story by JULIE CAMPBELL
Escape to the countryside and discover why agritourism is booming in the Hoosier state. From agricultural tours and farm-to-table restaurants to overnight stays in the country, channel your inner farmer and head out on an adventure in beautiful rural Indiana.
On a brisk Indiana morning, a traffic light flashes from yellow to green outside a massive red barn. But there are no cars in sight. Instead, a green light signals that something magnificent is about to take place inside the barn.
As visitors rush into a theatre- style seating area, a hush falls over the spectators. Taking center stage behind a glass barrier is a very pregnant cow, breathing heavily and letting out an occasional boisterous moo. Five minutes later, a black and white calf slides out effortlessly onto a bed of hay, shaking its head and blinking at the bright lights of the room.
This miracle of life occurs nearly every day at Fair Oaks Farms, a modern-day operation where visitors can witness the intricate workings of a 21st century dairy and pig farm. Situated on 19,000 acres about 70 miles south of Chicago in the rural Indiana town of Fair Oaks, the farm entertains as well as educates thousands of visitors each year. “Farm families comprise less than 2% of the U.S. population. That means very few people have access to farms and farmers,” says Ryan Weaver, general manager of Fair Oaks Farms.
“We decided years ago to open up our farms so that the general public can see modern, sustainable farming in action. Our guests can interact with our staff as they tour our farms and explore our experiential museums. In doing so, they learn about the care and effort farmers put into farming. Farms like Fair Oaks Farms are important places to reconnect with both our agrarian roots and the future of farming.”
Father-son duo Eric and Owen Bateman from Custer Park, Illinois, recently enjoyed exploring the farms and seeing all the technology in action.
“It’s something I thought would be cool to see,” he said. “It’s good to see where our food comes from.” Owen was definitely drawn to the high-tech aspect of the operation.
“I like the robots—the robots are cool!” said the fifth grader, who wants to be a blacksmith when he grows up.
Wait…robots on a dairy farm? Absolutely! Twelve robots in the highest tech barn ensure the milking is always gentle and precise, which is important when you’re taking care of 37,000 cows. The average cow gives 12 gallons a day, which means Fair Oaks Farms takes in a whopping 380,000 gallons of milk per day. Most of the milk from the 11 dairy farms on the campus is trucked to Kroger, where shoppers will eventually see it on store shelves all around the Midwest.
The grounds of Fair Oaks Farms are as beautiful as they are functional. Overnight guests sleep in style at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, complete with a rustic barn-style décor and a large pool area. Food options range from The Farmhouse Restaurant, which is connected to the hotel and features a fabulous farm-to-fork fine dining experience, to the more casual Cowfé, which serves up its popular grilled cheese made from Fair Oaks’ own award-winning cheeses and freshly baked bread. Homemade shakes and ice cream are also crowd favorites at The Cowfé.
Food and lodging aside, the main attractions are the three farm adventures that await Fair Oaks visitors. At The Crop Adventure, you’ll learn all about modern crop farming practices, the importance of soil, and the future of farming in order to feed 7 billion people and counting. Next, board a climate controlled, bio-fueled bus to The Dairy Adventure, where you’ll ride through the cow barns and see how robots play a vital role in the milking process. And last, but not least, The Pig Adventure will amaze you with its thousands of little pink squealers and mama sows around every corner. Just a note: Fair Oaks Farms is not a petting zoo. It’s a working farm, which means visitors never come in contact with the animals for health and safety reasons, but they still get a great view of everything that goes on at the farm.
Closer to Indianapolis in the town of Zionsville, Traders Point Creamery is a family-owned, 100 percent grass-fed dairy farm, which includes a handcrafted creamery and farmstead restaurant. All of the barns on the property are repurposed 1860s vintage barns with hand-hewn beams, brought to the grounds from different cities across Indiana.
In southern Indiana, you’ll find Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards, the state’s largest estate- bottled winery. Things to do at this family fun attraction include wine and spirits tastings, distillery and winery tours, kids’ play at the Family Farm Park, shopping at the farm market, grabbing a bite to eat at Starlight Cafe, and listening to music during seasonal concerts.
If staying on a farm is on your bucket list, check out Heritage Farm near Flora. The working alpaca farm with over 50 alpacas hosts overnight guests in several areas on its property. Owners Tim and Beth Sheets offer overnight accommodations in a vintage 1850s log cabin right in the middle of the action. There’s also a modern three- bedroom guest house, a creek-side campsite, an RV site, and a tree tent. During your stay, you can walk an alpaca around the farm, take an off- road UTV ride, enjoy a hayride, feed the alpacas, bake a wood-fired pizza, or wade in the creek.
Heavenly Acres Farm in Thorntown also offers a farm-stay option, where you can customize your experience to include helping with daily chores and interacting with the farm animals, which include alpacas, miniature horses, goats, donkeys, sheep, chickens, and ducks. Forrest and Jennifer Bopp also offer learning experiences on how they process fiber and give health care to the animals. The two-bedroom Airbnb on their property sleeps six and includes all the comforts of home, even free wifi. Nested in Hancock County, Tyner Pond Farm, owned by Chris and Amy Baggott, is completely dedicated to sustainable farming methods for healthier land, livestock, and customers. Visit for a day and take a tour, or if you want a bigger taste of farm life, rent the farmhouse for the weekend and experience life on the farm firsthand. All of the pigs, chickens, and cattle on the farm are pasture raised and spend their days happily grazing.
