Heather Haines, 4-H Agent, UGA Extension Forsyth County

A young girl standing next to an apple tree.
Emma picks apples at an orchard in North Georgia. More than 85% of Georgia’s apples are grown in Gilmer and Fannin counties. Photo by Heather Haines

In just a few days, school will be out for the holidays and many of us will be preparing to travel to see family and friends. Growing up in a family that loved cooking (and eating!), I learned that two key ingredients are essential to a memorable holiday gathering: good food and good company. In the last few years, many families have decided to change their pace. They are spending more time in nature and becoming more familiar with where their food is grown.  According to the Travel Industry Association of America, tourists are taking shorter, closer to home vacations and seeking experiences as a part of their trips. Families want to strengthen their relationships by being together and creating memorable experiences.

One of the best ways to slow down and learn about where your family’s food is grown is by visiting local farms and purchasing Georgia Grown products. Georgia Grown, a division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, is a program that helps new as well as established agribusinesses thrive by bringing producers, processors, suppliers, distributors, retailers, agritourism, and consumers together in one powerful, statewide community.

“Agritourism” means charging admission for visitors to view or participate in the operation of a farm or dairy. In some cases, the visitor may have the opportunity to participate in the production of farm or dairy products for entertainment or educational purposes. Agritourism businesses may also sell farm or dairy products to persons who visit. Participating in agritourism activities gives people an opportunity to better understand the skill and hard work that are involved in the production of food and fiber we all enjoy. It’s also a chance for great food and clean country fun at destinations that are close to home. For many North Georgia families, these memories include picking their favorite fruits, picking out pumpkins, or even cutting down their own Christmas tree.

For farmers, participating in agritourism means that they can add value to their existing agricultural assets. Through offerings like farm stays, tours, workshops, and events, farmers can generate additional revenue streams, reducing dependence on a single source of income and making them more resilient. Allowing people to come experience life on the farm also helps preserve local culture and traditions.

If your family is hoping to add agritourism to your holiday plans, check out Georgia Grown’s website where you can search for specific products and services. The search tool can help you locate anything from alpacas to wineries across the state.

At the beginning of 2024, you can also stop by the local Farm Bureau or the Extension Office to pick up a copy of the 2024 Farm Passport. The Farm Passport helps families discover farms across the state who sell food that they grow on their property. The booklet features over 90 farms around the state. As your family visits, make sure you ask the staff to stamp your passport. The more stamps you receive the more prizes you can earn from Georgia Farm Bureau! You can also check out what other families are doing at some of the state’s most popular agritourism locations by following #FarmPassport.