Agritourism

Julie Bielenberg is a Denver-based writer who served as managing editor for a regional home and lifestyle publication before starting Tweeter Communications, her editorial services boutique. With a BA in journalism from the University of...

Break out of the box

Agritourism is fast becoming a popular trend in family travel. It’s an extension of eco-tourism and a sensational option for families with children of all ages, as it offers a true hands-on opportunity to explore working farms and ranches. Whether you choose to visit an alpaca farm or an apple orchard, your future agritourism trip can take be anything from a short afternoon jaunt to a week-long expedition -- or more. The opportunities to immerse oneself in all that Mother Nature has to offer abound in every region of the country.

Family walking in field

While becoming a celebrated travel fad, agritourism (also spelled agro tourism) is still in its early roots in America. Agritourism has already taken off in countries such as Italy, Argentina and Canada. The basic theme behind the travel trend is to visit farms and ranches that produce agricultural products -- this can range from fruit groves and vegetable crops to working dairy farms. Agritourism overlaps with culinary expeditions because many of the locations you are able to visit allow you to pick your own goodies before educating you and your family about ways to utilize the products, much like a farm-to-table experience.

Does agritourism sound intriguing? Are you ready to get your feet wet? The best place to start your agritourism venture is a farmers market. Take the family down one afternoon or weekend and let your children visit with the vendors. You might learn your daughter is interested in how cheese is made or your son would like to know how the berries get into the jam. Pick locations that pique the interest of your family.

Farm Vacations

Roughly 80 percent of the United States population lives in urban corridors. However, the 2007 Census of Agriculture found that nearly 41 percent of America's land is managed by farmers and ranchers. That translates to a whole lot of space for exploration through agritourism. But how does one go about it? The easiest and quickest way to plan a farm vacation is to call a state tourism office.

Take Washington State -- upon calling their state tourism office and requesting agritourism locations, they will be able to list a plethora of fabulous farms to visit, almost 20 full pages. There are berry farms, cheese farms, orchards and more. Skagit County, for example, is a gold mine.

From there you can choose farms that allow you to stay overnight or places you can visit for a few hours at a time. The tourism office can help you find inns, hotels and bed and breakfasts along your route to accommodate any needs.

Ranch Vacations

Most people thing of dude ranches when it comes to ranch travel, and there's nothing wrong with that! Working horse, cattle, sheep and buffalo operations are mesmerizing and right in line with agritourism. The majesty of the animals combined with the vast lands they roam is awe-inspiring.

The mythical Old West delivers more all-inclusive ranch stays than any other region. California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho rank among the most popular destinations to visit working operations. Children are able to participate in traditional ranch round-ups, milking of cows and more. Spring is an especially attractive time to visit with the births of so many offspring. Allowing your child to hand-feed or bottle-feed a newborn provides memories they will cherish through adulthood.

>>Keep reading for more agritourism destination ideas!

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