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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How farming become a tourist attraction

Jarda Sebesta bottles wine at the Apple Barn and Orchard in Sugar Creek Township. The winery will be part of a countywide farm tour Saturday (Oct. 4) as part of the Country with Character fall tourism promotion. Below, wine bottles are corked by hand. Terry Mayer/staff

Some would be surprised to learn there's more to farming than cows and corn.

Senior editor Lynn Greene explains how Walworth County's oldest enterprises has become its newest tourist attraction.

The Walworth County Farm Tour will give visitors an up-close look at what farming has to offer.

Lynn's story after the jump ...

Walworth County's latest attraction

By Lynn Greene/Senior editor

EAST TROY -- Pristine lakes, abundant natural areas and small, friendly communities have brought tourists to Walworth County for generations.

But Walworth County's newest tourist attraction, farms, have been around longer than any other.

This year's farm tour is part of the county's Country with Character tourism promotion.

In 2007, the Walworth County Visitors Bureau received $40,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to kick off the fall event.

This year, the WCVB received an additional $21,245 to promote all of the attractions, venues and activities happening in the county this time of year.

The fifth annual farm tour will be held Saturday (Oct. 4).

"Four years ago, several local farms partnered together to create the Walworth County Farm Tour," said Kathleen Seeberg, WCVD executive director. "These local farms offered activities, fresh food from the farm, demonstrations, displays and more."

Therese Philipp, registrar for Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, has been involved with the tour since it started.

"It was Michael Fields' Harvest Festival that stimulated the idea," Philipp said.

Another East Troy location, MoonStar Farm, started its Front Porch Sale at about the same time, offering tours of their farm and selling their farm products.

This year, the group of farms that has been part of the tour in the past is bringing new people in, hoping to expand the tour.

Those who go on the tours may be surprised to find the there is more to farming in Walworth County than corn and cows.

The nine locations on the tour will include everything from the fiber festival at Tall Grass Farms in Delavan to trout farming at Rushing Waters Fisheries in Palmyra.

The Apple Barn Orchard and Winery in Elkhorn and Staller Estate Vineyard and Winery in Richmond are both part of the tour.

"We have seven varieties of wine in stock now," said Judy Jacobson of the Apple Barn. "The strawberry, peach, blueberry and rhubarb are still fermenting."

The Apple Barn recently received a silver award for its pear dessert wine and bronze awards for its apple wine and plum wine at the Indy International Wine Competition.

"We were really pleased," Jacobson said.

The wines are sold at their farm store and will be available during the farm tour. Promoting the wine, which is the newest part of the Jacobson farm venture, is one reason the Jacobsons are committed to the tour.

At Michael Fields, visitors will be able to tour the farm fields, learn about goat farming, dairy farming techniques and bee-keeping. A farmers market will encourage people to buy locally. Results from last year's campaign showed increases in tourism expenditures and room night stays during the fall campaign.

Seeberg said tourists frequently ask about ag-related events. "We receive many calls about farms that offer tours, as well as farmers markets, apple picking, berry picking, corn mazes and more."

Lynn Lein, owner of Yuppie Hill Poultry Farm in Burlington, is another participant in the tour.

"We do it because it's fun and we get exposure," Lein said.

In previous farm tours, Lein opened her Burlington farm to the tour.

This year, the farm is undergoing a major renovation, so she will offer a farm-fresh breakfast and an evening barn dance at Michael Fields.

"We just put up a brand-new barn for the girls," Lein said, referring to her brown-egg laying hens. "Our new barn is very automated; the girls are in a happy environment with the correct amount of feed, light and temperature."

Lein is very indulgent with her "girls" and provides a few roosters to keep them happy. Or, maybe it's the hens that keep the roosters happy. Either way, it makes for some great-tasting eggs.

"Where the girls used to be, we have half of the space for egg processing and the other half is an on-farm store with a little cafe, where people can come for meetings and get breakfast - we're hoping to have it open for the holidays," Lein said.

Lein's chickens will provide the eggs, of course.

In the meantime, visitors to the farm tour can get a big taste of Walworth County on Oct. 4.

Tour these farms:

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, W2493 County Highway ES, East Troy, (262) 642-3303.
Featuring a farm tour, beehive walk, antique farm equipment, farmers market, children's activities, hands-on demonstrations.
Yuppie Hill Poultry of Burlington will host a farm breakfast, made with their all-natural brown eggs, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and an evening barn dance from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., featuring music by the Liberty Bluegrass Band. There is a $5 cover charge for the dance, which includes one free drink. Food will be available.

Uriel Pharmacy, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., N8464 Sterman Road, East Troy, (866) 642-2858
Featuring a tour of the gardens and the pharmacy. Uriel Pharmacy creates natural remedies in small batches, using ingredients from their biodynamic gardens. Pharmacist talks at 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Northwind Perennial Farm, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7047 Hospital Road, Burlington, (262) 248-8229.
Tour the gardens of this century-old dairy farm that specializes in hardy field-grown perennials.

Staller Estate Vineyard and Winery, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., W8896 County Road A, Delavan, (608) 883-2100.
Tour the production facility and learn about wine making. Complimentary wine and cheese tasting.

Tall Grass Farm, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., N6623 Lake Lorraine Road, Delavan, (608) 883-2025.
Featuring a fall fiber festival. Watch as master shearer David Kier shears angora goats; food by the cooks of the Richmond Methodist Church; fiber goods and crafts from local artisans.

Moonstar Farm, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., W3319 Potter Road, Elkhorn, (262) 723-4156.
Featuring goat-herding demonstrations, horse reining, garden tours, hayrides, pony rides, produce fresh from the garden and an art show featuring local artists.

Apple Barn Orchard and Winery, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., W6384 Sugar Creek Road, Elkhorn, (262) 728-3266.
Featuring apple picking, pumpkin patch, rides through the orchard in the apple barn train wagon, shop at the farm store for cider, donuts, caramel apples and gifts.

Rushing Waters Fisheries, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., N301 County Highway H, Palmyra, (262) 495-2089.
Tour the largest rainbow trout farm in Wisconsin with tours starting at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., free samples of farm products, cooking demos and samples at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., trout fishing specials and prizes for kids.

Local Industry, bakery, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., W2463 County Highway ES, East Troy, (262) 642-9665.
Featuring Nakomis bread and bakery items produced by Walworth County's newest bakery. Stop by and sample at this store, located near Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.


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