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Agritourism in the Heartland

Courtesy Wausau/Central Wisconsin CVB

When it comes to getting an authentic and down-to-earth travel experience, Midwest agritourism offers compelling opportunities for groups.

Agritourism is a form of niche tourism that involves traveling to agriculture-based locations. Although the most common places to visit are generally farms, ranches and orchards, this form of niche tourism can also include heritage areas, breweries and pumpkin patches. And because agriculture is such a key part of America’s Heartland, there are plenty of great destinations in the region that offer great agricultural experiences.

Wausau, Wisconsin

Located right in the middle of Wisconsin, Wausau is home to a thriving arts community, wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities, quaint shopping and fantastic dining options, in addition to some of the state’s best agricultural sites.

“The Wausau area is very fortunate to have a rich agricultural history that continues today,” said Tracy Baltz, director of marketing for the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There are fantastic hands-on opportunities to see modern dairy production and a number of events celebrating the farming traditions of the past. A few interesting facts that visitors often find surprising are that Marathon County is where both Colby cheese and Wisconsin ginseng call home.”

From Wisconsin’s iconic cheese curds and whey protein powder from Mullins Cheese, to authentic Wisconsin ginseng and seasonal produce picked from local fields, visitors will find wonderful farm-fresh ingredients to sample and a wide variety of products made in Marathon County.

Traverse City, Michigan
Long before agritourism took off, tourists in Traverse City spent many a morning picking cherries and apples at the local “u-picks” or visiting with the locals down on the farm. Known as the Cherry Capital of the World, Traverse City boasts scenic beauty, loads of outdoor recreational opportunities, numerous seasonal festivals and bountiful orchards and vineyards.

Groups can sip wine at Chateau Chantal in Old Mission or one of the many other vineyards, toast to a night spent with local craft beer, “pitch in” with some farm work at Tasty Morsels and more, all in one city.

“In more recent years, agritourism is becoming more deeply intertwined with Traverse City’s growing reputation as a major food and wine destination, a reputation built almost entirely on the availability of a large variety of fresh-grown foods and locally grown wines and beers,” said Mike Norton, media relations director for the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “For many urbanites, especially those who grew up in rural areas, visiting Traverse City is a way to reconnect with their country roots and show their children ‘where food comes from.’”

Sikeston, Missouri

The town of Sikeston has a rich history in cotton production that dates back to the early 1900s, but today’s tourists can experience everything from the peach, apple, melon or potato harvests to visiting rice patties or watching cotton being picked and then ginned.

“I would suggest tours start at the Sikeston Depot Museum and the Southeast Missouri Agricultural Museum for a great overview of our history, from forested swamplands in the 1800s to one of the largest drainage engineering projects in the world [completed in the 1900s] to the present, where the Bootheel has some of the richest farmland in the world,” said Linda Lowes, director of the Sikeston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The tight-knit community not only farms and lives together, but also loves to celebrate together. Each year, that community comes together for rodeos, weekly farmers markets and the not-to-be-missed Beggs Family Farm Fall Harvest Festival, beginning each October.

Kristy Alpert

Kristy Alpert has traversed more than 50 countries in her quest to uncover stories for her outlets in Food & Wine, Men's Health, Group Travel Leader, American Way, and more. When she's not on the road, you can find her teaching yoga and exploring around her new home in Germany with her husband and her Boston Terrier, Tobias.