Farms and barns
Region Southwest Georgia
Coast along the picturesque rural roads of South Georgia, passing tractors, main streets, roadside stands, and swaths of verdant rolling farmland. The loamy soil yields a bounty, so be sure to bring along a cooler to stock up on Georgia nuts, cheese, beef, even rum. —Mary Logan Bikoff
8 a.m. Take GA-85 (that’s Georgia 85, mind you—not Interstate 85) south for 70 miles, and turn onto GA-41. Just shy of tiny Woodland, Georgia, you’ll find the proudly rusty Old South Farm Museum and Ag Learning Center. Heaps of old equipment—including an array of antique tractors from McCormick to John Deere—cover several acres of displays. Learn how to pump water, grind grain, and spin cotton on relics from the 1800s to the 1960s.
11:30 a.m. An hour and 15 minutes south is Koinonia Farm. Established in 1942 as a Christian farm commune on principles of pacifism, equality, economic sharing, and a mission to feed and house the needy, it led to the founding of Habitat for Humanity International. Today guests can tour the funky farm’s pecan orchards and gardens, and stay for lunch Monday through Friday and some Saturdays ($3–$5; sign up on the website).
1:30 p.m. Just a few miles up the road is Plains, known for two things: Jimmy Carter and peanuts. Pop into Main Street’s Plain Peanuts and grab a bag for the road. Do not say no when you’re asked if you’d like to taste the peanut butter ice cream. You would, and in fact you’d like a full serving, with a sprinkle of fried peanuts on top.
2 p.m. Two and a half miles outside of Plains is the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm, a well-maintained National Historic Site. Tour the modest farmhouse, its garden and barn (mules included), and the old farm general store, where the 39th president worked as a kid.
3 p.m. An unexpected oasis awaits about 20 minutes west in Richland: Richland Distilling Company. The jovial head distiller, Roger, will give you a tour and a taste.
5 p.m. With your DD at the wheel, roll south by pecan orchards and soybean farms. In less than an hour, you’ll reach White Oak Pastures, the 150-year-old family homestead of farmer Will Harris, who’s become somewhat of a celebrity for his sustainable farming techniques and grass-fed meats (found at top restaurants like Bacchanalia and Miller Union). In the past few years, Harris has turned his family’s 1,800 acres into a road-trip destination with a store, restaurant, and lodging, allowing guests to pop in for a meal or even stay the night (from $99) in a cozy mini cabin nestled in longleaf pines.
6:30 p.m. Pick up a steak from the farm store and grill it yourself at your cabin, or have the chef prepare it at the on-site restaurant, a screened-in pavilion originally established as a dining room for the farm’s 100-plus employees. (You can also order burgers or tongue tacos.) White Oak is one of two farms in the U.S. with on-site USDA-inspected abattoirs, so the farm-to-table meat isn’t just a cliche here.
On the road
A Top 40 country station (try Americus’s 98.7). You’re in a hotbed of country music, so it’s only right to tune in to Luke Bryan, Kip Moore, and Jason Aldean crooning about the small towns, fishin’ holes, and dirt roads of their homeland.
The comic Mama Makes Up Her Mind by essayist, NPR contributor, and South Georgia native Bailey White.
9 a.m. A complimentary homemade quiche—made with White Oak eggs, of course—is waiting in your cabin’s fridge for breakfast. Whether you explore the farm at your leisure or arrange a guided tour, you’ll want to spend the morning meandering. (Check the website for periodic workshops on beekeeping, tanning, butchering, soap-making, and the like.) If you’re lucky, Harris will be there to show you his Southern savannas, hog herds, and poultry so free-range “they could walk to Atlanta if they wanted.” Have lunch in the pavilion—perhaps a salad with organic vegetables this time?
1 p.m. Drive east on GA-37, a rough two-lane along which you might have to dodge tractors or slow-moving pickups; it’s also known as the Georgia Grown Trail for its many roadside farm stops. Don’t miss Sparkman’s Cream Valley (closed weekends), a quaint dairy where you’ll find butter, yogurt, and cream fresh from the source. (Our fave is the chocolate milk.)
3 p.m. No Georgia farm tour would be complete without a stop at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village in Tifton, about 40 minutes northeast. Sure, the costumed interpreters can be a little hokey, but with more than 35 restored and relocated historic structures—from a church to a gristmill—you can get a glimpse of rural life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Meet blacksmiths, basket weavers, wood turners, and other artisans, who sell their wares in the general store.
5 p.m. Head north on Highway 41 for about 45 minutes, at which point you may be ready for a snack. The flagship 52-year-old Stripling’s General Store is on Highway 300 near Cordele. Pop in for the best beef jerky around, tender and pepper-spiced.
6 p.m. Continue to Americus, 40 minutes northwest, and bunk in the historic Windsor Hotel (now operated by Best Western and lovingly restored to its Queen Anne glory). Book the Carter Presidential or bridal suites (from $150), both ensconced in the Victorian turret with 360-degree views. Dine in the white-tablecloth restaurant, Rosemary & Thyme.
The local spirit—smooth but rich, like butterscotch—is distilled from pure sugarcane grown on the owner’s estate nearby. (We’re told cane field visits may soon be available.) Walk (stumble?) away from the distillery tour with a 750-milliliter bottle for $55.
10 a.m. Start the day with a cup of coffee just across the street at Cafe Campesino, Georgia’s first fair-trade organic coffee roaster. Hop back in the car and drive 30 minutes toward Montezuma (passing the Andersonville National Historic Site; if you have time, allow an hour or more for this notorious Civil War military prison and memorial). Once on GA-26, you’ll enter a swath of flat, silo-dotted farmland that looks more like the Midwest—or Pennsylvania Amish country—than Georgia. This is the community of Georgia Mennonites.
11:30 a.m. Yoder’s Deitsch Haus (478-472-2024) is an unassuming cafeteria-style meat-and-three that would appear completely ordinary but for the women behind the counter in long, plain dresses and traditional gauzy bonnets. Plates are heaped high with mashed potatoes, fried okra, savory meatloaf, and freshly baked goods, including yeasty rolls and perfect pies.
12:30 p.m. Hit the road again, heading northeast for 25 minutes for Georgia’s quintessential fall farm event: the Georgia National Fair in Perry ($10, plus fees for extras like rides and concerts). From October 6 to 16, it’s a whirlwind of carnival activity. But you’ve come for the livestock shows. Prepare to ogle llama performances, draft horse demonstrations, and junior swine showmanship.
4 p.m. Make one last stop at Fort Valley’s Pearson Farm. It’s pecan season, and Pearson has been growing them for five generations, selling the nuts raw, salted, roasted, and covered in chocolate. Come back in summer to watch the peaches rolling down the packing line and go home with half a bushel for $15.