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Take a Family 'Field' Trip

Summer vacation is upon us, and that means it’s time for a good, old-fashioned road trip. While it can be difficult to plan an itinerary that makes everyone happy, adding a few agricultural elements can help bring even those family members who hesitate to leave the farm on board.

Traveling to Hawaii? Tour a coffee farm. Visiting Europe? Stop by a vineyard. Staying closer to home? Visit Living History Farms near Des Moines, Iowa, or stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

East Coast Ag

Washington, D.C., is a popular tourist destination, but there’s more to our nation’s capital than government and monuments.

The American Enterprise exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History traces the history of American business, including agriculture. Visitors can climb into an interactive tractor simulator, learn how mass production led to the mechanization of farming, view a tribute to Norman Borlaug, and examine historical farm machinery and artifacts. Displays also tackle issues like biotechnology and water consumption.

The exhibit, which has been in place at the Smithsonian for two years, was created with input from several U.S. farmers, including Illinois farmer Sharon Covert, who is also district director for the Illinois Soybean Association. “Agriculture plays a huge role in the history of America,” she says. “If you don’t have food for your family, that’s first and foremost on your mind. Innovation and business have been possible because we haven’t had to worry about food – farmers provided. If we don’t have to worry about food, we are free to be creative and ingenious, which is what makes America great.”

Learn more about the exhibit at americanhistory.si.edu/exhibitions/americanenterprise.

A few hours southwest of Washington, D.C., in Charlottesville, Virginia, you can visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. The third president owned some 5,000 acres in Albermarle County, Virginia, which housed his family and many workers, both free and enslaved. Walking tours highlight Jefferson’s interest in gardening, botany, and agriculture, and a special harvest tasting tour includes an in-depth look at the vegetable garden and a tasting of seasonal produce. Visit monticello.org or call 434/984-9800 to plan your visit.

Explore Agriculture

No matter where your travels take you this summer, you can find an agricultural element to add to the itinerary. Whether it’s a museum, historical site, local farm tour, or a stay at a rural bed-and-breakfast or short-term rental, it’s fun to see how farmers in other parts of the country and the world do things differently – and how we are all alike.

Here is an agricultural adventure from each of the 50 states:

Alabama: Visitors to Fromagerie Belle Chevre Creamery in Elkmont can purchase goat cheese and other products in its storefront, and take farm tours or attend Saturday suppers, cheese-making classes, or special events for kids.(bellechevre.com; 256-732-4801)

Alaska: From May through Labor Day, visit Williams Reindeer Farm in Palmer to see 150 reindeer, plus elk, horses, bison, and other animals. Farm tours, horseback trail rides, and seasonal festivals await visitors. (reindeerfarm.com; 907-745-4000)

Arizona: Dates are the oldest known tree crop cultivated by humans, and 10 million pounds are harvested each year around Yuma. Tour Martha’s Gardens Medjool Date Farm and see how drip irrigation transformed 100 acres of desert into a farm of 8,000 date palms. (marthasgardens.com; 928-726-8831)

Arkansas: Heifer Ranch, a 1,200-acre educational farm near Perryville (and headquarters of Heifer International), offers interactive, hands-on activities promoting sustainable solutions to global hunger. Several programs are available, from a few hours to a few days long. (www.heifer.org ; 855-948-6437)

California: Kiler Ridge Olive Farm produces Tuscan-style extra virgin olive oil from Italian olive cultivars grown in Paso Robles. Tour the olive milling facility, walk through the orchard, sample the oil, and enjoy the view. (kilerridge.com; 805-400-1439)

Colorado: Hop in the Magic Bus Tours limo bus for a three-hour tour of farms and ranches around the Fort Collins area, including mushroom growers, cheese makers, fish farmers, and more. (themagicbustours.com; 970-420-0662)

Connecticut: Thousands of school children have visited the 4-H Education Center on the 120-acre Auerfarm in Bloomfield, and so can you. The farm offers hands-on agricultural experiences, special events, a farm store, and more. (www.auerfarm.org; 860-242-7144)

