Getting back to our agricultural roots makes us appreciate the food we eat and the work required to produce it. For those groups that enjoy a bit of nostalgia or that consider themselves foodies, these Midwest destinations will fascinate as well as delight the palate.
Two dozen award-winning wineries are located on the scenic Leelanau Peninsula, just northwest of Traverse City; it’s the largest wine trail in Michigan, with breathtaking views, delicious wines and friendly staffs. In Missouri, family-owned Shatto Milk Company has gone back to the origins of the dairy industry by milking and processing at the same location. Wisconsin’s more than 60 artisan cheesemakers compare creating artisan cheese to crafting fine wine, and for those who adore cheese, the Wisconsin Cheese Trail is the place to be.
Across the nation, farms that were once the backbone of our food supply have been conserved. At Prairie Loft in Hastings, Nebraska’s agricultural heritage is evident in events and festivals that teach about food production and nature. Near Lafayette, Indiana, The Farm at Prophetstown exudes peace and quiet on the prairie and practices sustainable agriculture, gardening, canning, sewing and quilting.
Few wine-growing regions are located as far north as Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, and strangely enough, it’s that “northern-ness” that makes the wine so good. Thanks to the waters of Lake Michigan, Leelanau Peninsula enjoys a unique microclimate where warm days and cool nights make grapes sweeter and more flavorful than they would be if they were grown farther south.
“There are a number of tour operators who plan itineraries for groups when visiting the wine trail, and many wineries are very group friendly,” said Mike Norton, media relations manager for Traverse City Tourism. “Black Star Farms is one of the leaders in hosting premier wine events, and they have particularly good facilities and staffing for handling large groups.”
For convenience, the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail is divided into three separate miniloops: the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Loop and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. Each tasting room along the trail offers its own distinctive experience, from pure elegance with unparalleled views to cozy nooks loaded with charm.
Touring the Leelanau Peninsula wine region works well for groups because there are so many other attractions to visit between wine tastings and wine dinners: charming lakeshore villages, lighthouses, harbors, orchards, lakes and a dramatic coastline that includes the beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Shatto Milk Company
Three navy-blue silos, looming over a peaceful herd of black-and-white Holstein cows, mark the 400-acre Shatto Milk Company. Located an hour north of Kansas City, the 100-year-old farm has been passed down through the family of Barbara Shatto.
Here, groups can step into another era and milk a cow, learn how Shatto milk is processed and watch how the milk is packaged in the company’s distinguished glass bottles. Tours typically last one and a half hours on this working dairy farm.
“It’s a nostalgic tour that takes people back to the good old days,” said Shatto, co-owner with her husband, Leroy. “We sell our products through regional grocery stores, but we also have a large country store on-site with an ice cream and dairy bar, terrific gifts, local products and a Kansas City parade cow on display.”
Best of all, visitors can sample Shatto milk with inventive flavors like cookies-and-cream, popular strawberry and decadent chocolate milk — it’s like a candy bar in a glass. They also sell their own cheese, butter and ice cream.