Travel: Get back to nature at these farms and gardens

Lane Southern Orchards features 11,000 acres devoted to peach orchards and pecan groves, as well as strawberries, apples and other Georgia-grown produce. 
Courtesy of Lane Southern Orchards.

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Lane Southern Orchards features 11,000 acres devoted to peach orchards and pecan groves, as well as strawberries, apples and other Georgia-grown produce. Courtesy of Lane Southern Orchards.

6 agritourism sites where visitors can pick their own plus shop, dine and spend the night

As outdoors-oriented post-pandemic travel continues to heat up, agritourism attractions across the Southeast are gearing up to provide visitors with a down-to-earth experience that is equal parts educational and entertaining.

In addition to being real working farms and gardens producing everything from peaches to grass-fed beef to heirloom roses, agritourism sites also offer visitors a variety of other attractions that may include a combination of markets, U-pick options, hayrides, farm tours, animal encounters, mazes, classes, swimming, dining and overnight accommodations.

Here are a half-dozen destinations worth checking out this summer.

Lane Southern Orchards

Founded in Fort Valley in 1908, Lane Southern Orchards now spans 11,000 acres devoted mostly to peach orchards and pecan groves, but there are also areas dedicated to growing strawberries, apples and other tasty Georgia-grown treats. Depending on the time of year, the farm boasts more than 35 varieties of peaches. There’s also a roadside market selling jams, jellies, preserves, dressings, sauces and other Georgia-fresh produce, like Vidalia onions, peas, corn, sweet potatoes and watermelon. Seasonal tours include a visit to the strawberry patch and a six-acre corn maze. The Peachtree Café serves up hearty breakfasts, slow-roasted pulled pork, brisket sandwiches, salads and more. Be sure to save room for their famous peach cobbler and peach ice cream, which are available year-round. 50 Lane Road, Fort Valley, 478-221-9337, www.lanesouthernorchards.com.

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Guests are welcome to explore the shiitake mushroom tunnel at Coldwater Gardens before purchasing some to take home. Courtesy of Nick Phoenix.

Credit: Nick Phoenix

Guests are welcome to explore the shiitake mushroom tunnel at Coldwater Gardens before purchasing some to take home. 
Courtesy of Nick Phoenix.

Credit: Nick Phoenix

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Guests are welcome to explore the shiitake mushroom tunnel at Coldwater Gardens before purchasing some to take home. Courtesy of Nick Phoenix.

Credit: Nick Phoenix

Credit: Nick Phoenix

Coldwater Gardens

Opened in 2015 in the Florida Panhandle, Coldwater Gardens encompasses 352 acres of pine forest and low-land cypress swamp with frontage along Coldwater Creek. Here visitors can explore unique agricultural techniques like shiitake mushroom farming; aquaponics, a form of hydroponics that uses fish waste to supply nutrients to plants which in turn purify the water; and vermiculture, the practice of cultivating worms for breaking down compost. There is also a pretty pollinator garden, bee hives, chickens, a pond and greenhouses with plants for sale. But that’s not all. There’s also swimming, kayaking, hiking and biking. Overnight guests can stay in eco-friendly cottages, cabanas, a treehouse and fully-outfitted glamping tents. Visitors with their own tents can pitch them on platforms ideally positioned for stargazing and views of the creek. Only overnight visitors have full access to everything Coldwater Gardens has to offer and only a limited number of day visitors are allowed in the gardens. $50-$190 for overnight stays. 7009 Creek Stone Road, Milton, Florida. 850-426-1300, www.coldwatergardens.com.

Petals from the Past

A passion project of father and son horticulturalists Artie and Jason Powell, Petals from the Past was founded in 1994 to grow old-fashioned garden plants using modern techniques. But Jason and his wife Shelley have transformed it into a popular agritourism destination that offers much more. While they specialize in cultivating and selling antique roses, heirloom shrubs and hard-to-find perennial flowers and herbs, the inventory also includes a variety of more common plants, as well as gardening aids, jams and jellies. Seasonal fruit U-pick opportunities include blackberries, blueberries and figs during the summer, with apples, muscadines and pears in the fall. Guided tours are available as well as classes on everything from container gardening to creating a garden that attracts butterflies. 16034 County Road 29, Jemison, Alabama. 205-646-0069, www.petalsfromthepast.com.

