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3 Good Reasons to Visit a Farm This Summer

By Judi Gerber
July 16, 2012; 4:29 AM ET
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As I have written here several times, saving our farmland is vital not only for the food it provides us, and the livelihood it provides our farmers, but because it can promote and protect regional food systems, contributes to environmental quality, and provides fiscal stability to a region.

One of the most enjoyable ways to help save farmland is to visit a farm. Visit a farm and you are doing your part to help preserve farmland by providing a steady source of income for not only the farmer, but for the local economy as well.

Aside from saving farmland and supporting local economies, there are some other reasons to visit a local farm or farm trail during your summer vacation.

Since it is summer and all about vacation time, having a good time is the number one reason to visit a farm, farm trail, ranch, or even a winery or wine trail. There are so many diverse activities and types of locations depending on where you are traveling. These include farm tours, bed and breakfast farm stays, corn mazes, hay rides, train rides, agricultural/historical museums, petting farms, farm markets, food festivals, pick-your-own produce farms, roadside produce stands, nurseries, greenhouses, and wineries.

You can learn something new through a farm visit. Many offer cooking classes and workshops, and farming and gardening classes. You can learn how to care for farm animals, and if you are traveling with your kids, they can learn alongside you. You can learn to horseback ride. Or, you can learn how to make cheese, jams and jellies, or how to preserve and can your fresh fruit and vegetables.

Perhaps the biggest lesson you will get is learning what it really takes to be a small farmer, and why it is often hard for them to stay in business, and why it is so important to support them. You will have a unique opportunity to see where your food comes from, how it is grown and most importantly, who grows it.

If you aren't sure if there is a farm, farm trail, or a farm stay near your vacation spot, you can start with a search for farm stays at Farm Stay USA. It has a menu you can search by state.

If you want to just go to a farm to pick or get some fresh produce, check Pick Your Own. It not only lists farms in the United States, but worldwide as well, and also includes crop availability calendars so you will know what to look for.

A state with many farm trails, like California, often has one central directory you can search by activity or commodity such as type of produce, wine, educational activities, or accommodations, or you can search by area. The state now has nearly 30 organized farm trails from San Diego in the south up to the Gold Country. You can find these through UC Davis' California Agricultural Tourism Database.

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