Delaware: Stroll through the lavender fields, tour the gardens, and walk the labyrinth at historic Warrington Manner in Milton, located in the Delmarva Peninsula, only a few miles from the ocean. Take home handmade lavender products like soap, lip balm, lavender honey from on-farm hives, and more. (lavenderfieldsde.com; 302-684-1514)

Florida: Stop by Ridge Island Groves in Haines City for a golf-cart tour of the orange grove, where you can pick an orange right off the tree. Buy fruit and try orange ice cream in the gift shop. (ridgeislandgroves.com; 863/422-0333)

Georgia: The Jarrell cotton plantation survived General Sherman’s March to the Sea, typhoid fever, the cotton boll weevil, steam power, and the transition from farming to forestry. Now it’s a state park. Tour the agricultural operation or attend a special event. (gastateparks.org/JarrellPlantation)

Hawaii: At 2,500 feet above sea level, Hula Daddy’s coffee farm boasts beautiful views of the sea. Take a fun, free tour of the orchard and roasting room and enjoy samples of the farm’s different types of coffee, as well as chocolate-covered coffee beans. (huladaddy.com; 808-327-9744)

Idaho: The Idaho Potato Museum is located in the old Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot in Blackfoot. Learn about potato history and the growing and harvesting process, and enjoy a potato lunch in the café. (idahopotatomuseum.com; 208-785-2517)

Illinois: Step back into 1840s rural Illinois when you visit the Lincoln Log Cabin state historic site south of Charleston, the farm of President Abraham Lincoln’s parents. A working historical farm has been developed around the cabin. (lincolnlogcabin.org; 217-345-1845)

Indiana: Download a free audio driving tour of the Heritage Trail in Elkhart County and explore Amish life, tour quilt gardens, visit the Bonneyville flour mill, and more. There are stops to please everyone in the family along this trail. (amishcountry.org; 800-262-8161)

Iowa: Bring your horse to Crossroads Ranch near Lucas, and enjoy riding miles of trails on 360 acres. Camp or stay in a cabin, and go fishing, hiking, or kayaking. (crossroadsranchlucasiowa.com; 641-217-1188)

Kansas: Take a step back in history when you visit Cottonwood Ranch in northwest Kansas. This 1885 sheep ranch, including the ranch buildings, house, spring, historical trail, and orchard, is now administered by the Kansas State Historical Society. (cottonwoodranchks.com; 785-627-5866)

Kentucky: The "Horses, Hooch and History" tour from Blue Grass Tours offers the chance to experience a day in the life of a Thoroughbred race horse, a lunch of Kentucky fare, and a tour and tasting at a bourbon distillery. (bluegrasstours.com; 859.252.5744)

Louisiana: Frogmore Plantation, located right across the Mississippi River from Natchez, contrasts a working cotton plantation of the early 1800s with a modern cotton plantation and gin. Walk through authentic slave quarters and see a rare steam gin, then see how the modern plantation uses a computerized 900-bales-per-day cotton gin. (frogmoreplantation.com; 318-757-2453)

Maine: Welch Farm in Roque Bluffs, along the shores of Englishmen’s Bay, is a fifth-generation family owned and operated blueberry farm. Tour the farm, purchase Maine wild blueberry products, and stay in a guest cabin near the farmstead, nestled along the border of Roque Bluffs state park. (welchfarm.com; 207-255-0133)

Maryland: Visit our own Betsy Freese’s parents at Walnut Springs Farm in northern Cecil County, and pick your own strawberries, raspberries, sweet cherries, and blueberries. Check the website for picking dates. (strawberryfarm.com; 410-398-3451)

Massachusetts: Groups of four can tour wineries, breweries, and farm-to-table events near Northhampton while driven in a red 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible with Pioneer Valley Tours. (pioneervalleytours.com; 413/335-9399)

