A New Travel Trend
Article and Photos by Kathleen Walls
Agritourism is a growing market in the travel industry. Agritourism is defined as " involving any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm, ranch or other food production facility." Thanks to the rise of cooking shows and the elevation of chefs to heroic proportions on television, the average person today is much more interested in learning where their food comes from and how it is produced. What better niche market for a state that ranks tourism second only to their agricultural activities as its economic basis. The state that fits this to a tee is Georgia and they are developing agritourism at a fast rate.
This offers the visitor to Georgia a wonderful opportunity. Wineries, farms, ranches, herb farms and other food related places are being opened to visitors. Here are some places you may visit:
Wineries and Brewers
|Crane Creek Winery
Crane Creek Vineyards is a wonderful Georgia mountain winery in Young Harris that has its own vineyard and produces some tasty local wines. The tasting room, open Tuesday thru Sunday, is at the vineyard in a marvelous old building, the old Bryson farmhouse. It's the kind of setting where you long to have an impromptu picnic and they allow just that. You can pick up some gourmet cheese and some crackers in their gift shop along with a bottle of one of their fine wines and perch on the deck or spread a blanket on the rolling hillside. You will find vines planted to take advantage of the unique mountainous countryside in North Georgia suited to the European varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. old world French American hybrid varieties of Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Villard Noir along with the modern hybrid Chardonel and native American varieties of Norton and Catawba Try their Sweet Sally for a perfect sweet wine.
Persimmon Creek Winery is one of those places that remind you that good things come in small packages. It 's a true diamond. From its gently rolling location on sparkling Persimmon Creek nestled between Lakes Burton and Rabun to their polished vintages that have already won them accolades such as being named "Hot Top Ten Small Brand" by Wine "Business Monthly and numerous medals from several different wine competitions. Owners Sonny and Mary Ann Hardman welcome you for a tasting on Saturdays from 11am to 5pm. There are cottages on the property for guests who wish to stay. They also have a small tasting room in downtown Clayton.
Tiger Mountain Vineyard is perched on a hillside in Raybun County in the tiny village of Tiger. The winery is open year round and owners John and Martha Ezzard welcome you to visit and enjoy the beauty of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains as well as the fine wine. They currently grow the American Norton, and the vinifera red grapes of the Loire and Rhone River valleys of France: Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tannat, Mourvedre and the white Viognier, as well as the Portuguese Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao. John grew up on the1 00 acre farm that now houses the vineyard. The Ezzards originally planted nine acres of grapes, putting the first vines in by hand and nursing the first native Norton cuttings in small pots in the high school green house. (They are now experimenting with growing some of the Norton vines, more disease resistant then the vinifera, organically.) The tasting room is open seven days a week most of the year and weekends only in winter.
Habersham Winery in Helen has been producing award winning Georgia wines since 1983 It's one of the oldest and largest wineries in Georgia. They offer a tasting room and self-guided tour of the winery daily. Habersham Winery grows most of their grapes at Stonepile Vineyard north of Clarkesville. The grapes grown there include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, riesling and French-American varieties seyval, vidal and chambourcin. They have a second vineyard, Mossycreek Vineyards, that is planted with cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay.
Terrapin Beer Company is a unique brewery in Athens. The brewery began with the meeting of two brewers in working at a brewery in Atlanta. John Cochran and Brian “Spike” Buckowski set their sights on crafting unique beers completely different from what was currently available in the Southeast. With this idea in mind where else could they locate such a brewer but in Athens, home of the University of Georgia and a prime musical scene for new and innovative music. So why not a new and innovative brewery?
Terrapin introduced its first beer, the Rye Pale Ale in April of 2002. Six months later while only available on draft in Athens, it won won the American Pale Ale Gold Medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival. Terrapin had been going strong ever since. Today, it produces a popular line of beers year round and several seasonal offerings.
You can tour the brewery every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 5:30 – 7:30. There will be tastings and live music to turn this into a real party.
|Miller Tommy Martin explains the workings of his mill
Nora's Mill in Helen is your chance to watch (and purchase) corn ground as it was a century ago. The mill stones are the original French stones purchased by the original owner after he struck it rich in the gold fields and decided to settle in Georgia. When he had traveled to New York prior to opening his mill he had asked for grits, a southern staple of his time (as well as the present day), and was told derisively, "We don't sell Dixie Ice Cream here."
So when he opened his mill, he decided to call his grits Dixie Ice Cream. It retains that name to this day at Nora's Mill.
Tommy Martin, the present miller, can explains the workings of the mill so well you will feel transported back in time. Ask Tommy what "keeping your nose to the grindstone" originally meant. You will be surprised
Logan Turnpike Mill is owned and operated by George and Cecilia Holland who purchased the mill in 1986. the mill's original location on the old Logan turnpike toll road was relatively inaccessible so they bought an old homestead on the banks of the scenic Nottely River on 19/129 south of Blairsville in 1995. They are now an established fixture there as you drive between Blairsville and Vogel State Park. They have an antique Williams grist mill circa 1916 and a 1926 Fairbanks Morse hit-n-miss engine mounted on a buckboard wagon with iron wheels that they would take to fairs to demonstrate their products. The mill uses locally grown corn because the hot summer here in Georgia really sets the flavor. The wheat comes from Montana where the cold climate and soil produce a high protein grain: the rye from the Midwest and the buckwheat from up-state New York.