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Chattooga Belle Farm offers up expansive farm, vineyard and mountain views. Courtesy of Jay Vaughan.

Credit: Jay Vaughan

Chattooga Belle Farm offers up expansive farm, vineyard and mountain views. 
Courtesy of Jay Vaughan.

Credit: Jay Vaughan

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Chattooga Belle Farm offers up expansive farm, vineyard and mountain views. Courtesy of Jay Vaughan.

Credit: Jay Vaughan

Credit: Jay Vaughan

Chattooga Belle Farm

Located near languid Long Creek in South Carolina’s Upcountry, Chattooga Belle Farm is a 198-acre farm, distillery and event space with spectacular mountain views. The farm specializes in the production of grass-fed beef and small-batch spirits, including whiskey, vodka, gin, brandy and moonshine. Visitors are welcome to pick their own apples, peaches, grapes, berries and more. There’s also a farm store for those who like to pick their produce from shelves. Belle’s Bistro serves soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers for lunch indoors or out. Other attractions include old-fashioned hayrides during harvest season, a sprawling events barn, a new 3.5-mile hiking trail, disc golf and the Lomax Observation Circle for stargazing inside a stacked stone circle. Overnight accommodations include the Chicken Coop, a one-bedroom tiny house that sleeps four, three RV campsites and space for primitive camping. $30-$145 for overnight stays. 454 Damascus Church Road, Long Creek, South Carolina. 864-647-9768, www.chattoogabellefarm.com.

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Guests can get up close and person with baby goats at Biltmore's .Antler Hill Farmyard. Courtesy of The Biltmore Company.

Credit: Handout

Guests can get up close and person with baby goats at Biltmore's .Antler Hill Farmyard.
Courtesy of The Biltmore Company.

Credit: Handout

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Guests can get up close and person with baby goats at Biltmore's .Antler Hill Farmyard. Courtesy of The Biltmore Company.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Biltmore

Even veteran visitors may not know that in addition to being the site of an 18th century Chateauesque-style mansion, the Biltmore estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is also a working farm. Overnight guests can purchase the Around the Farm package, which includes a tour of the farm and forest not open to the general public. It includes the vineyards and livestock areas where cattle, pigs and sheep are raised. Guests can choose from a number of exclusive farm experiences, including agricultural demonstrations, storytelling, craft-making, wagon rides, egg gathering and observing animal feeding and milking. Accommodations are provided at Village Hotel, on the original location of the estate’s agricultural hub, and the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate. Though not part of the package, other historic farm-focused accommodations include the Market Gardener’s Cottage and Biltmore’s newest lodging option, the Dairy Foreman’s Cottage. $685-$1,550 per two-night minimum for Around the Farm package. 1 Lodge St., Asheville, North Carolina. 800-411-3812. www.biltmore.com

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Chef Travis Milton creates Appalachian-inspired fare at Taste Wood-Fired Kitchen at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards. Courtesy of Kindler Studios

Credit: Billie Wheeler

Chef Travis Milton creates Appalachian-inspired fare at Taste Wood-Fired Kitchen at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards. 
Courtesy of Kindler Studios

Credit: Billie Wheeler

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Chef Travis Milton creates Appalachian-inspired fare at Taste Wood-Fired Kitchen at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards. Courtesy of Kindler Studios

Credit: Billie Wheeler

Credit: Billie Wheeler

Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards

At this 400-acre farm-focused getaway in Virginia’s Highlands region of the Blue Ridge Mountains, chef Travis Milton welcomes visitors with Appalachia-inspired fare at Taste Wood-Fired Kitchen. The menu is regularly updated, but mainstays include smoked trout dip, charcuterie, homestyle pickles, flatbreads and lots of farm-fresh veggies. The Inn, a 28-room luxury boutique property overlooking an infinity pool with cabanas and a bar, is slated to open in the fall along with Milton’s signature restaurant Hickory, featuring a world-class culinary and wine program. Nicewonder Vineyards, located across the lake from the Inn, features 16 acres of vineyards growing Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot and, more recently, Petit Verdot grapes. There are also gardens galore, livestock, three miles of wooded trails and a disc golf course. Later this summer, nine luxury yurts will provide additional accommodations, and a Yurt Wellness Village is planned for the future. 22940 Beaver Creek Lane, Bristol, Virginia. 276-644-5971, www.nicewonderfarm.com.