Courtesy Elkhart Co. CVB
Farms hold a special place in the hearts of those who live in Illinois and Indiana, two states where agriculture remains an honored way of life. Groups touring the region can visit a farm for a look at the heritage, traditions and modern techniques of agriculture in the Midwest.
Fortunately, many farms and related enterprises in those states welcome groups for tours, tastes and hands-on experiences. Agritourism experiences have become increasingly popular in recent years: They have proved beneficial for the farmer and enjoyable for the visitor.
On your next trip through Illinois and/or Indiana, take advantage of the opportunity to show your group an orchard, a vineyard, a reindeer ranch, a garden nursery or some other agricultural attraction.
Dearborn County, Indiana
In the southeastern part of Indiana, Dearborn County offers groups a variety of agritourism opportunities, including a stop at Mount Tabor Alpaca Farm.
“When you get to the farm, they have an alpaca tethered with the owner, so you can meet an alpaca right as you get off the coach,” said Sally McWilliams, group sales representative at the Dearborn County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You learn about the coats, the fiber, the breeding and everything. Then you go through the barn into the working part of the farm and see the herd.”
The farmhands supply carrots to visitors, who can use them to feed the alpacas for a close-up encounter. The farm also has a gift shop that sells products made from alpaca fiber.
Groups also enjoy visiting McCabe’s Greenhouse and Floral, where a family cultivates a variety of plants for commercial sale. During visits, a member of the McCabe family walks groups through the greenhouse and teaches them about planting and watering. The company also does hands-on workshops for tour groups, leading them through the creation of items such as herb gardens and holiday wreaths.
The Tourism Bureau of Illinois South represents a territory of more than 9,000 square miles, with numerous towns, farms and forests. Jo Kathmann, the organization’s president and CEO, recommends that agritourism groups visit Marcoot Dairy in Greenville.
“They’ve been there for years and years, and the whole family is involved in bringing people out,” Kathmann said. “The daughters have taken on a commercial operation where they take tours through the milking parlor to see the 60 head of cattle.”
During the tour, visitors see the cattle and watch the milking, and then learn about how some of that milk is made into cheese. Many of those products end up on the shelves of local stores and on the menus of area restaurants.
In the town of Nashville, Rainbow Ranch is a family farm that was first settled in 1850. Today, the
family operates a petting zoo there, where they introduce visitors to creatures both familiar and exotic. Groups can interact with llamas, camels, deer, a macaw and other animals during their visits.
Southern Illinois is also home to 22 wineries and vineyards, many of which offer tours and tastings to travel groups.