From bed-and-breakfasts to Christmas tree farms, and farm-animal petting zoos to agriculture heritage museums, Alabama’s diverse agritourism industry stretches across the state and draws visitors from all over the nation – and even from other parts of the world. Two popular examples, Ozan Vineyard & Winery and Lazenby Farms, provide visitors with both entertainment and education.
“Our agritourism business is a really good tool to engage the public and show them the value in what we do,” says Mitch Lazenby, who owns Lazenby Farms with his wife, Dawn. “Our agritourism events give people the ability to come in, sit down, talk with us and get exposed to what we do.”
Primarily a row crop operation, Lazenby Farms was established by the Lazenby family in Auburn in 1870. Today, the fourth-generation family farm covers approximately 2,000 acres and grows crops such as cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, wheat, rye and pumpkins. In addition, it includes a cow-calf operation and a bull development center that houses registered Angus cattle.
Lazenby Farms also has a strong agritourism business, drawing visitors in October with a pumpkin patch, wagon and tractor rides, a corn maze, cotton- and peanut-picking opportunities, and other family-friendly attractions. In the past, the farm has hosted the National Wild Turkey Federation’s East Alabama Dove Hunt Social, and the property includes a spacious, climate-controlled event center that holds corporate functions, parties, weddings and other special events throughout the year.
“We’ve tried to make our weddings as elegant as possible, and our brides absolutely love the backdrop of our lush, white cotton fields in their photos,” Lazenby says. “Most people who have a wedding on a farm just get married at the end of some lonely road in an old, brown barn, but we’re different – our couples actually get married on a real, working farm, and it’s very aesthetically pleasing.”
Ozan Vineyard & Winery
Located on a 24-acre estate in Calera, near Birmingham and Montgomery, Ozan Vineyard & Winery grows more than 2,000 vines on approximately four acres which produce red wine grapes. Ozan offers 14 different styles of wine, including a California-style cabernet sauvignon and a handcrafted chardonnay. Certain varieties – like the semi-sweet peach and prickly pear wines – are created from locally grown fruits.
Several of Ozan’s wines are award-winning, with varieties like the 2010 Norton and the Founder’s Cut taking home top honors at the inaugural Alabama Commercial Wine Competition held in 2015.
“We try to provide an authentic winery and vineyard experience to people in the Southeast who like all kinds of wine – we offer an eclectic mix,” says Burt Patrick, who owns Ozan Vineyard & Winery with his father, Roger.
Ozan includes a tasting room, which is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and all of the wines are available for purchase. Drawing visitors from as far away as France, the winery also hosts special events, such as weddings, bridal showers, business meetings, birthday parties and family reunions.
One of Ozan’s most popular agritourism attractions is the Ozan Vineyard Wine and Train Excursion, a three-hour event that includes a winery tour, wine tasting, gourmet box lunch and a Heart of Dixie Railroad train outing. The events take place on scheduled occasions from the end of August through October.
“We have nice scenery,” Patrick says. “It’s a very peaceful setting, and people seem to enjoy it.”