It was the perfect day for a drive.
The sun was shining. The air was warm and clean. And other than the occasional passing car, the rural roads of Miami County, Kansas, were all mine.
All the better to make the rounds of the annual Miami County Farm Tour.
The free self-guided tour took me from a small, sustainable farm featuring pasture-raised animals in Paola to a winery — or two — in Louisburg.
Other stops included a dairy-goat farm, pecan orchard and an urbanite’s playground — if an urbanite’s playground includes goats, an asparagus patch, beehives and a fishing pond.
Agritourism, the practice of welcoming visitors to a farm or ranch for educational or recreational purposes, is on the rise according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture.
And the Kansas City area is ripe with opportunities to gain an appreciation and understanding of farming and food.Urban Grown
Hosted biennially by Cultivate Kansas City, a non-profit organization promoting farming and fresh food in the metropolitan area, the Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour features more than 60 sites in 2013. The tour is June 22-23 with week-long activities starting Saturday, June 15.
For more information, check outCultivate Kansas City’s website
The annual tour of farms in Northeast Kansas is the first full weekend in October. With more than 20 stops, the Kaw Valley Farm Tour features orchards, dairy farms, wineries, produce farms and plenty of learning opportunities for adults and children.
For more information, check out theKaw Valley Farm Tour website
.Green Dirt Farm
Guided by staff members, a tour of Green Dirt Farm in Weston, Mo., is a chance to see behind the scenes of a sheep dairy and creamery. Guests learn about the sheep’s grazing regimen and how that impacts the flavor of cheeses, yogurt and lamb. Visitors also hear how dairy ewes are milked, catch a glimpse of the cheese kitchen and sample cheeses.
For more information, seeGreen Dirt Farm’s website
The Kansas City Food Circle
connects local food producers with local eaters in the Kansas City area, and its annual directory of producers is a great resource for farms that offer tours.
Never hesitate to ask farmers at your local farmers’ market if they allow visitors on their farms. My experience with farmers is they love customers to visit their farms.
Hit the open road one day, enjoy some fresh rural air and learn more about our local food system.
Raised by generations of cooks, farmers and green thumbs, Andrea Shores is an enthusiastic eater and curious cook. She loves sharing her passion for local food by telling farmers' and food purveyors' stories.