Kids! Pack your bags. We’re heading to the farm.

More consumers are willing to drive beyond city limits to forage for wild mushrooms or camp overnight in an orchard.

Lisa Morrison/Herald & Review/AP

Instead of loading up their produce and heading into the city, more owners of small family farms are working toward drawing customers out to their fields as part of a growing agritourism trend. And more consumers are willing to drive beyond city limits to forage for wild mushrooms, get lost in a corn maze, or camp overnight in an orchard. 

Diversification and strong consumer relationships have helped small family farms stay afloat in an era of large corporate farms and risings costs. In 2012, agritourism alone generated $713 million across the United States, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

It feeds into a sense of nostalgia and connection, too, says Mary Jordan, director of agricultural markets for the state of Massachusetts. Much in the way that chefs have drawn followings, “these farmers are like celebrities,” says Ms. Jordan about the burgeoning field of agripreneurs. “[Kids say,] ‘Wow, you plant the seeds in the ground and you get these beautiful crops.’ ”

Country food festivals have always been around, true, but what is new is the concentrated effort of state tourism boards to market rural settings as a year-round destination – whether for farm stays (milk the cows, feed the chickens before sunup) or a trip to dig for oysters, take a bicycle tour of area farms, or pick wildflowers the morning of your wedding.

The owners of Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, Mass., have spent the past decade expanding its offerings. The farm has peaches and berries in summer, pumpkins in fall; visitors can buy fudge, peanut butter, kettle corn, and apple cider doughnuts. In the past year alone, 46 weddings have taken place in the farm’s event barn. “We try to cultivate and protect a sense of place,” says Al Rose, a fourth-generation apple farmer at Red Apple Farm. “[W]e want people to feel like they are stepping back in time.”

Next up is its Thanksgiving Harvest Festival, in which area producers will supply all the fixings you need for your holiday table under a crisp autumn sky. Sure beats the line at the grocery store.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.