Agricultural tourism is a unique intersection of agriculture and tourism that is quickly having a major economic impact on many of our communities. Local farms and businesses create experiences that draw people from all walks of life to taste, touch and learn.
This time of year, we are all familiar with the autumn corn maze and pumpkin patch visit. We plan trips to pick apples at an orchard and taste wine at a vineyard as we drive through picturesque vistas of color.
In the 17th District, you’ll find everything from the Driftless Wine and Cheese Trail at many different locations to apple cider donuts at Northwoods Orchard and Farm Market in Mauston. We have boat tours, hiking trails and miles upon miles of gorgeous views from hilltops and valleys. Local artisans craft jams, jellies and pickled vegetables that are sold next to oddly-shaped gourds and blooming mums. Visitors and locals alike are tempted and treated to the bounty of our communities this time of year.
But as they continue to host traditional experiences, our agricultural tourism community is finding new ways to build the industry. They are curating experiences that include feeding goats and shearing sheep. They host classes for making sausage and natural soaps by hand. They combine the view of a pasture with an artist to paint-and-sip. All types of domesticated animals are available (and more than willing) to be fed and petted right in the barnyard. Agri-tourism entrepreneurs are seeking ways to share their world.
Agri-tourism often combines timeless farm duties with artistic expression. Why do we spend more on apples we pick from the tree at Oakwood Fruit Farm than those we select at the grocery store? Who knew that tourists would pay money to stay the night and work on a farm? And why does a pie always taste better when we have walked the fields where the fruit was harvested and met the baker who made it?
Agri-tourism is about experience. Our communities offer experiences to visitors who may not fully understand the life cycle of the food they eat, the textiles they wear and the world around them. We give them the opportunity to connect with their world in a new way that is as old as time.
Take time this autumn to enjoy a new experience at one of the many agri-tourism businesses in our communities. For a list of Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association members and a calendar of events, visit visitdairyland.com/. You might learn something new!
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.
Republican Howard Marklein, Spring Green, represents the 17th state Senate District.