Farmers and producers across Wisconsin are opening their doors to the public and offering a glimpse into their operations. As a result, agritourism is on the rise, and it’s continuing to create unique opportunities for the general population to see what agriculture is all about.
“Agritourism is important to the state because it connects Wisconsinites to our agricultural heritage,” says Kietra Olson, program manager for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Wisconsin Foods Program. “Many people remember visiting a relative’s farm as a child and often want to pass those experiences on to their children and grandchildren. More of the state’s population is removed from farming and agriculture than ever before, and agritourism offers people a way to reconnect to the land and potentially their own family history.”
Farms Offer Tours, Educate Visitors
Northern Wisconsin’s James Lake Farms, an organic cranberry operation with marshes in Three Lakes, offers free tours at 2 p.m. on Saturdays during its harvest season in October, as well as group tours by appointment throughout the year.
According to John Stauner, who owns James Lake Farms with his wife, Nora, each tour begins with a presentation that discusses the cranberry industry and the farm’s history. Afterward, visitors have the opportunity to go out in the fields, and see how the cranberries are cleaned and prepared for shipping in the farm’s packaging facility.
“We see these tours as an opportunity to get our message out and educate the public while establishing relationships,” Stauner says. “It’s very important for us to connect with the consumers of our products, and we encourage everyone to come out, bring their kids and see where our cranberries are grown.”
In Columbus, Sassy Cow Creamery is another popular agritourism destination. Owned by brothers James and Robert Baerwolf and their families, Sassy Cow Creamery includes a farm with two dairy cow herds that produce two lines of milk – traditional and organic – as well as farm-made ice cream.
Tours take place on Fridays in June, July and August. Along with getting a look at the cows, visitors can peek into the creamery and see how the milk is processed and bottled. In addition, each tour includes a stop at the creamery’s on-site ice cream shop, and everyone goes home with a pint of milk.
“Even here in America’s Dairyland, people are so removed and disconnected from the farm, and we want to change that,” says Kara Kasten-Olson, Sassy Cow Creamery’s sales and marketing manager. “Being so close to Madison and having a unique operation with our own farm and processing facility gives us a great opportunity to share with others.”
U-Pick Berry Farms
In Bayfield, also known as the Berry Capital of Wisconsin, Erickson’s Orchard offers visitors delicious, homegrown produce. Beginning in late June, guests can pick their own fresh strawberries, move on to raspberries and blueberries in July and August, and finish with crisp, juicy apples in September and October.
The family-owned farm has been in operation since 1954 with Jim and Muriel Erickson at the helm, and today, the third generation is carrying on the tradition, adding new and exciting expansions to keep the farm thriving.
Along with U-pick fruits, Erickson’s offers pre-picked produce throughout the season, and in the fall, they have pasteurized apple cider and Muriel’s famous apple cider donuts. They also hold an annual apple festival, bringing visitors from near and far to Bayfield.