A day on the farm has always been a fun getaway for city dwellers and suburbanites, but as people become increasingly interested in where there food comes from and how it is grown, agritourism has become about entertainment and education.
Many of the family-friendly farm events coming taking place in Santa Rosa County this October are as much about growing tips and appreciation for the work of farmers as they are about hayrides, pumpkin patches and petting a cow or two.
Agritourism gives local growers the opportunity to share their passion and knowledge with consumers – and have fun doing it.
At the “Music on the Farm” Fall Harvest Fest at Cambridge Farms, visitors can learn about organic gardening, natural pest control and how to grow 30 percent of your own food.
Owner Tom Earnshaw said education is the largest part of their event.
“What we’re trying to do is to teach people how to produce 30 percent of their own food,” Earnshaw said. “We’ll demonstrate multi-crop raised beds, square-foot gardening methods, and some unique and different methods that fit in small spaces and are almost zero maintenance.”
No chemicals are used on Cambridge Farms, he said. Instead the animals and plants work together to achieve the goals of organic farming: Guineas eat the bugs, goats and pigs clear the land, horses and chickens provide the compost, old brush is burned and the potash used for fertilizer.
There has been an enormous increase in the interest in gardening and specifically organic gardening in the past few years, he said. “Everyone is trying to stay away from processed and GMO food.”
And as produce prices rise, the allure of growing your own vegetables cheaply is growing, too, he added. “We have a recycled garden and we’ll show you how to start your own without spending a dime.”
It’s “mind-boggling” to consider the number of agritourism events and interest that have evolved in the past few years, said Donna Tucker, executive director for the Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s one of those resources that we’ve always had that was never discovered, but people are now discovering that segment of tourism,” Tucker said. “Look at the corn maze; people are coming from neighboring states to visit.”
“A big part of that is that people are more interested in their food,” she added. “They want to know where it originated and that it is healthy and safe.”
Cambridge Farm visitors will get a tour of the farm, including a chance to see the animals and the roles they play in the operation, and learn about the natural way to get the most from your garden.
“Any time you try to force Mother Nature you’re going to lose,” Earnshaw said. “Work with nature rather than oppose it.”
Throw in a corn cannon, peanut brittle, a hay bale maze, music and bonfires and it’s the ideal recipe for fall fun on the farm across Santa Rosa County.
Jay Peanut Festival
Oct. 6, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
3604 Pine Level Road, Jay, Fla.
For more than 20 years, The Jay Peanut Festival at the Gabbert farm has been a fall tradition on the Gulf Coast, showcasing the history, agriculture, food and fun of Santa Rosa County. What started as a chance for local kids and famers to show off their best of the season has become an annual event covering 15 acres and drawing about 70,000 people.
The event includes the 1930s Farm Museum, food booths, dozens of arts and crafts vendors, pony rides, games and fun. The Jay Peanut Festival is also a chance to try all varieties of peanuts – boiled, green, fried, candied and more.
For more information call Brenda and Gene Gabbert, 850-675-6823.
“Music on the Farm” Fall Harvest Fest
Oct. 13 and 14
3200 DeLoach Lane, Milton
Hear the sweet sounds of the country at the “Music on the Farm” Fall Harvest Fest at Cambridge Farms.
This is the second year for the music festival which celebrates fall on the farm with live music, a petting farm, information about natural and organic gardening.
About 200 people attended last year’s event, and organizers are expecting the crowds to grow this year, exposing more people to the beautiful farmland and agricultural life of north Santa Rosa County.
For more information, call (850) 855-6420 or visit the Cambridge Farms website: www.cambridgefarms.webs.com.
Corn Maze at Sweet Season Farms
Sept 29 – Nov. 4
2260 Horn Road
Milton, FL, 32570
Spend an hour or spend a day lost in adventure at corn maze at Sweet Season Farms.
This is the fourth annual corn maze at Sweet Season Farms, and owners, the Mathews family, have created a full day of fun that includes not only the maze but hayrides, a barrel train, a farm-themed playground, a corn cannon, a corn crib “sandbox” and many more family-friendly activities.
The Mathews hope the month-long event gives visitors not only an opportunity to tour a corn maze, but to get a close look at how food is grown and learn why agriculture is important in our daily lives.
Fun special events planned and themed days include Oct. 6 “Pink on the Farm Day” sponsored by Cat Country 98.7. Visitors are encouraged to wear pink and bring a canned good for Manna Food Bank and get $1 off admission. Other special promotions include Oct. 13 Cancer Survivor Day (free gift for survivors); Oct. 20 – Scout Day (free patch) and Oct. 27 the 4th Annual Trick or Treat at the Maze and Costume Contest.
Various activity packages are available for $7 to $10 per person with $1 discounts for active military and seniors 65 and older. Group rates available too! Pony rides and some other activities cost extra.
The maze is open Fridays (only in October) – 6 to 10 p.m.; Saturdays – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays – 1 to 5 p.m. Weekday field trips by appointment only.
For more information, packages, pricing and special event listings, visit www.sweetseasonfarms.com.
Fun on the Farm at Whispering Pines Farm
Open daily in October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1603 Penton Road, Milton
The event features “Fresh from Florida” products on sale; cow calling contest at 4 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday; farm animals on display and a playground area with campfire will feature a campfire with volunteer musicians “picking, grinning and singing” with an Wii Outdoor Video Screen. There will also be hay rides and a public educational demonstration of planting baby trees, trimming the trees and how trees are good for the environment. A cartoon cutout for taking Christmas Card photos and a “Wacky Playhouse.”
The farm is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Haunted hay rides through haunted woods are offered October 19, 20, 21, 27, 28 and 31.
For more information call 850-449-4316 or visit www.floridachristmastree.com.
“Haystackular” Hay Bale Maze at S.S. Dixon
Sept. 28 – Oct. 27
4560 Pace Patriot Blvd., Pace
Find your way to fall fun through a maze constructed with 4,000 hay bales at S.S. Dixon Primary School.
Parents and teachers work together to produce one of the largest hay mazes in the region. Activities also include a rope slide, hay-bale slide, hay ride, corn crawl and more. Refreshments are available. And, just in time for Halloween, the hay maze transitions into the Spooktackular for children and adults over age 13.
The hay maze will be open Sept.28 to Oct. 27. Hours are Fridays 4 to 9 p.m, Saturdays noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays the first four weekends in October noon to 6 p.m. The cost is $5 per person or $3 for seniors or children under age 3. Caramel apples and candy apples will be sold with proceeds to be donated to the Make a Wish Foundation of Northwest Florida.
For more information, call 850-995-3660 or visit www.haystackular.com.
Holland Farm Tours
Sept. 29 – Oct. 31
2055 Homer Holland Road, Milton
Holland Farms, a family-owned peanut, produce, and row crop farm, located north of Milton, welcomes visitors all month long for hay rides, a pumpkin patch, a hiking trail and a chance to experience a real, working farm. Holland Farms provides educational hayrides around the farm showing the different crops growing. Visitors are invited to pick and purchase their fall pumpkins in the pumpkin patch and to shop for local produce and other items in the Holland Farms country-style store.
The farm offers a wide variety of produce throughout the year, and is famous for its peanuts and watermelon and for selling fresh produce directly to the public.
Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Mon. through Sat. and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun. The Pumpkin Patch and Hay Rides are $5 each or $8 for both which includes a kiddie hay bale maze, petting zoo, double hill slide and corn box and more!
For more information, call (850) 675-6876 or visit www.hollandfarmsonline.com.