Monday, March 1, 2010

Destination AgriTourism

I was fortunate enough to attend the Agritourism-Small Fruit and Vegetable Conference held in Lake of the Ozarks last week. The conference brought producers across the state together to share experiences and ideas. Many farmers are now diversifying their operations and becoming more involved in agritourism. They are not limiting themselves to just growing produce, but are inviting the public out to their farms and are selling value-added products like muffins, wreaths, or even lemonade. This enhances the visitor’s experience and promotes the farm’s status to a family destination.

Speakers at the conference included Leroy Rood from Pea Ridge Forest Tree Farm, Earnie Bohner from Persimmon Hill Farm and Leroy Shatto from the Shatto Milk Company. At the Pea Ridge Forest Tree Farm near Hermann, Missouri, Mr. Rood turns his farm into a winter wonderland each fall. Families come not only to choose and cut a Christmas tree, but can take pictures with Santa, eat kettle corn, drink hot coco, pet farm animals, buy ornaments and wreaths and sit by the fire in the gift store. During the summer, people come to Persimmon Hill Farm near Lampe, Missouri, to pick blueberries and blackberries. Many repeat visitors come just for their famous Blueberry Thunder Muffins, barbecue sauces, syrups, shiitake omelets, slushes, cookbooks and pottery cookware. The Shatto Milk Company near Osborn, Missouri, has successfully turned the small family dairy into a tourist attraction. Visitors receive a guided tour of the dairy where they learn how Shatto milk is produced and bottled, can milk a cow and sample dairy products. As vacationing close to home is becoming more popular, it is worth checking out some of the local agricultural attractions.

by Catherine Bohnert, Jefferson Institute

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