The Sunshine State’s agriculture, natural resources and related industries are ahead of the agritourism curve

As soon as I was tall enough, I spent a few weeks each summer at my aunt and uncle’s farm detasseling corn. Although the work was hard for a youngster, the farm life was a great experience. Others can share the farm experience thanks to the Florida Agritourism Association, which presents numerous options to explore and experience its members’ farms.

An understanding of agritourism began in spring 2013 with a Florida law recognizing and defining agritourism. Shortly after, the Florida Agritourism Association was founded. Lena Juarez, executive director, defined the No. 1 mission of the association. “We’re here to assist farmers to be successful with their agritourism operations,” she said.

Part of that assistance offers businesses new to agritourism a tool kit to get them started. Marketing, signage and a strong website are all advantages of membership. “The Florida Agritourism Association helps Florida farms tremendously by helping us promote our farms for multiple uses,” said Sarah Fenton of Shadowood Farm, Inc.

Sugar Camp Ranch is a popular school field trip option.

Farms, ranches, vineyards and almost 200 members are opening their doors so groups of all ages can explore Florida’s plentiful harvest. Membership can be found throughout the state and whatever your agritourism interest might be, there’s an adventure waiting. Here are just a few to get your excitement flowing.

Allen Cattle Ranch

Fort Meade

The Allen Family has managed this cattle and horse ranch located about an hour east of Tampa since 1972. They expanded their operation in 2017 to include agritourism and since that time, the Allen Barn has hosted numerous events, school field trips and group tours. There’s fun to be had on their educational ranch tours, hayrides and other farm life experiences. Although this is a working cattle ranch, the website reviews tell a story of outstanding hospitality. allencattle.com

Green Gate Olive Grove

Alford

A little research and I discovered there are 26 varieties of olives. Who would have guessed? Sally and David Gist have nine planted and are planning to introduce a few more to their five-acre grove. Located in Jackson County on the northwestern border with Alabama, Green Gate is just about 80 miles from Tallahassee. There’s every reason to visit including a guided tour of the beautiful olive grove operation. The fall harvest U-pick looks to be a blast. greengateolivegrove.com

Sugar Camp Ranch

Fort White

Seven generations have worked the fields of this family farm. Through agritourism, the family is able to pass on the legacy of hard work, good stewardship of the land and finding joy in the simple things in life. A popular school field trip option, there are a variety of field trip packages. Students have fun while learning about things they’ve never experienced. The large party venue is available to church, reunion, corporate and other groups. sugarcampranch.com

Shadowood Farm. Inc.

Palm City

Located off the Treasure Coast between I-95 and the Florida Turnpike on Highway 714, Shadowood is an introduction to growing organic. On the 10-acre farm, Shadowood is growing vegetables, fruits and staple crops. They’re sharing their wisdom with group visitors to this solar powered agroforestry farm. From mid-September through April/May there are educational workshops, farm tours and intermittently farm to table meals with live entertainment. Private farm to table events can be arranged for up to 100 guests. shadowoodfarm.com

Amazing Grace Family Farms

Green Cove Springs

Justin and Kelly Mosley both grew up on small family farms. That feeling of enjoyment they experienced from farm life never left. At a Farm Bureau Conference in 2012, they developed an interest in agritourism and in 2013, they founded the Amazing Grace Crop Maze. An award-winning farm soon expanded from their fall corn maze to U-pick sunflower and vegetables in the spring. In addition to raising timber and cattle on the farm, they offer a variety of agritourism options including educational field trips, reunions, group and corporate events. agcropmaze.com

Florida always has something in season and the Florida Agritourism Association is the place to begin your planning. There’s aqua culture, corn mazes, educational experiences, farms, farmers’ markets, trail riding, hunting and petting farms, orchards, and tree farms. Start planning to make Florida agritourism part of your next visit to the Sunshine State. Begin online at visitfloridafarms.com.

By Dave Bodle