Have you ever been on a farm tour? If so, what stood out for you? I will say I have been on a lot and they seem to range dramatically. What farmers call a farm tour may be really different than what some of us think of or want to go on…. it may also differ among the types of farms. So let’s get the lowdown on some of the different types of farm tours that can be given.
General reminder: right now we have a regularly changing landscape in travel so always call to check for times & dates the farm is open for visitors and whether tickets are available.
Farm Tours for Everyone
Seeing how our food is grown is so much fun for food lovers like me! And the number of farms that have opened their doors to their communities to come see what is happening has been consistently rising. And while I’d like to go see all of the farms, I understand it takes some dedicated time and effort and people want to be sure guests are safe, that the farm business continues.
Here are a couple of farms I’ve visited that host guests regularly.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that Dee Dee Darden, who talked with us about Virginia ham several months ago, hosts a lot of guests on their farm outside of Smithfield, Virginia. They share lots of different animals and crops in fun ways and even take classrooms on hay rides and folks can get a peek into the smokehouse where hams hang if they are lucky!
Etsch Farms (NJ)
I recently saw some photos from a farm tour I took several bloggers (including Janis from MommyBlogExpert) in the metro New York area on. It was a fantastic day on the farm with Caroline & Jim Etsch of Etsch Farms in Monroe Township, NJ. They tend to have small groups in as well as local sales of bakery items, etc.
The family does some agritourism on the farm alongside the hay & grain production they do. Just a short drive from the Holland Tunnel, they have a corn maze, run summer camp programs and I still dream of the apple cider slushies and doughnuts. They’ve done outdoor movies and some kiddie rides in the past — Caroline is always coming up with new ways to share information about plants, animals and farming.
Fair Oaks Farms (IN)
One of the farms that is set up to provide comprehensive tours is Fair Oaks Farms in northwestern Indiana. It has a large, modern dairy farm as well as pork and crops and they have a visitor’s center, a cafe and a restaurant as well as tours around the property to see how a bigger farm works. They have a lot of interactive displays, a playground and more!
My friend Natasha (who joined us for an episode on urban gardening) took her family there on a home schooling trip and had a blast while learning lots! She’s got great photos of the pig adventure part of the day so you can see all the awesome on her blog. One of the pieces that has always gotten attention is the center where calves are born. It’s amazing to see a calf being born or even just as it tries to get its legs under itself.
Virtual Farm Tours
As technology has grown, one way more farms have been able to open up to the public is virtually. With virtual tours, the safety of the guest and safety of the animals, etc much easier to do. And with covid-19, some in-person opportunities are harder for some people to get to right now.
But there are also in-depth farm tours that can be live or watched later too. I usually hear about them via Facebook event invites. This tour of a pig farm in virtual reality was put together by some friends. I love it! You can wear goggles or simply hold your phone up and the video will enable you to look in a full 360 degrees rather than simply straight ahead.
That one is a short 5 minutes but in this pig farm tour that Kansas Pork did for several schools, it’s a full class period of learning and conversation. That type of depth allows for some great explanations of how they get feed into bins and things as well as look inside the barns.
And as you may have seen, I hosted a virtual farm tour on Animal Crossing: New Horizons this past week!
There are farmers who do a lot of social media posting showing people their farms regularly — if you have a specific kind of farm or geography you are interested in connecting on, pop that in the comments and I will find you a farmer who shares that if I can!
Finding Farm Tours Near You
In the recent Q&A episode, one of the questions was about how people can find farm tours near them. One of the simplest ways is to search google for your state’s department of agriculture website. There will be a lot of information that is clearly details farmers need, but there are also state run programs to connect residents to agriculture. They usually have a dedicated website as we discussed and it frequently has a list of local farms that do agritourism, special events, etc.
Farm Tours Farmers Usually Take
For farmers and others in agriculture, touring other farms is usually geared toward finding new products or practices that they may want to try out too. There is a lot of discussion about how a type of seed works on one type of soil or another, or about whether this practice reduces fuel use and what customers may prefer.
Really, they talk about all the things. Equipment like tractors and the weather differences are always huge.
Most of the farm tours I have been on were for various crops and I got really used to doing tours of cotton & soybean fields. A few years ago I wrote a piece explaining why you may see a bunch of signs in a farm field along the highway. I still get excited about field days & farm tours even after going on hundreds of them. One is I love talking with people but I also always learn something.
I can’t lie, with the depth of interest and knowledge farmers have, I’ve been on a lot of farm tours that would bore my family to tears. Farmers work separately so often that the are some who will spend the whole day at a farm tour asking questions, some may arrive early and they may bring a vehicle full of people too! After years of being Grounded by the Farm, I’d say I’m more excited usually but 100 degrees and high humidity can temper my enthusiasm quickly.
Every vegetable farm tour I went on left to lots of new learnings and experiences.
One day I go to go out on a farm where they had planted more than two dozen spinach varieties! I had never even though about there being dozens of different spinach varieties. People asked about what is being seen with salad preferences with respect to color (how dark or bright the leaf is) and veining patterns (is it a deeply textured leaf or are veins more shallow). There was discussion about leaf size and shape. I won’t lie, I needed a spinach salad, spinach enchiladas, and all the things that week!
This year, more farmer tours are going virtual and that’s something that will be new for a lot of us. Kicking the dirt and seeing things close up…. well, I’m sure you can see why it is so popular. Most of us like to do it too!