Agritourism helps sustain local farms, provides educational resources and helps foster connections to nature and the world around us.
Groups can learn about how the food they eat is grown and gets onto their plates, or about how farms work now and how they worked in the days before modern harvesting machinery. Here are five Midwestern agritourism destinations where your group has the opportunity to get hands-on experiences and explore the world around us.
Arbor Day Farm
Nebraska City, Nebraska
Nebraska’s Arbor Day Farm, located in Nebraska City about an hour from both Lincoln and Omaha, is the birthplace of Arbor Day and a National Historic Landmark.
Across the park’s 260 acres, there is a wide variety of activities to appeal to an assortment of groups. A great way to start a visit to the Arbor Day Farm is the three-mile Discovery Ride, which travels the expanse of the property and gives groups an overview of the farming activities that take place there.
Visitors can be fully immersed in the natural environment by taking in spectacular views from the 50-foot-tall tree house or exploring the farm’s orchards and vineyards, where peaches and one of the nation’s only collections of heritage apples are grown. Groups can also tour the nearby Arbor Lodge State Historic Park, which features the 52-room mansion and surrounding estate of Julius Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day.
Guests can stay overnight at the Leid Lodge or sample the “farm to table” menu at the lodge’s Timber Dining Room. Travelers can even take home a piece of the experience: At the Lied Greenhouse, visitors can select a seedling to take back with them to plant.
Blake Farms is a family-owned Michigan farm and orchard located about an hour north of Detroit. David Blake is the third generation of the family to operate the apple farm since it began in 1946 as one of Michigan’s only pick-your-own apple orchards.
Visitors can enjoy a hayride through the orchard, where they can pick their own apples. Groups can also tour the cider mill, where the family presses cider seven days a week from the start of the apple harvest. After seeing the journey the apples make from the trees to the press, groups will appreciate trying any one of about 20 different cider products made by Blake Farms.
Many are familiar with cherries and apples from the Great Lakes state, since Michigan is the second-largest producer of apples in the nation, but they may not know that lavender is another big portion of Michigan’s agricultural industry. One of the big events at Blake Farms each year is the lavender festival, where guests can sample foods made with lavender — such as lavender lemonade and lavender ice cream — and see a variety of artisan products made from the flowering herb.
Blake Farms hosts many other events throughout the year, including haunted attractions at Halloween. In winter, it’s a popular spot for cut-your-own Christmas trees, and groups can enjoy warm cider and doughnuts.