Agritourism: Food, wine and cider tours

It seems no matter where you go, there are tours for every culinary interest. Agritourism food tours give guests the chance to experience the flavors of the region, connecting the producer to the consumer in a memorable way.

Down on the farm

Champaign County, Illinois, in the very heart of the America’s heartland, offers many options to learn about locally grown and produced foods. True foodies could enjoy a weeklong vacation in Champaign County without experiencing the same thing twice.

Prairie Farm, at 2202 W. Kirby Ave. in Champaign is a “traditional” midwestern farm, with sheep, pigs, horses, cows, goats and chickens. Visitors can pet the farm’s animals in the petting area or explore the farm through a trolley ride or educational program.

Other farms in the area include the Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, which specializes in goat cheeses and goat’s milk gelato. Open select hours through the year, guests can enjoy cheese, gelato, peaches, apples and blackberries all grown and produced on the farm. Check the website for hours and tours.

Curtis Orchard and Pumpkin Patch, which is open July to December, lets guests explore expansive orchards and pick their own apples. In the fall, pumpkins and gourds are available too. Seasonally, enjoy farm fresh foods at the Flying Monkey Cafe or from the onsite bakery.

To learn more about food tours in Champaign County, visit their agriculture tours page. If you can’t make it to Illinois for a farm tour, check with your local visitor’s bureau to find a farm tour near you.

Wine tours, not just for Europe and California

There was a time when fine wine came from France, Italy and California’s wine country, but regional wines have become popular across the country. Many agricultural areas, once dependent on tobacco, cotton and indigo crops had to expand to survive. In many places, grapes replaced those crops. Small wineries dot the southern landscape, each offering unique flavors not available anywhere else.

Johnston County, North Carolina at one time depended on tobacco. Main Street in the county seat is called Brightleaf Boulevard, named after a tobacco process discovered in the state in 1839, a clear nod to the county’s strong ties to the crop. With the decline in tobacco use, the county had to redefine itself. Today, the sweet potato and muscadine grapes are the preferred crops in Johnston County, though a few tobacco fields remain. Johnston County’s Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail to lets guests explore four wineries to visit the vineyards, learn about the benefits of the muscadine grape seed and meet the families that harvest the grapes and create the wines.

Throughout Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, wineries dot the landscape. Wine enthusiasts can explore regionalwines in the southeast as they enjoy true southern hospitality.

In Pennsylvania and New York, enjoy Lake Erie Wine Country, along the southern edge of Lake Erie. Covering more than 50 miles of vineyards and 25 wineries, guests will enjoy wines of the native Labrusca grape, as well as other varieties introduced over the past 50 years.

Oklahoma, known for its cowboys, is no stranger to wine tours either. Central Oklahoma, particularly, with its favorable weather and soil, is home to a number of wineries. Guests in the region can enjoy the Wines and Vines Tour to taste wines as they explore the area.

With the growing popularity of wine tours, there’s bound to be a wine trail near you or your next vacation destination.

Cideries, a growing trend

Hard cider, the most popular alcoholic beverage in colonial America, was popular well into the 1840’s. Colonists were known to drink hard cider throughout the day, not just at dinner. It was even used to soothe sour stomach. As the country stretched west and the German, beer-drinking population grew, hard cider became unpopular. With Prohibition, the hard cider industry just about vanished from the United States.

In the 1990’s, a handful of cideries started popping up across the country, especially in California, Washington, and Virginia. Today, cider festivals and competitions recognize hundreds of cideries across the United States. These festivals offer family fun centered around the humble apple. Find a festival near you and enjoy the flavor of colonial America in the 21st century.

Across the country, locally grown food, wine and cider is gaining in popularity. Instead of dinner at a chain restaurant, consider dining local. When looking for a weekend getaway, look for a food, wine or cider tour to enjoy with your family. This country is rich in natural resources -- rediscover it with your family through a culinary tour.

Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch

3902 S. Duncan Rd.
Champaign, IL 61822

(217) 359-5565  PHONE

Prairie Farm

2202 W. Kirby Ave.
Champaign, IL 61821

(217) 398-2583  PHONE

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery

4410 N. Lincoln Ave.
Champaign, IL 61822

(217) 643-2314  PHONE

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