Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trippin into Agritourism

Originally published at the Green Phone Booth, March 2010

Growing up, our trips were largely relegated to two locations: my grandparents in Wisconsin and to the Rocky Mountains for camping. The idea of field trips on a weekend wasn't largely entertained, that I remember.With two kids under the age of 5, spending dollars on amusement parks, water parks, skiing (yes, we do that in Indiana) and other high-ticket activities seems to be a waste of money.

Instead, we've centered our activities - when naptimes and attitudes allow - on taking in the local (or regional faire).We're regulars at many farmers markets. We check out the newborn cows at a dairy. We indulge in ice cream from cows noshing yards away. We hit festivals and even drag our poor kids to wineries.

Yep. We've become supporters of an up-and-coming trend in tourism: agritourism. It's hot, because of the economy, our growing awareness of keeping our communities sustainable, and a desire to eat more locally. There are Web sites entire guidebooks devoted to the subject - including one for Indiana - and you can take in everything from a brief stop to scheduled activities to a stay on a working farm.

Strangely, it was something that evolved over time. Have a nine-hour drive to Kansas? Where can we take a break that's more interesting than a fast-food restaraunt or dingy rest stop?Going someplace new? What's the random thing we can do that will detour the kids' desire to rip off the car seat straps?

And somehow, we found activities that help the local economy and make memories. Each year, we make plans to visit an apple orchard in the region, to stomp the grounds, have carmel apples and visit the petting zoo. My daughter still talks about the time we stopped for ice cream at a "cow place" (a seriously large dairy off the highway) south of Chicago. My toddler son couldn't stop talking for weeks about his first brush with "cows" - a term that quickly included everything from those that moo to those that cluck!

If you're forcing off that cabin fever this spring and are looking for a change of pace some weekend, forget the mall. Put off that trip to the indoor water park. Instead, get a little dirty and frequent a farm, orchard or other agritourist spot. A little slowing down never hurts!

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