Fine weather, the lush colors and scents of the growing season, and the universal appeal of fresh food make spring and summer a great time for agricultural tours. As we found while researching Watch It Made, visiting a farm is a great educational experience: it is always fascinating to see where your food comes from and what it takes to produce it.
Blessed with an ideal climate and geology for farming, the San Joaquin Valley of central California is called "the nation's salad bowl" because much of the produce in our supermarkets comes from there. Wiebe Farms, in Reedley, specializes in peaches, nectarines, and plums. On a tour of the orchards, you learn about raising fruit trees, whose blossoms tint the landscape beautifully in spring. During the harvest season (mid-May through mid-September), you can watch the pickers at their quiet work and then see the noisier scene of the packing shed.
Farther north, at Washington's Fruit Place Visitor Center in Yakima, Washington, you get a similarly close look at the growing, packing, and shipping of apples and cherries.
Cherries are the main theme at Amon Orchards in Acme, Michigan. Here you also learn about environmentally friendly agricultural methods. A good example is Amon's use of beneficial insects that prey on pest insects, thus naturally decreasing the need for artificial pesticides.
Lands of milk and honey
Insects serve an even more important purpose at Honey Acres in Ashippun, Wisconsin. Founded by a German beekeeper in 1852, Honey Acres harvests honey made by the honeybees that live and work in its hives. This tour shows you not only the human workers who process and pack the honey but also the insect workers that make it in the hives—natural factories!
A dairy farm seems an unlikely place to find robotic technology. Yet Hope Acres, in Brogue, PA, uses robots to give its cows luxurious comfort, helping them produce high-quality milk. Most amazing are the robots that perform milking duties. Whenever a cow feels a full udder, it can wander into the milking room at any time. A laser-guided system attaches the milkers, and the robots gently extract milk without causing the stress that human intervention can. Now that's technology even a factory would be proud of!
Posted By Karen Axelrod Apr 9, 2007