Agritourism is relatively new in Wayne County, Indiana, with a few notable exceptions.
Since 1985, Ed and Debbie Bell have grown strawberries at their farm on Indiana 38 west of Hagerstown.
Bell’s Strawberry Farm expects to open to visitors shortly before Memorial Day. There’s a shop where you can buy strawberries and strawberry-related items, but the very best way to experience the farm is to get down and dirty and pick your own.
Ed Bell recommends dressing for the weather and outdoor work, with long sleeves and long pants, sun protection, and comfortable shoes. There’s a lot of walking, he warns, through big fields. And the fields might be muddy or dusty, so be prepared.
“You’re going to get dirty,” he says.
Strawberry season lasts until about Father’s Day, and the farm is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the season except Sunday's. For the latest information and directions, visit the Bell’s Strawberry Farm page on Facebook.
Pets aren’t allowed in the fields, but children are welcome.
Dougherty Orchards near Cambridge City, founded in 1883, is closed for the season now, but come late August/early September, they will offer multiple varieties of apples – golden and red delicious, honey crisp, gala, Cortland, Winesap and more – as well as apple donuts, cider, and other goodies, plus pumpkins of all sizes. Group tours (including a chance to pick an apple) can be scheduled in advance.
The orchards also feature a small zoo where you can feed the animals and lots of different fun family activities. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday during the season. Watch their Facebook page for details and directions.
One of the newest agritourism opportunities is Winters Springs Farms near Interstate 70 in Greens Fork. Kevin and Jeannine Winters and their son Levi love showing folks around their aquaponics operation.
“In the future, this is the way people are going to be fed,” says Kevin.
The plants – right now lettuce, herbs, green beans, and strawberries, but more are planned – grow directly in water that is purified by tilapia fish and a series of filters. No chemicals or fertilizer are involved. “We grow natural,” Kevin boasts.
He estimates it would take about 30 minutes for him to walk visitors through the whole process, then “they can stay and ask questions as long as they want.”
Ivy Tech Community College in Richmond offers courses in hydroponics and aquaponics, and Jeannine is well on her way toward certification. The family also plans to grow more conventional plants outdoors and visitors will be able to buy anything that’s ready to harvest.
Call ahead to make sure someone is available at the farm. Get the number and directions on the farm’s Facebook page.
Other area growers are putting together plans for future pick-it-yourself crops and/or opportunities to learn more about their farms. For now, though, your best bet is to go to the Richmond Farmers Market (8 a.m. to noon Saturdays May through October, and 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays July through September) and talk to folks whose products interest you. Vendors tell me they’re always happy to talk about what they grow, raise, or make. If you want to actually visit their farms or gardens, just ask. Most will be glad to show you around if a time can be worked out.
Some vendors have small shops on their property (and more say they have plans for shops). Gary and Paula Keesling sell honey and eggs at Pappaw’s Hunny Farm north of Hagerstown. If you want to do more than shop – they love to show off their bees, goats, chickens, cattle and more – call ahead. Information is – you guessed it – on the farm’s Facebook page.
Pappaw’s was a regular at the farmers’ market for years, but now sell their honey at a variety of local stores. Other local honey is always available at the farmers’ market. In fact, the Eastern Indiana Beekeepers meet at 6:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month at Hayes Arboretum in Richmond. Guests are always welcome and there’s no charge to attend. In my limited experience, beekeepers LOVE to talk about bees!
If you’re passing through the county on a non-market day and want to buy some local produce, you might be lucky enough to find a roadside stand. If not, there are other options.
The Wayne County Produce Auction near Williamsburg has sales at 1 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Wednesday and Friday (bulk sales). Fountain Acres in Fountain City always has corn, tomatoes, and other produce from local farms in season. Both have Facebook pages.
Finally, a blog on agritourism almost has to include one of the most unusual shops in the county, Texas Jack’s Lock Stock & Barrel in Fountain City. It’s got agri- and tourism under one roof!
Need to pick up some feed or horse tackle? No? Then, how about a gift or souvenir? Texas Jack can help you with both, and you’re sure to find something surprising.
By Louise Ronald