By Eric Bohl
After being stuck indoors throughout a wet year in Missouri, now is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the cool weather, beautiful leaves and rural countryside. Agricultural tourism, or agritourism, is in full swing across all parts of our state.
While the constant rains were tough on traditional corn farmers, most corn mazes were able to weather the storm and grow to their full potential. From talking with several pumpkin and gourd farmers, it seems they have also been able to make a good crop despite the wet weather. Hay and straw are in no short supply for hayrides this year – the ample water and cool temperatures brought a bumper crop of grasses. U-pick farms and orchards are doing great and have all kinds of apples and cider available throughout the fall.
MOFB maintains a list of hundreds of agritourism destinations at mofb.org/missouri-agritourism. The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Missouri Grown program lists agritourism venues as well as Missouri-made products on its website at missourigrownusa.com. Between these two websites, families can find an endless variety of options for fun and food.
Missouri Farm Bureau has led the charge in promoting agritourism for several years. Bringing people to the farm gives farmers and ranchers new revenue sources. It also gives the general public a way to connect to agriculture and have some family fun. This makes it a win-win for all Missourians.
Fall is also a perfect time to enjoy the vista and products at one of more than 130 wineries across the state. Many local wineries serve food and drinks on outdoor patios, often with live music on weekends. You can find one near your home at missouriwine.org.
Agritourism is not only for one time of year, though. Missouri is home to over 140 farmers’ markets where shoppers can get fresh local produce, meat, cheese, breads, honey and much more. These markets have been growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. Many now even accept SNAP benefits so low-income Missourians can get fresh produce grown near them.
As we approach the holidays, you may want to take the family to one of the many Christmas tree farms across our state. If you plan ahead, you may be able to catch a ride on a horse-drawn wagon, buy warm drinks and wreaths, hear live music and play games.
Missouri is a hotspot for outdoor activities year-round. Today is a perfect time to check out the agritourism destinations near your home, or to plan a drive to another area and get out of town. One thing is for sure: you won’t regret spending some time on the farm with family and friends.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Eric Bohl, of Columbia, Mo., is Director of Public Affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.