All around the Kaw River Valley, 34 unique farms are preparing for carloads of curious minds from near and far to arrive and see what they have to offer. This is the 18th Annual Kaw Valley Farm Tour, and it’s the ultimate agritourism event in Kansas. The list of farms ranges from A (Ad Astra Alpacas) to Z (Z&M Twisted Vines Winery), and there's something for everyone, regardless of whether you’re an agriculture buff, a fuzzy animal enthusiast, or a wine connoisseur. I’m not sure the farmers involved would regularly describe themselves as “intimidating,” but I have heard from several folks who have never attended the Kaw Valley Farm Tour that the event itself can seem just that. Perhaps it’s because they’re not quite sure what to expect, or perhaps because planning an itinerary from the sheer number of visitable farms spread across the Kaw Valley feels like an overly daunting task. So that’s why I’m here: to assuage your nerves and get you ready and excited to attend your first-ever KVFT.
The Kaw Valley Farm Tour has become quite the tradition. Every fall on the first full weekend of October, rain or shine, a wide variety of local farms welcome visitors from all over to see their operations. Every farm does things a little bit differently, but that’s part of the fun. You will be able to sample products, ask questions, participate in special activities the farmers have prepared for you, or just relax and enjoy spending a day in the country. Anyone is welcome to come on the tour. You might be surprised by the gems you find, and it’s a great way to learn something new about local agriculture, or even just to spend a fun day with the family. If you need to get yourself or your kids out of the house this weekend, this is the event for you. Tickets, which come in the form of a helpful farm tour booklet, are only $10 per carload and good for both Saturday and Sunday. You can buy your ticket at the Lawrence Visitors Center.
This is a self-guided tour, so I highly recommend checking out the list of farms ahead of time and planning your itinerary thoroughly! There are tons of farms north of the river and south of the river, and many of them have highlighted information about their kid-friendly activities. You can visit as many farms as you are able, but don’t stretch yourself too thin, especially if you have kiddos with you. A realistic goal is to visit 3-5 farms in a day, depending on your weekend naptimes (and I’m not just referring to those attendees under 10 years of age). First, think about what you’re most interested in. Want to meet some cute farm animals? There are several options. Searching for the perfect pumpkin just in time for the Halloween season? Of course! Want to learn about the farms that are providing the food you eat at some of your favorite local restaurants? A noble endeavor. Cut flowers, cashmere, bees, syrup, Scottish cows- you can find it all. You could even make a full day of touring local wineries, though if that’s your strategy and you intend to imbibe, I would politely remind you to invite your favorite sober-leaning farm-curious friend to do the driving.
After you’ve figured out what you want to do and selected your farms, consult the map and plan your trip. The last thing you want is to be driving erratically across the river valley all day. I always recommend starting your day with your furthest destination and then making your way back. Don't forget to grab lunch at one of the farms offering it. Also, while it’s great to plan your destinations ahead of time, remember that this is supposed to be fun! Try not to get too hung up on timing except for the official hours of the event (9 am to 6 pm Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm Sunday). A lot of farmers may be awake at 6 AM, but they’ll be a lot happier to see you at 9.
Now that you’ve got a plan, you’re ready for this weekend. Once you’ve packed a cooler in the trunk to hold all the goodies you’re going to buy from your local, hardworking farmers, it’s time to load yourself and your companions into the car and head out! Don’t worry about showing up to the farms or where to park; each of these farms is expecting you and will have Kaw Valley Farm Tour signs up to direct you where to go. I can speak from personal experience that the wonderful folks that have designated their weekend to host you are as excited and happy to see you as you are to see them after reading this blog.