Located outside of West Lafayette, The Farm at Prophetstown is a real working farm that offers visitors a unique experience featuring all aspects of farm life in the 1920s. Situated within Prophetstown State Park, the farm is a training ground for sustainable agriculture, gardening, and canning as well as farm-to-table cooking, sewing, and quilting. Admission is free with state park entry.
Tour a herd of 250 wild bison in an open-air vehicle at the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve in Fremont. In mid-May, the calving season begins with 40 to 50 proud mothers showing off their 35-pound golden babies. Stay the night in the White Pine Lodge Bed and Breakfast or rent a teepee on the property.
At White Diamond Lavender Farm, east of Edinburgh in Hope, owners Melinda and Steve Webb want to make the farm a destination for people to visit and build memories, whether it be a concert, yoga on the lawn, picking a bundle of fresh lavender or sunflowers, or their favorite…weddings.
They’ve discovered a few delicious lavender recipes that keep customers returning. Lavender wine slushies, lavender lemonade slushies, and lavender shortbread cookies are just a few favorites.
People of all ages enjoy authentic agricultural experiences in Shipshewana/LaGrange County. Its quaint county Amish experiences offer unique attractions including farm experiences, petting zoos, Maple syrup and honey making, plus more. Shipshewana is home to the Farmyard Inn which will immerse you in the Amish culture— it’s located on a working Amish dairy farm.
Mark your calendar for this fall, when Exploration Acres in Lafayette opens its 23-acre corn maze, the largest in the state. There are ten miles of paths to explore, and there’s also a country store and pumpkin patch. Be sure and plan a visit when the sunflowers are in full bloom, usually in August.
For those wanting to experience more of an agritourism “rush,” the state is fortunate to have a variety of horse racing events— including thoroughbred and harness racing—throughout spring and summer. Indiana has a long history of horse breeding and has produced many high-earning racehorses. The Indiana Horse Racing Commission oversees the promotion and regulation of the industry throughout the state, and the organization’s director of racing and breed development, Jessica Barnes, says the sport’s popularity has grown significantly. “I never could have imagined the quality of racehorse we produced in Indiana could have improved as quickly as it did.” She says some of the most memorable events happened in 2017 and 2020 when Harrah’s Hoosier Park hosted the Breeders Crown Championships, the “Super Bowl” of harness racing.
While many of the top racing events happen at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Anderson and Horseshoe Indianapolis in Shelbyville, harness racing at the State Fair and county fairs across the state remain as popular as ever. At each stop you’ll see full-time racing operations send out horses to compete against small stables and even hobbyists that pursue the thrill of the circuit each summer. Adding to the racing excitement is the overall experience of the fairs themselves…live entertainment, amusements, and of course the incredible fair food.
Agriculture’s history has deep roots in county fairs, along with the Indiana State Fair. Once known as agricultural exhibitions, today’s fairs are still centered around the concept of promoting and celebrating farm life and agriculture’s contributions. And, they continue to showcase advancements of farm innovation and technology. Visiting these fairs means you’ll be able to enjoy livestock shows, tractor pulls, interactive activities, and more. And of course, outside the farm features, you’ll enjoy amusements exhibitions, and a variety of special events.
Farmers’ markets around the state give growers of all kinds the opportunity to share their bounty. Typically held on weekends, the markets can feature anything from fresh-cut flowers, local meats, and produce to baked goods and gourmet foods. Some even have live entertainment and locally-made arts and crafts.
If you’re hungry for some delicious farm-to-table food, try Roots by Tree Hill Farms, a family-owned restaurant In Winchester. The menu features hand crafted pizzas as well as pulled pork, chicken and brisket, all raised by the Livingston family at Tree Hill Farms.
The Joe Huber Family Farm and Restaurant in Starlight offers hearty, farm fresh food in a countryside setting. The farm now has the seventh generation of descendants working in its family farm operation.
Craving a fresh strawberry, apple or blueberry pie made with fruit you picked yourself? There are hundreds of you-pick farms and orchards around the state. Here’s a short list:
• Tuttle Orchards’ farm store in Greenfield is like visiting a farmer’s market that’s open all year. In addition to their own apples and cider, the store carries over 200 products made in Indiana as well as items from a dozen local farms. Satisfy your sweet tooth with an orchard-to-table treat from the Café and Sweet Shop
• Strawberry season starts in late May at Landess Farm, a generational family farm in Daleville. The farm also offers red raspberries, cantaloupe, apples, watermelon, and other fresh produce in season.
• If picking flowers is more your style, a visit to Anderson Flower Farm, a u-pick flower farm in Frankfort, is in order. Open seasonally from June through October.
- Eenigenburg’s Berry Farm is located in Northwest Indiana just off I-65 in DeMotte. This family- owned farm specializes in u-pick and ready picked blueberries.
• Johnson’s Farm Produce in Hobart has been selling home- grown fruits and vegetables since 1940. They offer a full-service lawn and garden center, in addition to the greenhouse and farm market.
• Barnside Blooms in Muncie offers flower lovers the chance to cut their own blooms in a field of flowers, build their own bouquets, and make memories they’ll never forget.