Mississippi was built on agriculture, from its rich, fertile Delta soil to the loose, loamy dirt in southern counties.
The allure of a farm appeals to people who grew up in the country, particularly the older residents of the Magnolia State. However, today’s agriculturists provide fun and entertaining activities for even the youngest visitors. With about 42,000 farms in the state on 11 million acres, agriculture makes a significant contribution to all 82 counties in the state.
To combine all of these farms, ranches, and agricultural business, the Mississippi Development Authority established the Agritourism Trail through the state, and the fall months are the perfect time to travel Mississippi and get outside.
Among the most popular venues along the Agritourism Trail are the “pick-your-own” crops that are available to anyone who wants to take home a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables. Farms that allow people to discover and harvest homegrown treasures are E and S Ranch near Terry (watermelons), Adkins Ranch east of Booneville (pumpkins), Prospect Produce Farm south of Houston (blackberries, raspberries, and muscadines) and Shroomdoom Inc. in Poplarville (mushrooms).
All of the stops along the Agritourism Trail are working farms. So don’t be surprised to see a barnyard full of roosters and hens, livestock, cattle, and tractors plowing fields. Many sites provide educational tours for schoolchildren and church groups to experience the sights and sounds of farm life.
A visit can include anything from a day trip to a pumpkin patch to overnight lodging at a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast. Three years ago, the trail named 78 locations around the state that offer on-the-farm activities.
Some activities that are available for all ages at an Agritourism Trail site: corn mazes, wagon rides, campfire parties, general stores, snack bars, pumpkin painting stations, giant tractor tire swings, hay pyramids, tire pyramids, kiddie farm-playgrounds, farm barnyards, petting zoos, fire pits, cotton fields, farm festivals, and photo opportunities.
About $150 million is generated each year by inviting Mississippi residents to the farm to enjoy the simple life, even if just for a few moments.
One of the state’s most popular working farms that embraced agritourism in 2006 was Mitchell Farms of Collins. The family grows peaches, pumpkins, blueberries, peanuts, corn, wheat, and soybeans on 1,500 acres. Thousands of people from the area and farther away come to explore the corn maze and pumpkin patch, to enjoy the petting zoo and train rides, to walk through farm-themed playground, and to gather fresh produce and farm-grown peanuts. There are three log cabins, including one dating from the 1800s.
The banquet barn on the farm hosts weddings and corporate events. Every year, about 5,000 people come to Mitchell Farms on the first Saturday in October for the Mississippi Peanut Festival.
With fall approaching, farms involved in agritourism will be prime targets for pumpkin patches and hayrides. Before you know it, you’ll be picking that perfect Christmas tree at another one of the Mississippi Agritourism Trail’s farms.
Also included in the entertainment venues at several sites are camping, hunting, trail walking, and fishing.
Click here for the Agritourism Trail Map.