Whether you spend the day filling buckets of berries, enjoying a relaxing retreat at a farm bed-and-breakfast, picking the perfect pumpkin for your Halloween jack-o’-lantern, or chopping down a majestic Christmas tree for your living room, Ohio agritourism presents itself in many forms.
Of the state’s 74,400 farms, approximately 700 offer some type of tourism aspect, helping to teach consumers about where their food comes from in an entertaining way, while also bringing in extra income.
Some of the most popular agritourism activities in Ohio are the wine trails, featured in different regions of the state.
“As Ohio’s wineries grew from 30 to 50 to 100 and now to over 250, it became impossible for even the most avid consumers to visit all of them. We looked at the trail program in about 1983-84 and divided the state into six regions,” says Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association (OWPA).
The trails feature several wineries within that region grouped together so consumers can easily see and visit all of them, experiencing different varieties and tastes of each region.
The first trail event created was the Tannenbaum Trail in 1984, featured along the Vines & Wines Trail in northeast Ohio. For the event, each participant receives a small Christmas tree at the first winery, and then a small ornament for the tree at each stop along the trail.
“That first year, we attracted about 150 people with the Tannenbaum Trail,” Winchell says. “Now the event attracts about 1,500 travelers. It always sells out.”
To support visitations to wineries in the off-season, the OWPA modeled more events off of the Tannenbaum Trail, including a Fall Frolic and Spring Fling, as well as a Chocolate is for Lovers event in February. Winchell says that although the wine is the main draw at each event, the OWPA is adamant about being a door opener to the state’s agriculture story.
“We always invite the Farm Bureau to come to our events and tell the story of agriculture,” she says. “Because we grow grapes in very unique microclimates, it allows us to express why it’s important to preserve agricultural lands. Most of the wineries here are family farms, and we share that generational aspect of what they do, too.”
If you need a tasty pairing for all that wine, plan a visit along the Amish Country Cheese Trail. Not only is Ohio a top cheese-making state, ranking No. 1 in the country for Swiss cheese production, it also has one of the largest Amish populations in the nation.
The trail features a list of stops to taste more than 50 different flavors of cheese made in Ohio Amish Country. At most of the stops, visitors can watch the cheese-making process for themselves, re-emphasizing the hard work that goes behind every tasty morsel.
Both the cheese and wine trails in Ohio serve as great examples of a small slice of the state’s agritourism offerings. To help keep these ventures safe and fun for both farmers and consumers, the Ohio House and Senate introduced two bills in 2015 to address backlash and liability if someone got hurt on the farm. Both bills passed, focusing on zoning, safety and Current Agricultural Use Value for farmers.