Archive for Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rural agritoursim venues offering escapes into fall

November 4, 2007

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— You don't have to be a kid to enjoy autumn's appeal.

It was one of those days great to play hooky from school - 70-degree weather and no wind - as a Lindsborg couple walked hand in hand amid a sea of pumpkins on a farmstead just north of their hometown.

Steven Walsh and his girlfriend, Callie Wentz, first ventured through a crop maze, then took pictures of buffalo. They shot small pumpkins with a slingshot before deciding on a pumpkin to take home to decorate.

"I'd never done anything like this," Wentz said as she watched Walsh shoot a pumpkin a couple of hundred feet, noting that on this nice day, "We were just looking for something to do."

It's part of a venture called agritourism - one way for farmers to shore up declining revenues and stay on the farm.

These fall activities are sprouting up across rural Kansas, including at Smoky Hill Bison Co., where visitors like Wentz and Walsh trek across acres of cropland each fall.

And whether you have an entire day to savor or just a few hours, owner Linda Hubulek says visitors will find a several areas to explore within a scenic drive of Hutchinson.

Folks can take a bumpy covered-wagon ride or pick a pumpkin from the patch. They can get lost in a 7-acre sedan grass maze (similar to a corn maze and at least 10 foot tall) or have the nerve to follow the haunted trail through the trees at night.

Children can play in a corn-filled box, and groups can take a tour to see the bison. A concession stand serves bison sandwiches, as well as pumpkin pie and pumpkin slushies, and there are picnic tables to sit and enjoy a fall day.

At Granny Mae's Pumpkin Patch near Dorrance, visitors can ride a train and hayrack, sip cider or grab a cold root beer from the ice barrel and tour a village of 80 scarecrows. At Steffen Orchard in Conway Springs, the 80-acre farm is amid apple season - varieties maturing include Jonathan, Red and Golden Delicious, and Blushing Gold.

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