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Vacation on the farm

Agritourism Is Booming

... They call it agritourism — farmers, ranchers and winemakers offering the public a chance to experience not just their products, but their way of life — albeit an often cleaner version that focuses more on fun than drudgery.

... "People enjoy learning and experiencing what it's like to be part of America's breadbasket," said Diana Thompson, director of Ohio's Historic West, an organization of 10 west-central Ohio counties that promotes cultural and heritage tourism. "There's some kind of Americana feel. That has become more prevalent, certainly in our region."

The "Americana" angle is interesting. There's a certain national mythology that holds that farmers are the "real" Americans. It surfaces in politics when Republicans claim to represent the agricultural "heartland," dismissing Democrats as representatives of coastal urbanites. It's a factor in the farm subsidy program, which bills itself as a way to aid the romanticized family farm. It's also similar to the question of preserving traditional indigenous cultures through tourism, earning your income through display of your livelihood rather than directly through that livelihood.

Certainly one could spin this into a "modern people are realizing that they're too out of touch with the environment" thing. But I think it's more complex than that. While farmers may be the real Americans, there's a counter-mythology that says they're unsophisticated and boring hicks. People in rural areas are often fascinated by the city. The presence of farms was the first proof that Colgate students cited to show that "there's nothing to do" in Hamilton. And agritourism is a pretty sanitized version of farming. Petting a cow is nothing like having to get up at dawn and milk it every day; finding your way through a cornfield is nothing like planting a field and praying that it isn't killed by drought or bugs before harvest time. Similarly, going into the city for a baseball game or to go club-hopping is nothing like living in the ghetto, breathing smog every day and wondering if you're going to get shot. Ultimately, it seems to all be a "the grass is greener (and the neon lights are brighter) on the other side of the fence" thing.


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