October. Throughout the season, take in the fabulous fall foliage.
5. Finger Lakes Region, NY
Travelers needing to get away from it all have been coming to New York’s Finger Lakes region for decades, but with dozens of u-pick farms, farmers’ markets, and even a cheese trail, it’s the place to be productive (and with an appetite) too. Finger Lake u-pick farms, with an emphasis on apples and pumpkins, may be the biggest draw, but the region’s unique lavender production comes in a close second. Known to be ‘spa quality,’ the lavender harvested at Lavender Crest Farm competes in charm with its Icelandic horses grazing on the rolling hillsides.
If you still need a reason to go, the New York Wine and Culinary Center sits in nearby Canandaigua, NY, offering events and classes for groups as well as individuals.
6. Northfield, MN
If you’re craving a homegrown pizza (yes, pizza!), the greater Saint Paul and Minneapolis area, as well as several parts of Wisconsin, have cornered the market on pizza farms. What is a pizza farm? It’s any working farm that makes pizza in (usually in wood-fired ovens) on-site, using ingredients grown on the farm. Local enthusiasts recommend the Red Barn Farm of Northfield, where guests bring their own blankets, refreshments, and salads to compliment their outdoor pizza-dining experience.
Have you taken a trip as an agricultural tourist? Where are your spots for agritourism? Where are the best favorite farm-to-table restaurants, u-pick farms, and organic wineries?