Driving through Warren County Georgia, you find a beautiful spot where time has stood still. Just at the South Carolina line, the classic lines of a red clapboard building perched on the banks of the Ogeechee River take you back to the 19th century. The Ogeechee River Mill , the Ogeechee's only remaining water powered mill, is still in operation. A tour (available almost any time) takes you back to a more peaceful rhythm of life.
Missy Garner, the current mill owner and operator, is proud to show off this vestige of days gone by. Missy explained that she hadn't set out to be history's custodian. "Back in 2005 we wanted to relocate our cattle ranch operation from Florida." They found the ranch land they needed but with a bonus, an operational 1847 grist mill.
The Ogeechee River Mill is a unique piece of Georgia's cultural history. Be sure to visit before it becomes just one more piece of Americana that falls prey to encroaching progress and is Gone With the Wind.
Orchards, Farms and Ranches
|Just a bit of the produce at Roots Farm
Mercier Orchards is a fourth generation family run orchard located in Blue ridge that offers u-pick fruit in season. You are driven around the orchard in a wagon pulled by a tractor and can pick vine ripened fruit that has been grown with a minimum of chemicals. Inside the shop, you find the seasonal fruit as well as many other local produce items. There is also a variety of unusual products from other areas and unique gift items. Try their bakery and deli for delicious fried pies, sandwiches and other goodies. Be sure to try their own pressed cider and fruit slushies.
R and A Orchards is one of Ellijay's family owned orchards located on that stretch of highway 52 East known as Apple Alley for its abundance of orchards. Every weekend in September they offer farm tours on a huge old fashioned wagon and pick-your-own apples usually from June to February. They also offer other tours at other times of the year such as Apple Blossom Tours in April. The store is open all year and sells great fried pies and fresh produce. They have about 60 acres of varied apples and about 10 acres of peaches and nectarines.
Tinks Grass Fed Beef is the epitome of the happy cow. These Angus cattle are fed totally on sweet fresh grass. As Tink AKA Etwenda Wade puts is "They would not recognize a barn or a concrete pad if they saw it."
This happy cow haven is called Lucky7W and located in Wilkes County near Washington. For Tink this is a way of life. She is the fourth generation descendant of a Florida Cracker cow rancher and has grown up with all the knowledge of cattle raising ingrained in her blood. For Tink, natural food is not only a trend it is a way of life. She was stricken with multiple sclerosis in the late 1990s. She rapidly became disgusted with medication that did not work and left her lethargic and frustrated. She then heard of managing her illness through natural food. That is when she became serious about her grass fed beef. Today she looks and feels healthy and credits it to her way of life.
At present the farm is not open to the public but once a year Tink has a Customer Appreciation Day where those who know and love her beef can visit the farm. During the event, folks take part in activities such as a hay ride, a wood splitting contest, horse shoes and more. There also live music, lots of Tink's burgers and even Cowboy stew; made with Tink's Beef, of course.
Roots Farm is l ocated 10 miles outside Athens in the community of Winterville. Roots Farm is a diverse, 13-acre farm manned by a small staff and a lot of working members (who trade work for food) and volunteers who love Mother Earth. The farm produces fruits and veggies almost all year round using natural and sustainable methods. This produce is distributed through local markets and CSA( Community Supported Agriculture) where local people purchase shares and receive a portion of the food produced.
They offer a Beaverdam SlowDown Dinner, a culinary adventure celebrating local food, served several night a month at the 13 acre farm. You get to enjoy a gourmet meal prepared by local
chefs from local ingredients most grown at Roots and you meet the farmers who grew the food you are eating. Talk about back to nature!
Of course this is just a small portion of the wonderful places in Georgia you can visit. Also the rest of the country is also promoting their own agritourism destinations.
For more info:
Crane Creek Vineyards www.cranecreekvineyards.com/
Persimmon Creek Vineyards www.persimmoncreekwine.com/
Tiger Mountain Vineyard www.tigerwine.com/
Habersham Winery /www.habershamwinery.com/
Terrapin Beer Company www.terrapinbeer.com/
Nora's Mill www.noramill.com
Ogeechee River Mill email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 706-465-2195
Logan Turnpike Mill www.loganturnpikemill.com/
Mercier Orchards www. mercier - orchards .com/
R and A Orchards www.randaorchards.com
Apple Alley www.exploring-north-georgia.com/north-georgia-attractions-apple-alley.html
Tinks Grass Fed Beef www.tinksbeef.com
Roots Farm www.rootsfarm.org/