For those who weren’t raised on a farm or married into the farming lifestyle, it’s rare to see what happens behind the scenes before farmers’ products end up on the kitchen table.
On Oct. 7 and 8, the K-State Research and Extension Office for Douglas County has organized a farm tour for guests to pack their cars full and come out and see what local Kansas farming is all about. For its 13th year, guests can visit 33 farms in Johnson, Jefferson, Douglas, Osage, Shawnee and Leavenworth counties.
“A lady at The Merc in Lawrence first suggested the idea, after something she saw back east,” explained Laurie Shuck, an organizer for the tour.”And she thought it would be so great to showcase some of these farmers so that people buying the products in the store could put a face with the name on the product.”
Shuck said the farm tour has two goals: to educate the public about food production and products made on farms and provide exposure for farmers to be recognized for all their hard work.
Each year a few more farms are added to the list, which this year includes Shawnee County farm, Berry Hill UPick Farm. Owner Jay Schively said the advertising opportunity and chance to interact with the public was a big draw for him to join this year’s tour.
“We plan to show people around, and gather sunflower seeds — right now you can harvest them — and talk with people about our game plan,” Schively said. “I won’t have the luxury of talking with people during picking season, but we just wanted to talk with people and gauge their interest on possibly planting blueberries and blackberries in the future.”
Currently Berry Hill plants 20,000 strawberry plants a year, which are picked in June, and Schively said should the public be interested in the other crops, blueberries would be ready at about the same time in June and blackberries close behind in July.
This past year, the farm planted its first sunflower crop, which Schively said the public seemed interested in.
In addition to produce, local alpaca farmers, a Highland cattle farm, a dairy farmer, smaller family farms, and wineries are all included on the tour.
Most farms offer family-friendly activities for kids to enjoy. Shuck said one farm had planned to make bird houses, while another was letting kids create their own alpaca creations by gluing alpaca fiber onto sheets of paper.
“The thing you find about farmers is even though it’s their business, it’s also their home, and it’s also the love of their life,” Shuck said. “They’re very excited to share their project because they work so hard to do the best they can do, so it’s really near and dear to their heart.”
The tours take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Dogs are not permitted at the farms, but Shuck did advise bringing a cooler should tourists want to bring home any of the farms’ products.
The list of farms involved is available at kawvalleyfarmtour.org. Tickets are $10, and can be bought online or at locations around Lawrence. Participants will show their ticket receipts at the at the first farm visited in exchange for a brochure and map of the tour, or exchange their receipt in advance at the Douglas County K-State Extension Office, 2110 Harper St. in Lawrence.
For information, call (785) 843-7058.