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Fancy staying with a winemaker in Australia, a jamón producer in Spain, or a cardamom farmer in India? Agritourism (where tourists take part in and experience the local life of farmers, food producers and more) is growing in popularity; with rustic through to luxury experiences cropping up in villages and communities from Cambodia to Japan.
Participating in agritourism can also have a lasting impact on the environment, the farmers and their communities: it can supplement farmers incomes, support rural communities and encourage the development or maintenance of ecologically sound practices.
Here are a few destinations that offer brilliant agritourism experiences alongside ensuring your tourist dollar makes a real difference:
The Wakayama prefecture is the birthplace of many products integral to Japan’s rich culinary heritage. For over seven centuries, many of the most important condiments in Japanese cuisine have been produced here: from shoyu (soy sauce) to umeboshi (salty plum pickles). Many of the towns that dot the stunning rural landscape are home to one-of-a-kind agritourism experiences.
Scattered throughout the prefecture you will find traditional noka minpaku. These are small farms that open their doors to guests, allowing them to participate in seasonal rice planting and harvesting, fruit picking and harvesting from herb gardens to make teas and aromatherapy.
These farms are mostly found within small traditional villages – so you can live life like a local. Hosts usually only have space for one group of guests at a time, so are open to putting together an experience based on your interests.
Must visit: Irokawa, a serene organic farming community nestled into rugged mountains. This small, 400 person community began opening their farms to visitors to counteract a declining population. They encourage visitors to get involved with farming and cooking of the daily meals. A wonderful and unique opportunity to learn about traditional Japanese farming methods, ingredients and food preparations, only a short distance from Osaka.
Visit the home of the world’s most revered ham – jamón Iberico. Often referred to as the ‘caviar of hams’, it is produced using only the finest cuts of the pata negra pig: raised in the forests of Spain and Portugal and subject to strict regulation to ensure the highest quality of one of the country’s most prized exports. The Spanish have been consuming cured hams for thousands of years and produce over 40 million each year – so it is no wonder they are known for producing the finest in the world.
The combination of cool mountain air, a rich diet (the highest quality hams result from those pigs on a diet of foraged acorns), and finely tuned curing techniques result in a delectable, melt-in-your-mouth culinary experience. Farm hosts in dehesas (oak forests) across the country welcome tourists for overnight stays and day trips.
Must do: You can find jamón producers across the country willing to open their doors to tourists, but first check what your experience will includes. Some are limited to tour-guide led tastings and walks through the forests only – others, like this one offered by A Taste of Spain, will offer a more immersive experience: inviting you to explore the forests and the curing cellars with the farmers and producers, with hands-on learning and of course, a lot of tasting.
Only heard of black or white pepper? Your tastebuds will be surprised and delighted at the wide array of colours and flavours possible from the not-so-humble peppercorn found in Kampot.
Kampot Pepper is a unique cultivar that received certified appellation of origin in 2010. Leading chefs worldwide praise it’s ‘unbelievable’ flavour, but it can be hard to come by for the home cook. One visit to beautiful, rural Kampot – set against the banks of the luscious Praek Tuek Chhu River – and you’ll be stocked up!
Pepper plantations offer tours, farmstays, hands-on courses, buffalo tours of the countryside and cooking classes set amongst idyllic and peaceful rivers and lakes of rural Cambodia.
Must visit: La Plantation, a certified organic and sustainable farm that offers open-air cooking classes in their stunning restaurant and tours of the vines on the hour. Chat with the pepper pickers and sorters and explore how one plant can produce so many different types peppers!
Kerala, the large state hugging the southwest coastline, is known as India’s Spice Garden. You can find pretty much everything growing here – from rolling tea plantations to the biodiverse cacao and coffee farms spread throughout the Idukki hills.
Many of the spices grown in this region are collected in the busy port town of Kochi, where they are then shipped to kitchens around the world. But away from the hustle and bustle, the spice farms are rural, small, lush and peaceful. They grow cardamom, nutmeg and vanilla all together in colourful sub-tropical gardens and many farmers supplement their income by offering tranquil homestays on their farms.
As is tradition in Kerala, your meals will be home -cooked from the produce grown in the bountiful gardens that surround your lodgings. Tours and participation are usually relaxed and informal – your host will be happy to arrange anything you please, or have you accompany them on their daily tasks. You might choose to arrange for cooking classes, harvesting, discovery walks and tours, or perhaps ayurvedic massage using natural and local herbal preparations.
Must do: Hire a driver to take you on a scenic day trip through the Munnar tea plantations, the green and lush Cardamom Hills, and the spice gardens of Idukki where you can find organic spice farm tours and walks – pick your own fresh spices, taste nutmeg fruit and try fruity green pepper fresh from the vine! Some tour companies like Kerala Tours offer all inclusive agritourism packages, or rent a car and set your own route!
The Margaret River wine region has built itself an international reputation for producing some of Australia’s finest wines. Close to Western Australia’s city of Perth, you can find single day vineyard courses through to winemaking intensives – run by the farmers and winemakers behind some of the world’s most renowned new world wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc are some of the most popular wines produced in this region that was earmarked in the 1960’s by a group of scientists as perfect for grape cultivation.
While the excellent soil and Mediterranean climate help produce award winning vintages, it’s not just the wine that is bursting in flavour. Exceptional seasonal produce has resulted in a strong foodie scene, so visitors can rest assured they will both eat and drink well after a day in the vineyards.
Must do: Most small, family-run and also the larger, luxurious wine estates offer lodging, tranquil restaurants, tours, tastings and vineyard walks; but to truly discover this premium agricultural region, book a winemaking course or other immersive experience for a complete farm-to-bottle experience. Some of the larger wineries include wine blending as part of your experience – leaving you with your own custom blended wines to take home and cellar for a special occasion.
Frasers Hospitality offers accommodation with a sustainable focus in major cities near many of these rural agritourism destinations. After your arrival, enjoy a few days in the city before heading out to your tranquil, countryside experience.