Agritourism: Oklahoma's Economic Harvest - Central Oklahoma Frontier Country

Agritourism: Oklahoma's Economic Harvest

Posted by Emily Reagan, public relations director on 07/18/2008

CENTRAL OKLAHOMA – A new buzzword has taken over Oklahoma’s tourism industry and is bringing people together in an agricultural setting.

“Agritourism” is the practice of touring agricultural areas to see farms and farm activities for recreational and educational purposes.

This broad category of tourism encompasses everything from corn mazes, pick-your-own operations, vineyard and winery tours, horseback riding, hunting and fishing, and guest ranch stays.

“Today we have a traveling population that is really looking for the opportunity to spend time together in a wholesome environment,” said Abby Cash, Oklahoma Agritourism director. “That is exactly what agritourism can offer. There is no better place for quality family activities than a farm, ranch, or agricultural setting.

”Today’s general population is three to five generations removed from the family farm, says Cash, and it is important to educate the public and children, who are out of touch with their agricultural roots and where food comes from.

Dr. Glenn Orr, owner of the Orr Family Farm, a working horse farm in southwest Oklahoma City, wanted to show his grandchildren what farm life was really like.

“They thought milk came from a carton,” said Orr.

So four years ago Orr added a petting zoo and other educational play areas to his horse farm and is now teaching children about farm life.

Today, the Orr Family Farm is just one of more than 500 agritourism attractions and events that exemplify Oklahoma’s western heritage and culture.

In central Oklahoma, visitors can also see exotic animals at the Tiger Safari in Tuttle, pet animals at the Littler River Zoo in Norman, pick lavender at the Country Cottage Primitives Lavender Farm in Shawnee, stay at guest and dude ranches like the Tatanka Ranch in Stroud, visit the Clydesdales at the Express Clydesdales Ranch in Yukon, or see live cattle auctions at the Stockyards City in Oklahoma City.

“Oklahoma agritourism is a truly authentic experience that allows travelers to get off the beaten path and explore our state's largest industry: agriculture,” said Cash.

Central Oklahoma’s Wineries

Another flourishing agritourism trend in Oklahoma is to discover local wineries and vineyards, said Cash.

“I think tourists in general like visiting wineries wherever they go,” said Gary Butler, Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association president. “They like to experience the local food and wine.”

Each Oklahoma winery is unique, starting from the local vineyard, climates and soil to the winemakers who add their own experiences to the winemaking process.

“It’s like a treasure hunt; you never know what you will find at each winery,” said Butler. “Only about 17 percent of all wines are available through the retail liquor stores. The other 83 percent is made up of some fantastic wines that you will only find by looking for them in local areas.”

While the state has more than 50 vineyards and wineries, central Oklahoma’s Frontier Country boasts about 20 vineyards and wineries. At each one, tourists can enjoy wine tastings, vineyard tours, harvest festivals, dinner events, wine shopping, music entertainment and more.

“A vineyard is a beautiful scene for those who want to reconnect with the land and learn how we produce fruit and make wine,” said Gene Clifton, co-owner of the Canadian River Winery in Slaughterville. “It is definitely agritourism, from the grape to the wine bottle.”

Learn more about Frontier Country’s agritourism destinations and related events, and download “Trips on a Tank Full” money-saving coupons at www.oktourism.com.