No matter where you are or where you’re going in Wisconsin, there’s bound to a food source nearby, according to Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski. And with Memorial Day weekend unofficially kicking off the start to summer, people are being encouraged to keep that in mind and include agriculture in their vacation plans.
With COVID-19 vaccination numbers continuing to climb and pandemic-related guidelines easing, there’s a good chance tourism, including where it intersects with agriculture, will be among the industries seeing a rebound this summer, Romanski said in a phone interview.
That’s good news for the Wisconsin economy as agriculture and tourism are both multi-billion-dollar industries supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state. Agriculture and tourism intersect in a number of ways, from events celebrating agriculture to farms welcoming visitors themselves.
June Dairy Month and accompanying dairy breakfasts will provide a welcome opportunity for many after a year where most events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Romanski said. County fairs are also among agricultural events likely to return across the state this summer.
Plus, this July marks the return of Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, two years after the last show was held in Jefferson County. Romanski, who is on the FTD board, said he was excited for the return of the event, which this year will feature the “really unique location” of Huntsinger Farms, the world’s largest grower and processor of horseradish.
And those special agricultural events are in addition to myriad agritourism opportunities that many Wisconsin farms offer throughout the year.
Romanski said he has too many favorite agricultural destinations to list, but he had “a nice day to be out and about” May 25 as he made stops to two central Wisconsin farm businesses to promote agriculture and tourism.
Romanski credited his first stop, Lonely Oak Farm in Milladore, with serving as “a good example of diversification” and highlighted the farm owner’s business model of feeding the local community. Lonely Oak produces organic vegetables, meat and eggs, offers CSA shares and serves brunch on the farm on a regular basis.
Feltz’s Dairy Store in Stevens Point was Romanski’s other visit of the day. The Feltz’s dairy operation welcomes visitors to see its robotic milking system, enjoy the new addition of cheese curds made on site, and peruse its retail store full of Wisconsin goods. They will also welcome additional visitors to the farm when they host the Portage County June Dairy Drive-Thru Brunch on June 19.
Romanski said he has been impressed by the creative ways agricultural producers have been expanding their businesses.
“The focus on innovation and diversification in Wisconsin is really strong” Romanski said.
And agritourism has benefited from a wave of people wanting to be more connected to their farmers and their food, a way of thinking that particularly expanded during the pandemic, Romanski said.
DATCP aims to serve as a resource for farmers interested in diversification and agritourism, Romanski said. While DATCP doesn’t directly run agritourism agencies in the state, it does work to “connect the dots” between agriculture and other industries like tourism, he said.
The future of agritourism across the state appears promising as the Wisconsin agricultural landscape continues to evolve.
“(Agritourism is) a growing opportunity for Wisconsin ag as we move forward,” Romanski said.
And this summer, everybody is invited to enjoy everything Wisconsin agriculture has to offer whenever the opportunity presents itself.