Ohio may not strike you as the place to see a rodeo or meet alpacas. But thanks to the broad range of farms and agricultural attractions in the Buckeye State, visitors can do both.
The state features dozens of destinations fantastic for group travelers, whether they’re looking for down-to-earth fun, an educational excursion or an exhilarating spectacle. From giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at farming’s most recent innovations to allowing them to explore the world of unique livestock and local produce, these agritourism destinations in Ohio showcase the most exciting and diverse features of modern agriculture.
The farming industry and modern farming techniques have undergone enormous transformations in the past century. No one knows this better than the Daugherty family, owners of a sixth-generation family farm in Coshocton County. Daugherty Farms milks over 200 cows and farms about 1,600 acres; it’s been producing corn, soybeans and dairy for years, but the family operation has recently been making headlines with technological upgrades that showcase the future of farming. These upgrades focus on keeping their farming practices sustainable and their livestock comfortable. The farm now milks cows robotically, a more efficient practice than traditional methods. The new barn, built a year ago, is also equipped with cow comfort features that keep the cows happy and keep milk production up, such as a special cooling system and back scratchers for the animals.
“People are getting further and further away from agriculture, and we’re just trying to continue to do our part to educate the public on what is going on in agriculture,” said Bill Daugherty, who works alongside his father, Martin, and his son, Kyle, to run the farm.
Witnessing how dairy cows are cared for and how this modern farm operates provides visitors with an understanding and appreciation of today’s farming practices. Groups can learn all about the ways in which the worlds of technology and agriculture are combining by arranging to tour the farm.
If you think you have to make the trek to Texas to see a real rodeo, you’re wrong. Buckin’ Ohio, a ranch in the northeastern part of the state, has been giving visitors a little taste of life in the West for nearly 20 years. Here, visitors can experience the excitement of professional bull riding without leaving the Midwest. Every year, events on the ranch draw thousands of spectators to see barrel racing and bull riding. Before each of the shows, visitors can enjoy Western food, live music and plenty of other Western-themed activities to get them ready for the rodeo.
“I don’t know anybody that’s doing what we’re doing,” said Eileen Thorsell, co-founder and president of Buckin’ Ohio. “We’re bringing the West to the Midwest.”
Another feature that sets Buckin’ Ohio apart is it’s a working ranch that breeds and cares for the bucking bulls on-site. Part of the ranch’s mission is to debunk the many misconceptions surrounding bull riding and agriculture in general. Before the ranch’s events, a short behind-the-scenes tour is offered for those who want to learn more about the world of bull riding. Group tours can include a variety of activities, from meeting the cowboys who compete and work with the bulls to seeing the bulls themselves close-up.
“We’re really educating the public to the sport of bull riding,” said Thorsell.
A shifting agriculture industry has spurred changes in small family farms across the country. Ramseyer Farms, in Wayne County, Ohio, is one of these farms; it started out as a horse farm in 1880. Later, it shifted to dairy and then again to potatoes. Most recently, the fifth-generation family farm adapted by investing in agritourism after their potato crop became difficult to sustain. That’s a good thing for travelers, who now have access to an abundance of fun and engaging farm-themed activities for people of all ages and mobility levels.
“Because of the next generation we’ve done a much better job,” said Karen Ramseyer, the farm’s owner. “It gives a really good guest experience because of that.”
There are many ways to have fun on the farm year-round. Educational activities such as simulated cow milking and meeting farm animals allow visitors to get a close-up look at life on a working farm. Groups can take a scenic hayride around the farm and rent a tent or a private campfire site. Those visiting in the fall can make their way through one of the farm’s famous multiacre, intricately designed corn mazes. They can pick seasonal produce from the fields or the country store, where they can also find plenty of other locally made gifts and food items. After a long day of exploring the farm, hungry visitors can stop by one of the farm’s many food stands, which offer fresh kettle corn, doughnuts, barbecue, and other concessions and treats.
White House Fruit Farm
Family-owned and -operated since 1815, the White House Fruit Farm has been in the fruit and vegetable business for nearly 100 years. The farm grows about 75 acres of produce, but it’s best known for the farm market, which offers visitors access to a wide variety of fresh, local fruits and vegetables both in and out of season. Apples are its signature crop, but some of its other popular produce includes squash, tomatoes, asparagus, pumpkins, peaches and berries. The farm’s famous homemade apple cider and doughnuts are available all year. The market also includes a deli stocked with over 40 meats and 40 cheeses for visitors to choose from.
Groups can take a stroll around the market and browse the farm’s vast selection of fresh produce, baked goods and deli items. They can enjoy their food with a picnic on the farm’s beautifully landscaped and maintained grounds. A trip to the farm’s “budgie barn” lets visitors interact with and feed the farm’s parakeets. Those who stop by in the later summer months can explore the farm’s sunflower fields and pick their own flowers to take home. Beginning in the fall, visitors can enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides and the farm’s gift shop full of gifts and fall-themed items.
New Richmond Alpaca Farm
Alpacas, members of the camel family native to South America, are raised for their valuable fleece, which is warmer and less itchy than sheep’s wool while also being hypoallergenic. It’s relatively uncommon to find alpacas in the U.S., but at the New Richmond Alpaca Farm, visitors have a chance to meet these exotic animals. The family-owned and -operated farm has been home to alpacas for nearly 15 years, after owners Greg and Lori Wahl decided to purchase their first herd in 2006. The venture was a decision to shift the farm’s investment from beef cattle to the more economical and lower-maintenance alpacas. Since then, the farm has turned into a hub of all things alpaca in the Midwest.
“The animals are still unique enough in the agricultural community that a lot of people don’t know a lot about the alpaca, much less having the experience of being in the pasture with them,” said Greg Wahl.
Groups can tour the farm’s pastures and barns to learn about the history and daily care of alpacas, as well as the processing of the animal’s fleece. Then they have the opportunity to pet, feed and take selfies with these personable animals. Visitors can round out the tour with a visit to the farm’s shop, where they can purchase a variety of clothing and accessories made from the fleece of the farm’s alpacas.