Michigan: See the hops yard and barley plot at the 18-acre farm-to-pint Cultivate Brewing Company in Berrien Springs, then taste the craft beer made from these and other locally sourced ingredients. All ages are welcome, and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks are also available. (cultivatebrewing.com; 269-422-1324)

Minnesota: Briggs Farm was one of the first in Winona County, established in 1854 by Norwegian immigrants. Today, the farm is home to a small herd of cattle, but it is managed to attract wildlife. Rent the farmhouse or just visit for the day, and participate in activities including wood-fired cooking, guided deer hunting, bonfires, hayrides, biking, birdwatching, weaving, wildnerness survival, fishing, and turkey hunting. (briggsoutdoors.com; 507-450-9902)

Mississippi: Explore aquaculture by taking a guided tour of the ponds and concrete vats that house Mississippi catfish and fresh water shrimp at Mississippi State University’s South Farm. You’ll learn about the research being done onsite and get an overview of aquaculture in the state. (visit.msstate.edu/publictours; 662-325-4731)

Missouri: Watkins Woolen Mill near Lawson is the only 19th-century textile mill in the U.S. with its original machinery still intact. Tour the mill, home, heirloom garden, and see rare livestock breeds (mostateparks.com; 816/580-3387).

Montana: Bar W Guest Ranch, at the base of Spencer Mountain near Glacier National Park, isn’t just for city slickers. Enjoy horseback riding, fishing, wagon ride dinners, campfires, square dances, and more. Special themed weeks are held throughout the year, including packages for women only, photography week, and cattle drives. (thebarw.com; 866-828-2900)

Nebraska: Climb aboard a covered wagon and tour the Kreycik Elk and Buffalo Ranch in the rolling hills of the Niobrara River Valley. Feed the animals, learn all about the ranch, and stop in the gift shop for all kinds of elk and buffalo products. (nebraskaelktours.com; 402-857-3850)

Nevada: Take a break from the bright lights of Las Vegas and head to Bonnie Springs Ranch, 10 minutes outside the city in Red Rock Canyon. Wander through a replica 1880s mining town, take a guided trail ride on horseback, go rock climbing, see beautiful scenery on a mini train ride, and grab a bite to eat in the ranch restaurant. A hotel is also available. (bonniesprings.com; 702-875-4191)

New Hampshire: ATVs are a useful tool on the farm, but at Bear Rock Adventures in Pittsburg, they’re strictly used for fun. More than 1,000 miles of interconnected ATV trails feature terrain for all abilities and beautiful scenery. Horseback riding, fishing, high ropes, float plane, white-water rafting, canoeing, and biking adventures also await. (bearrockadventures.com or 866-663-9777)

New Jersey: Experience farm life in the late 1800s and early 1900s at Howell Farm in Lambertville. Tour the farm house, granary, blacksmith shop, and several animal barns, and attend special events held throughout the year. Special programs for kids are also available. (howellfarm.com; 609-737-3299)

New Mexico: Take a class on 1,000-year-old Pueblo agricultural practices at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque (indianpueblo.org; 866/855-7902).

New York: Take a guided tour of Brooklyn Grange, a shining example of urban agriculture. More than 50,000 pounds of produce per year are grown in the world’s largest rooftop soil farm, located on two roofs in Brooklyn and Queens. (brooklyngrangefarm.com; 347-670-3660)

North Carolina: More than 200 barns in western North Carolina are decorated with quilt blocks, with the highest concentration in Yancey and Mitchell Counties. Seven different driving trails take visitors through the countryside. Local tour guides are available to tell the stories behind the blocks, or maps are available for self-guided tours. (quilttrailswnc.org or 828/682-7331)

North Dakota: Rent a room in the ranch house or stay in a tipi at Kuntz Nokota Horse Ranch. Take a tour of the 1,000-acre ranch and see wild Nokota horses in their natural environment (kuntznokotahorseranch.com; 701/782-4239).

