My family looks forward to this all season. We pile in the car and drive half an hour. The kids get excited when we see signs advertising the place. They’ve talked all week about what they’ll do first when we get there. We arrive — to the farmer’s market in the spring, the berry picking farm in the summer, the corn maze in the fall — and have a full, fun-packed day. Our family photo albums are dotted with these experiences.
My children look forward to the kettle corn, the animals, and the activities, but it’s about much more than that. It’s about showing my kids that local farmers can grow different crops and raise different animals than what we do at home. It’s about seeing crowds of people drive from miles around to establish family traditions based around farming, ranching, or natural attractions. Most importantly, it’s about the visitors walking away with a better understanding and appreciation for agriculture.
We call it agritourism, and it’s a tradition we have in abundance here in Missouri. Every part of our state has options for getting out and enjoying agriculture in a fun, wholesome way. Missouri Farm Bureau has aggregated a list of over 650 of these attractions. Incredibly, you could visit one Missouri agritourism business a day for almost two years before you would run out. This list includes farmers markets (my favorite place to go on a Saturday), orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides, festivals, horse riding farms, and more.
Autumn is peak season for agritourism for good reason. How relaxing does it sound to gather a group of friends on an October weekend, pack a picnic, and head to one of Missouri’s many wineries? Getting together with a couple of other families or a church youth group for a hayride on a cool fall night is about as good as it gets.
Looking for something a little more out-of-the-ordinary? Missouri has all kinds of creative options. For example, in Johnson County, you can stop in at Green Meadows Alpaca Ranch and stay at their farm’s bed and breakfast. The kids (and adults, too) will love feeding and playing with their Huacaya alpacas, Katahdin sheep, and Nigerian dwarf goats. In Scott County, you can tour a cotton gin at the Vanduser Gin Company. At Pa’s Posey Patch in Barry County, you can cut your own flower arrangement or take family pictures in a field of sunflowers. The options are truly endless.
Now is the time to make your plans to get out and enjoy some fresh air and experience agriculture. Pull out your calendar, head over to mofb.org/agritourism, and start filling in all the memories your family plans to make this summer and fall.
Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, is the president of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.