Farm Tours - Tips to Maximize the Day
Farm tours, like farmers’ markets, are booming in the US. Harvest festivals, community events, restaurants and even groups of growers themselves are offering farm tours to connect those who enjoy knowing who grows or raises the foods they eat. It’s this connection to the land and to the farmer that has transformed the rural landscape, turning productive working farms into agritourism operations as well. Suddenly farmers turn into hosts and guides when they’re a part of a tour.
But what’s in store for you if this is your first farm tour? Farmers are generally a welcoming bunch, but during the growing season, they’re naturally focused on production and the demands of caring for their animals, irrigating their fields or weeding between rows of crops. During a farm tour, however, farm life shifts from production to experiential fun, where barns are tidied up, fields mowed and the farmers themselves put on sundress or pull up an ironed pair of overalls.
Most tours involve three or more farms organized around a tour route, featuring operators known for their unique commitment, enthusiasm and talent for agriculture. For many, it’s a lifestyle, not just a livelihood.
When you arrive, you’ll usually get a down-to-earth, guided tour by the host farmer, perhaps accompanied by other family members or farm hands; be prepared to wait for a few minutes if the guided tours are offered at specific times during the day. Sometimes tours can be self-guided, too.
Because the event is outdoors, for the best experience, stick close to the farmer so you don’t miss out hearing what they have to say. The farmers will likely cover some of the “farm rules” for your safety and that of their animals. They’ll cover where any “hot” electrical fences might be, appropriate behavior around various animals and the places on the farm best left alone. They’ll also point you to a bathroom or port-a-potty if there’s one available for your use (not all will have one for use by the public).
Following are a few more tips to make your tour of farms fun, safe and educational. After all, no one wants to be lost in the countryside or miss out on the chance to meet up with some goats or emus.
• Dress for the Weather:
A working farm can be romantic, with its majestic towering dairy barns, rickety outbuildings with pealing paint, tree swings and free ranging or penned farm animals. Don’t forget your camera and definitely dress for the experience, with comfortable shoes or boots and layered clothing. Bring along rain gear in case a thunderstorm makes a sudden appearance. Farm tours happen rain or shine. If you’re with kids, tossing an extra pair of pants and t-shirt in the trunk wouldn’t hurt, since farms are known for being dusty or puddle riddled, depending on the season. There’s manure, too. Since the tour is outdoors, pack insect repellent, sun block and sun hats. Many tours may take you out into the pasture far away from the shade of any trees.
• Be ready for Bugs, Bats and Bathrooms:
“On the farm” in the name means just that. Don’t be surprised when you witness bats darting about overhead once the sun goes down; it’s a good thing, since they eat their weight in mosquitoes every night. Insect repellent may be a good stand-by, in case those mosquitoes, midges or ticks are more pesky than normal. Depending on the venue, bathrooms could be as luxurious as the nicest found in 5-star hotel or as basic as a standard Port-A-John. If you’re prone to pollen or animal allergies, bring your meds along or take them in advance, just to be safe. The last thing you’ll want is to ruin a beautiful evening with sneezes and teary eyes.
• Bring an Inquisitive Culinary Palette:
By their very nature, Dinner on the Farm events are designed by the host farmers and chef to tempt, intrigue, satiate and delight your tastebuds. Besides selecting only the freshest ingredients from the farm, the event’s chef will go to great lengths to trumpet as many of the seasonal flavors as possible.
Unlike ordering off a restaurant menu, most events have set appetizers, cocktails and entrees, special dietary needs not withstanding and usually best addressed at the time of reservation. Last minute substitutions for roast lamb or pork loin may simply not be possible. Instead, come hungry and adventurous and bask in a newfound love of leeks, turnips, buffalo sliders or pear marmalade. If you have multiple food allergies or kids who tend to be rather selective on what they eat, this may not be the right experience for you.