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Agritourism Leader: Four Ways Wisconsin's Going to Grow on You

By Jonathan Eckelberg
Staff Writer

Get closer to the farms and rural communities that grow and produce the food you eat. Tour Wisconsin farms, pick your own fruit and eat farm-to-table fresh foods at a restaurant or a trendy pizza farm. Here is quick list of ideas to plan an agritourism getaway that offers a full menu of fun.

Farm-to-table Dining

Looking to step out for the night, but in the mood for a farm fresh meal? Check out Braise, Milwaukee’s first community-supported agriculture restaurant, offering foods that are simple, fresh and locally sourced.

Happen to be on the other side of the state? Make sure you check-in at The Historic Trempealeau Hotel, where meals are made from scratch with locally grown ingredients.

In the Door County area, reserve your table at Whistling Swan in Fish Creek where locally foraged fruits, vegetables and herbs, wild game, local freshwater fish and saltwater fish make up this very flavorful menu.

No need to worry about avoiding cow chips for these farm-to-fork meals, and overalls are certainly not required. So bring the family and head to one of these amazing restaurants where fresh and local is made-to-order.

Drop your line pond-side and you’re guaranteed a rainbow trout at the Bullfrog Fish Farm in Menomonie. If that didn’t hook you, they’ll even clean and put your catch on ice while you enjoy every bit of the farm. Whether you’re an angler who prefers solitude or laughs with friends and family, fish to your heart’s content from May until October. Afterward, enjoy a “Hobo Shore lunch” in the Family Beer & Beverage Garden, complete with local brews and s’mores.

From May to October, Meuer Farm's “Farm Flavors Dinner Series” in Chilton brings area chefs to the farm for a fine dining experience. Yes, you read that right. Chefs create a special menu using farm produce and other local ingredients. The season on the farm will start up again in March when David and Lisa Meuer tap their maple trees for syrup-making clinics. Taste it for yourself at a charitable pancake breakfast. And don’t leave without stocking up on raw honey, pollen, farmfresh kettle corn and a fall corn maze with helicopter rides.

Pizza Farms

The hot new agritourism trend in Wisconsin is pizza farms and several are concentrated along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. Drive just eight miles off Hwy. 35 and find yourself in the hamlet of Nelson, surrounded by infinite acres of lush rolling hills and valleys. Here, The Stone Barn, a centuries old, open-air, Norwegian Valley stone barn turned wood-fired pizzeria, is cooking up artisanal paper-thin pizza using fresh ingredients, like locally-raised pork, herbs and vegetables grown right on the farm. They don’t even roll the dough until you place your order. Sip wine under a giant blue sky, stroll through the herb gardens or relax by the pond and enjoy the 120 years of history this farm has to offer.

A to Z Bakery’s motto is “farming is all about eating.” Tuesday nights at this Stockholm locale, starting late-March through Thanksgiving, are pizza nights where BYO-everything is standard and the pizza is delicious. Since 1997, the farm has made organic, sourdough bread, grinding the whole grains and the flour in an old mill with 24-inch stones. It even makes sourdough pizza crust.

At Suncrest Garden Farm in Cochrane, 16 acres are nestled among the rolling bluffs of west central Wisconsin near the Mississippi River. Just getting to the farm itself – following the winding road up the bluffs – is an experience. Woodfired pizza nights, complete with live local musicians, are held May through September. Order your favorite, or try one of their specialty pizzas like Summertime Love or Sunshine.

Orchards, Pumpkin Patches and Fresh Markets

No sugar needed for this fruit loop. Known as the “Berry Capital of Wisconsin,” Bayfield is ripe with good eats. During the summer months you can pick your own cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and more. In autumn, grab a bushel or a peck, but whatever you do, don’t miss out on the beautiful apple orchards that look as good as the apples taste.

Time your visit for the Bayfield Apple Festival, hailed as one of the “Top Ten Autumn Festivals in North America” by the Society of American Travel Writers. The three day event includes more than 60 orchard and food booths selling Bayfield's apples, apple delicacies and festival food favorites.

Next stop brings us to the Apple Capital of Wisconsin. Farmers in Gays Mills learned in the early 1900s the conditions on either side of the Kickapoo River offered excellent conditions for apple growing. More than 1,000 acres of apple orchards later, they’ve planted the right prescription to keep the doctor away for a long time. Ten orchards are lined up on a five mile stretch on County Hwy 171 between Gays Mills and Rolling Ground. The area has its own Apple Festival, which has been drawing visitors for 50 years to enjoy the end of the apple harvest.

All aboard! Hop on the East Troy Electric Railroad and enjoy the historic rail car experience through beautiful Southeast Wisconsin with a sweet stop at the iconic Elegant Farmer. Indulge in the farm fresh muffins, pies, cookies, breads and other delightful treats prepared daily. Don't forget to take home their award-winning “Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag."

Agritourism – More Than Just Food

Throw on your boots and overalls, jump on your tractor and plow over to Hinchley’s Dairy Farm where you can try your hand at farming for a day. Milk a cow, feed the barnyard animals and experience what life is like on a real, working dairy farm.

Get lost in the many corn mazes throughout the state. Featuring varied designs seen from above, farms in Wisconsin welcome visitors of all ages to come out and experience the cool corn mazes the farmers have created and enjoy the magic only fall on the farm can offer. Make sure you stop by Schuett Farms where they’ve created a “high-tech” corn maze. Varied checkpoints throughout the maze allow visitors to use their smart phones to navigate their way through. There’s no excuse to get lost in this one!

Stop by Mommsen’s Farm Market where their theory is two corn mazes is better than one! Find your way to the remodeled stone dairy barn where you’ll find a selection of local products such as honey, maple syrup and crafts. While you’re there, take the kids to the petting zoo, enjoy the fall color views from the hayride and snap a photo by the giant 30-foot tall pumpkin pyramid. Mommsen’s Farm Market definitely has “fall” written all over it.