Agriculture and tourism are Georgia’s two top industries, so why not combine them? Brooke Hatfield’s route took her past Sweet Grass Dairy and White Oak Pastures, but the southwest region is home to some of Georgia’s top-producing counties and offers many more places to sample farm life. Here are a few of our favorites to sample on your way south:
> The Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village—formerly and still unofficially known as the Agrirama—is a welcome stop on a mind-numbing stretch of I-75. Take exit 63-B in Tifton to this ninety-five-acre site, part of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and find yourself in a nineteenth-century farming community. There are costumed interpreters (hokey but informative) who walk you through the village, complete with a gristmill, blacksmith shop, general store with old-timey candies, drug store with an ice cream counter, and the “national peanut complex” (aka museum). 229-391-5205, abac.edu/museum
> Yes, Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy does indeed own a cattle farm. The Rock Ranch, located between Atlanta and Macon, produces grain-fed, hormone/steroid-free, all-natural beef and has branded itself as a family destination, with zip lines, train rides, paddleboats, and horseback riding—not to mention pick-your-own berries in the spring. The attractions are open only during special events, but those are almost weekly in the fall. 706-647-6374, therockranch.com
> The Georgia Grown Trail cuts horizontally across the southwest corner of the state along Highway 37, spotlighting u-pick farms, dairies, vineyards, farm tours, and quail plantations along the way. On the eastern end, stop by Georgia Olive Farms (229-482-3505, georgiaolivefarms.com) for locally produced olive oil and stone-ground grits. Stay in a lakeside shotgun-style cottage at Gin Creek in Hartsfield (229-941-2989, gincreek.com) and enjoy Dutch and Southern cooking at the Mennonite-owned Family Table Restaurant in Pelham (229-294-4455).
> Established as a sort of Christian commune in 1942, Koinonia Farms was an early model of nonviolence and racial integration. During the civil rights era, it began shipping pecans and peanuts as a way of bypassing local hostility. In the 1960s, the operation gave birth to Habitat for Humanity. Stop by its store for nuts, grass-fed beef, pork, eggs, seasonal produce, and bakery items. 229-924-0391, koinoniapartners.org
Visit the Georgia Farm Bureau’s website to find farm markets.
This article originally appeared in our August 2013 issue.