Last week, I was lucky enough to go on a 2 day Georgia Agritourism trip with a few other local bloggers. It was an amazing experience that I am so thankful I got the chance to participate in. I learned all about Georgia agriculture, the purpose behind the agritourism movement here in Georgia, and a few tips about how to support local farmers. I thought I would share my experience with you so that you can bring these tips into your own lives and improve the support of the farmers in your own communities.
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How to Support Local Farmers
Let me just say that I am seriously impressed with how hard farmers work to bring their products to market. Several of the farmers we met had grown up working the farm as kids. They often worked full-time jobs in addition to farming to provide a bit more stability. They all work unbelievably long hours to keep their farms running. Knowing how to support local farmers helps keep them in business and ensures that there will always be food on the table. Check out my post on why you should buy from small farms. Then try one of these ways to help support your local farmer:
- Shop at your local farmer’s market or purchase a CSA share: Without people purchasing their products, farmers would be out of business. Use LocalFarmMarkets.org to find a farmer’s market, roadside stand, or local farm near you. Or, use LocalHarvest.org to find a local Community Supported Agriculture program nearby. Buying raw milk? ONLY buy from a farmer you know!
- Volunteer at a farmers market: Most farmer’s markets have volunteer positions available. Ask your market what sort of help they need. Manning information booths and unloading trucks make the market run smoother.
- Eat seasonally: Choosing seasonal foods helps support local farmers. Often, local grocery produce comes from your nearby farms, even if it isn’t labeled as ‘local’. Eating mangoes in January will definitely NOT support your local farmer if you live in Georgia like I do!
- Talk to the grocery store manager: Knowing how to support local farmers yourself is important but large scale clients like grocery stores really help farmers earn a profit. Ask your store manager to buy local whenever possible.
- Become active on the PTA: Become an active member of your local PTA and get local produce into your school’s cafeteria. Then, download Farm Aid’s Farm To School 101 Toolkit to help you get started on your farm to school journey.
What is Agritourism?
Agritourism helps families reconnect to the land while also reconnecting with each other. It blends education and entertainment with the end goal being a fun filled look at farming and a relaxing day of togetherness. I spent 2 days touring Georgia agritourism locations, and each one was incredibly unique.
One thing I learned is that some farms are more production based and others are more entertainment based. All of them create a product (or products) from the land and also offer families, schools, and other groups an inside look at what farming in Georgia is really like. It was a fascinating journey through the farms of south Georgia and I can’t wait to go back and visit them again with my family. If you are wondering how to support local farms, find a farm near you and go visit!
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If you are local or plan on visiting Georgia soon, here are a few of the Georgia agritourism spots we got to visit. Please note that there is no way I can provide a full recap of each farm but I HIGHLY encourage you to visit the home page of each one for more details!
Southern Bell Farms
Southern Belle Farms in McDonough, Georgia is operated by Jake Carter, a fifth generation farmer. This 330-acre farm started as a dairy farm but now offers farm tours to over 40,000 elementary students per year. They feel strongly about educating children with regards to our food system and offer everything from picking your produce to a fun corn maze. There are even pig races! Seriously…I need to try that!
Farm View Market
Farm View Market is slightly different from the other farms that we visited. They provide a retail environment that includes a grocery store, butcher shop, cafe, and farmers market. Everything featured there is delicious and locally sourced. Everything in their cafe made on site and from grass fed meats, organic fruits, and heirloom veggies. Over 80% of the food they serve is sourced from Georgia and most within 50 miles.
At Farm View Market, local is first. Organic and natural is great but local comes first. Many of the small farms they source from ARE organic but can’t afford the certification. (this is a huge problem in the farming industry!) They offer classes to the community to educate the public about gardening, canning, cooking, etc. They also accept EBT cards at the farmers market to make their products more affordable to lower income people. (I really love this!)
Mitcham Farms in Oxford, Georgia started out as a cotton farm but is now a combination upick farm as well as offering school field trips, a corn maze, and some seriously amazing strawberry slushies! They currently grow berries, pumpkins, squash, corn, tomatoes, onions, and more. They are working hard to improve the farm to school program in the area, which I absolutely love.
Berry’s Tree Farm
Berry’s Tree Farm was unique on our Georgia agritourism experience because it was a Christmas Tree Farm. The farm has been in the Berry family since 1894 and all trees are hand trimmed. They offer several varieties of trees and you get to pick and saw the one you want. There is very little disease on the farm and there is no spraying of the trees within 30 days of sale to reduce your exposure to any chemicals.
Yule Forest in Stockbridge, Georgia was an incredible educational experience. They offer educational tours for kids that include information about farm animals, plant growth, forest facts, and Georgia agricultural trivia. They have a strong focus on teaching kids about agribusiness. This includes things like raising chickens for eggs, vermiculture, bee keeping, aquaponics and much more. They teach kids how to support local farmers but also how to BECOME a local farmer one day!
There are loads of kid friendly activities to experience from puppet shows to jumping pillows. I can say from first-hand experience that the jumping pillows are amazing!
The Rock Ranch
The Rock Ranch was a totally unique Georgia agritourism experience. It is a massive stretch of land (1500 acres) whose mission it is to connect families to the land and to one another. They are a working cattle ranch, offer overnight stays in some amazing cottages, and have too many fun filled activities to even begin listing. You could spend days here exploring everything they have to offer and not get bored.
The Rock Ranch was voted one of the top 15 glamping destinations in the US by the Travel Channel in 2016. I was incredibly impressed with the Conestoga wagon camping site. I seriously need to come back here for a few night with the family!
Some of the activities they offer include things like free Easter egg hunts, a celebrate America day for the 4th of July, a hot air balloon rally, aerial acrobatics, Frisbee dog shows, and pumpkin destruction day.
Dickey’s Peach Farm
Dickey’s Peach Farm offers some of the earliest ripening peaches in the state of Georgia. Peaches play a huge part in Georgia agritourism and this farm has been family owned and operated since 1897. It is home to Georgia’s oldest, continuously operating peach packing house. On our tour, we got to see the packing equipment and tour the retail space where they sell some delicious locally sourced products. They also have a soft serve peach ice cream that is delicious!
Dickey’s Peach Farm has 1000 acres of peach trees and their peaches are sold locally as well as up and down the East coast. I got to bring home a few and can honestly say they are delicious!
Lane Southern Orchard
Peaches and pecans reign supreme here in Georgia and Lane Southern Orchard is growing both in large quantities! If you are wondering how to support local farmers then you need to find out what YOUR state is known for and start eating more of it! Lane Southern Orchard is 2400 acres of peach and pecan trees as well as a delicious cafe and retail store. I had a fried peach pie that was absolutely to die for and I may just drive an hour south just to get me another one!
In addition to peaches and pecans, you can pick strawberries, apples, and even kiwi! And can I just say that I LOVE the fact that they planted millions of flowers around their strawberry field to attract the bees….and you can even pick a few for a small fee to take home with you.
Lane Southern Orchard also offers a great selection fun family activities and a wonderful look at true southern hospitality!
How to Support Local Farmers: Explore Agritourism!
If you are wondering how to support local farmers, the first step is to find them and start switching to locally sourced products. Ask around and find out what sort of agritourism is available in your own area. Get your kids excited about the land and the food that comes from it. Our food system depends on the next generation getting excited about growing food. And we need seriously smart stewards of this earth in order to make that happen!
How do YOU support your local farmer?
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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.