By Brian Barth
Looking for a different idea for a summer getaway? Agritourism—a general term referring to the notion of visiting a farm for recreational or educational purposes—is a growing sector that gives anyone a chance to experience farm life, while also providing another revenue stream to said farmers—no WOOFing required (unless you want!).
Many regions have farms that also run (or partner with other organizations to run) restaurants, breweries or distilleries, B&Bs, workshops, and other interesting experiences, making these areas great choices for summer road trips. Here are three of our favorite picks.
1. Haywood County, North Carolina
This picturesque part of the Appalachians lies west of Asheville, on the way to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Despite the rugged terrain—Haywood County has the highest average elevation (3600 feet) of any county east of the Rockies—more than 700 small farms are tucked into the hills, hollows and valleys.
Known For: Ramps, ginseng and moonshine
Local Flavor: The region has a long history of mountain crafts, from the illegal (bootlegging whiskey) to the artful (weaving and pottery). More recently, it’s become a haven for urban expats and back-to-the-landers of every stripe.
Sights and Sounds: The Blueridge Parkway snakes through the high mountains on its way to Asheville—a great way to soak in the serenity of the Appalachians. Haywood County’s small towns are a great place to soak in the local bluegrass scene.
Where to Eat: Frog Leap Public House in Waynesville sources a hearty portion of it menu—from the collards and ham hocks to the pickled ramp chevre and the pecan-crusted sunburst trout—through local purveyors.
What to Drink: The “flavored” moonshines of Elevated Mountain, a craft distiller of top-shelf whiskeys in Maggie Valley. The distillery is open for tastings and tours, where you learn a bit of local moonshine lore and hear about the farms the company sources from.
A Cool Farmstay to Consider: Pigeon Valley Farms, just west of Asheville, offers three rooms for rent plus a 200-square-foot “tiny house.” It’s more a permaculture homestead than a farm, with options to pitch in on garden and livestock chores.
2. Mendocino County, California
This coastal enclave in northern California has quietly transformed from a lumberjack-sort-of-place to a foodie destination for Bay Area hipsters.
Known For: Wine, weed, and wild mushrooms
Local Flavor: A quieter version of Napa with a bit of NorCal pot-grower vibe thrown in for good measure.
Sights and Sounds: The coastal hills of are carpeted in lush redwood forests, where many a wild fungi are found. The beaches are pristine, but the water is frigid—a surfer’s paradise.
Where to Eat: At the MacCallum House, in the sleepy, but pricey hamlet of Mendocino, chef Alan Kantor serves up local cheeses, foraged berries, and the region’s famous Dungeness crab and abalone. Kantor honors his purveyors on a food-shed map found in the restaurant foyer.
What to Drink: Summer Solstice Ale from Anderson Valley Brewery. This solar-powered brewery also offers an 18-hole disc golf course.
A Cool Farmstay to Consider: The Apple Farm, founded by Don and Sally Schmitt (the couple who created Napa’s famed French Laundry restaurant in the seventies), offers three bungalows set in a 30-acre orchard. Guests have the option of cooking one garden-fresh meal each day with the family. Located in Anderson Valley, a Garden of Eden-sort-of-place tucked between the mountains, you’ll be in the center of Mendocino’s County’s artisanal farm scene.
3. Prince Edward County, Ontario
Located midway between Toronto and Montreal, and about two hours from the border crossing near Watertown, New York, this Lake Ontario peninsula has long been known for its miles of white sand beaches. But more recently, The County, as locals call it, has become a major agritourism destination, with scores of wineries, artisanal creameries, and festivals.
Known For: Hops, berry farms, u-pick orchards, and maple syrup
Local Flavor: Vogue has billed Prince Edward County as the “Hudson Valley of Canada.” This is where Toronto/Montreal food scene parties on the weekend.
Sights and Sounds: Sandbanks Provincial Park boasts enormous dunes and crystal-clear water. The beach gets crowded on summer weekends, so get your suntan during the week and tour the countryside on the fin de semaine.
Where to Eat: The Drake Devonshire, in the hamlet of Wellington, is the sole rural iteration of a famed Toronto food and lodging empire. The menu is chock-full of fare from the nearby hills and estuaries.
What to Drink: The Prince Edward County VQA is a recently designated appellation—this is no Napa or Bordeaux—so keep your expectations modest. That said, the 2009 Ti-Rouge from Redtail, an 11-acre organic solar-powered winery near Consecon, is a fun, fruity place to start.
A Cool Farmstay to Consider: The Fronterra Farm Brewery offers one of the more unique lodging options in the area: “log-framed canvas prospector tents,” featuring an ensuite bathroom and outdoor kitchen. Their “organic heirloom permaculture gardens” produce not only food for your stay, but the hops and barley for the beer brewed on-site.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.