In need of some adorable goat and alpaca pics for the Instagram feed? How about a bushel or two of apples to make your own hot cider? You’re in luck!
In fact, agritourism, which encompasses activities on private agricultural lands designed to specifically attract visitors, such as farm stays, u-pick fruits (you pick your own fruit), and even cooking classes, was on the rise and is now seeing a resurgence. This is the quintessential fall activity.
It's part in thanks to membership-driven sites like Harvest Hosts, which connects RVers with private lands, including farms and ranches, and a renewed interest in local exploration. (There's everything from goat yoga to touring an alpaca farm.)
Here's how to search for farms and ranches that welcome visitors with a bevy of offerings across the U.S., and to hone down exactly what kinds of activities and opportunities might be interesting.
Check out these websites to start
Besides picking up the local paper, Agritourism World breaks down experiences by different criteria such as location, active adventures and overnight stays. It provides “trip planning,” where it’s possible to search strictly for properties that double as farm sanctuaries, on-site markets, or even host their own barnyard corrals, pens for holding animals that you can pet and/or feed.
The site also enables users to view listings on a map, for those looking for opportunities in a particular region or a place close to them.
Meanwhile, PickYourOwn.org highlights what types of fruits, veggies, and nuts are in season each month and where it’s possible to pick them, broken down by both state and county.
It also includes additional resources on where to find pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and harvest festivals, as well as tips for home canning, freezing, and drying said fruits, which of course, are all the rage these days.
Find the Instagram hashtags
If it’s an engaging activity that doesn't require too much of a commitment , try u-pick farms (#upickfarm).
These are places where you can pick fruits like apples, peaches, blueberries, or walnuts straight off the tree or bushel, and then take them home for baking, cooking, and eating. Simply pay by the pound (or bucket, depending) and viola!
Check out that mobile app (and farm trail)
Though Agritourism World is the way to go for an overall snapshot, other sites may provide better insight into a wider range of localized activities.
Luckily, states like New Jersey and Vermont boast their own dedicated agritourism websites, while mobile apps such as Florida Agritourism and VisitNCFarms can help users find nearby properties, including detailed offerings, and directions.
If you find yourself in Durham County, North Carolina, chances are you can find a visitor-friendly farm or ranch there.
California is especially keen on its farm trails, a collection of farms in a specific region that work together to promote each others' offerings. In northern California wine country, Sonoma County Farm Trails include opportunities like jam-making at LaLa's Jam Bar and Urban Farmstead. Likewise, there is the chance to cuddle with baby goats at Redwood Hill Farm.
Further inland, San Luis Obispo County features its own FARMstead ED, a project of the SLO County Farm Trail that brings visitors together with locally grown experiences. These include local olive oil tasting experiences, bee pollination workshops (complete with a bee-keeping demo!) and farm nursery tours.
Digging in deeper with farm stays
If you're anything like me, it may become possible to be so taken by farm life you'll want to try it out for yourself, and get those hands dirty.
This is where communities like Workaway and WWOOF USA come in. For a nominal fee,1 these membership-based organizations connect volunteers with working properties both across the U.S. and around the globe (WWOOF USA is part of the world-wide WWOOF network).
Put in the time, assist with chores, get the experience, and they’ll provide the typically free room and board.
For international opportunities, Workaway features cultural exchanges and working holidays in more than 170 countries (including the U.S.), from oyster farming in southeast Alaska to pecan and blueberry harvesting in South Carolina's Lowcountry.
Farm stays (search #farmstays on Instagram) revolve around spending the night in an on-site room or cabin in a private home/live working farm, and then spending the days assisting with livestock or learning the ins-and-outs of local horticulture.
Farmstay USA is a great place to search for more opportunities across the U.S. as well. Activities offered include gathering eggs for breakfast in Texas Hill Country while bedding down in a pet-friendly riverfront cabin. Goat milking at Lucky Goat Family Farm in California's Big Sur is also a thing, where there's also a cheese-making workshop onsite.
How's that for you?
- The Workaway annual membership is $44 USD per person, $56 USD per couple. Meanwhile, the WWOOF USA annual membership runs $40 USD per person, $65 per couple. Workaway is cheaper for couples, and WWOOF USA is cheaper for single travelers. ↩