Although it has been a long, grueling winter, summer is just around the corner, and Wisconsinites everywhere are filled with spring fever as they dream of summer vacations and weekend getaways. As you prepare to make plans for the summer of 2014, look no further than America's Dairyland for your next travel destination. Wisconsin is the perfect place to take in breathtaking scenery by travelling rustic roads and discovering endless agri-tourism activities. There are pick-your-own you-pick farms, farmers markets, fairs, festivals and celebrations, all things that give our state its unique charm. By choosing a local producer, food venue, or event to visit, you and your family can truly experience Wisconsin while exploring our state's diverse agriculture.
As you weave your way through Wisconsin, you are sure to find a specialty cheese shop along the way. Wisconsin is known around the globe for its high-quality, award winning cheeses, which come in over 600 varieties, types and styles. In fact, at the 2014 World Championship Cheese contest held earlier this year, our state took home 33 gold medals in their categories - more than any other state or country. Many of these cheeses are featured during June Dairy Month at farm breakfasts and events held throughout Wisconsin, which pay tribute to our state's dairy farm families. To find a dairy celebration near you, visit www.dairydaysofsummer.com.
If there's anything that pairs perfectly with cheese, it's wine, and one way to discover Wisconsin's natural beauty is by visiting some of our state's magnificent wineries. Wisconsin is divided into five distinct wine regions, with an abundance of wineries sprinkled from Superior to Burlington. Many of them offer tours, allowing you the opportunity to take in the vineyard's beautiful scenery while also learning more about the grape growing and wine production processes. Be sure to follow the tour up with a visit to the winery's tasting room to enjoy firsthand some of the best wines in the country.
Another way to explore the outdoors and enjoy some fresh air is by heading out to a pick-your-own operation. These farms offer great opportunities for consumers to put a face to the farmers who take pride in growing their product. Many of them even include educational exhibits and live petting zoos. While there are plenty of locally-grown foods ready for the picking, strawberries have always been my favorite Wisconsin product to pick and enjoy fresh from the field. Besides eating them fresh, strawberries have many other uses, whether it's mixing them in with baked goods or creating delectable jams and jellies. In fact, Wisconsin grows enough of this juicy red fruit to fill over eight million jars of jam. Making your own ensures that you are enjoying something that is indeed Wisconsin-grown.
If a fair or festival is more your style, you're in luck. Our state is home to over 75 county and regional fairs, including the Wisconsin State Fair, along with many other ag-related festivals. With agriculture being the foundation of the county and state fair, these Wisconsin events offer unique ways to learn about the many different aspects of agriculture. Whether you're meeting cows, sheep and pigs, or tasting the wonderful flavors that can be enjoyed in an Original Wisconsin Cream Puff, duck fajita or baked potato topped with award-winning cheese, Wisconsin fairs are great places to create annual family traditions. Numerous festivals throughout the summer and fall also pay tribute to agriculture, from the annual Warrens Cranberry Festival held in the cranberry capital of the world, to the bi-annual Green County Cheese Days, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.
With so many agri-tourism events and activities, you are sure to make great memories this summer. To start planning your journey, visit the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association's website at www.visitdairyland.com. Website visitors can search for an event by activity type or region, so you are sure to find something happening in your local community or travel destination.
Agriculture is a vital part of our scenic Wisconsin landscape that is helping to attract millions of tourists each year. Whether you find an agricultural tourism site near you or take on a state-wide adventure, opportunities for fun and education lie right in our own backyards. By visiting these sites, you are keeping money in Wisconsin, which benefits local farmers, communities and ultimately our Wisconsin way of life, and helps to carry on our strong agriculture tradition. That's something we can all be proud of.
Remember, Wisconsin agriculture is yours. Today, tomorrow and always.