Stop by a Farm, Eat Fresh, even Birdwatch: Take an Agritour
The bounty of farms, ranches, orchards and vineyards in western Colorado has made agritourism an increasingly popular draw for visitors wanting to learn more about agriculture and meet the men and women responsible for maintaining this style of life.
Having the opportunity to pick apples, meet a winemaker and tour an alpaca farm are just a few stops agritourists can make while in the region, and the demand is there for farmers, ranchers and growers to share their lives with outsiders intrigued by life in the field, orchard or vineyard.
“It’s basically being driven by demand,” said Kelli Hepler, tourism coordinator with Delta County Tourism and who also happens to be assisting the Colorado Tourism Office in forming a strategic plan for state agritourism. “People have discovered they want to learn more about where their food’s coming from. ... They want the connection to the farmer and grower.”
Agritourism is loosely defined as any type of visit to any agricultural operation for the purpose of experiencing the lifestyle of a farmer or grower. Visits can be as simple as sitting on a tractor or sampling a few wines to multi-day tours fly fishing or birdwatching with stays at places embracing agritourism such as Palisade’s Wine Country Inn, or Paonia’s Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn & Gardens and The Living Farm Inn and Cafe.
Yes, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, etc. are forms of agritourism, Hepler said.
While farmers markets and produce stands dot western Colorado and Eastern Utah, Mesa County and the nearby North Fork Valley, including Delta County, have the largest concentrations of orchards, wineries or organic farms, respectively, in the state, tourism officials said.
The appeal of agritourism in these areas prompted primary tourism centers in either county to create agritourism links on their websites to help visitors plan their stays. Visit deltacountycolorado. com/about/ agritourism.aspx or deltacountycolorado. com/maps/ for a list of maps of farms, ranches, wine, birdwatching tours and more. Hepler said it’s possible for visitors to start an agritourism tour in sandals but finish it in knee-high fishing waders.
In Mesa County, visit the Palisade Chamber of Commerce at palisadecoc. com/co/agri-tourismnew or click on palisadetourism.com/attractions/item/ fruit-wine-trail for a map of the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, which offers cyclists or motorists a reference for agritourism spots.
“If you don’t even know where to start (the Fruit & Wine Byway is) a great way to start,” said Mistalynn Meyeraan, who handles marketing and public relations with the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau.
People can talk to lavender and alpaca growers, meet orchard owners and winemakers and purchase local product all within a few miles.
Links at visitgrandjunction.com/wine-country or visitgrandjunction.com/ locally-grown are other great resources for learning more about Mesa County agritourism spots.
Meyeraan also suggested visitors talk to locals, call the Museum of the West or ask area chefs well-versed in the use of local, seasonal products about mustsee agritourism spots that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Summer and early fall are busy times of year for farmers, ranchers, growers and chefs in western Colorado, meaning it’s an ideal time for visitors interested in agritourism to see first-hand all the work that goes into bringing products from the field to your home.