Ohio: At Yoder’s Amish Home near Millersburg, tour guides lead visitors through two houses and a barn, and explain the history and customs of the Amish faith. Take a ride in an Amish buggy, driven by a member of the Amish church, and purchase a handmade doll or other souvenir from the gift shop, and homemade treats in the bakery. (yodersamishhome.com; 330-893-2541)

Oklahoma: At the Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus, you can follow the activities of American Indians, frontier soldiers, cowboys, and homesteaders. Learn how farming began in Oklahoma, and trace its history. (okhistory.org/sites/westernprairie; 580-482-1044)

Oregon: Attend a goat yoga session on Lainey Morse’s farm in the Willamette Valley. There’s a waiting list, so plan ahead (goatyoga.net; 541/231-0198).

Pennsylvania: Tour Kreider Farms dairy in Manheim, including a trolley ride through the loafing barn and a bird’s-eye view from the silo (kreiderfarms.com; 717/665-5039).

Rhode Island: Head to Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown for a discussion of aquaculture and fisheries, then head to a 7-acre shellfish farm in Potter’s Pond. After the tour, enjoy a meal in the restaurant. See website for a list of dates when free tours are offered. (rhodyoysters.com; 401-783-4202)

South Carolina: Take a trolley tour through thousands of tea bushes at the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island south of Charleston, and a walking tour of the tea factory, where you can see the entire tea production process. Take home some tea from the gift shop. (charlestonteaplantation.com; 843-559-0383)

South Dakota: No trip to South Dakota is complete without a stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. The building is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses, and ears of corn are nailed to the corn palace each year to create new murals. (cornpalace.org; 605-995-8430)

Tennessee: Frank Mars, the founder of Mars Candy, built the 1,000-acre Milky Way Farm south of Nashville in the early 1930s. Visitors can take a trail ride around the property and tour the farm and house. Festivals and special events are held throughout the year. (milkywayfarm.org; 931-808-2281)

Texas: Visit the famous Southfork Ranch, as seen in the television show "Dallas." Take a tram ride from the visitors center to the Ewing mansion, while hearing a history of the ranch and seeing the resident Texas longhorns and American quarterhorses. (southforkranch.com; 972-442-7800)

Utah: See why Utah is called the Beehive State when you visit Cox Honeyland in Logan. View the live observation hive to see the bees at work, sample honey and honey products, and bring your own container to fill with honey from the giant tank. Honey and beeswax products available in the store. (coxhoney.com; 800-877-1489)

Vermont: Get your cheese and maple syrup fix at Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock. Visit the sugarhouse and learn how maple trees are tapped and how syrup is made, then taste four different grades of pure Vermont maple syrup. You can also see the work room where the cheese is hand-wrapped and waxed, and sample 14 different cheeses. Walk the trail to the maple sugar woods and stop in the gift shop. (sugarbushfarm.com; 802-457-1757)

Virginia: Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon is a working demonstration farm that recreates family dairy farm life from the 1920s through 1950s. Tour the farmhouse, barn, outbuildings, and schoolhouse, and witness the transition from antique, horse-drawn farm equipment to mechanized tractors. Take a hayride and visit the country store. (fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fryingpanpark; 703-437-9101)

Washington: Visit the Pioneer Farm Museum and Ohop Indian Village in Eatonville for a hands-on tour of an 1880s farmstead (pioneerfarmmuseum.org; 360/832-6300).

West Virginia: At J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works, a seventh-generation salt-making family harvests salt by hand from an ancient ocean beneath the Appalachian Mountains. Tour the 200-year-old salt farm, sample the salt, and visit the gift shop. Farm-to-table meals are held at the farm monthly. (jdqsalt.com; 304-925-7918)

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Great River Road runs for 250 miles along the Mississippi River, going through 33 beautiful river towns and passing orchards, cheese factories, tree farms, museums, farmers markets, and other stops. (http://wigrr.com/)

Wyoming: The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody is five museums in one: the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, and the Cody Firearms Museum. (centerofthewest.org; 307-587-4771)

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