WRITER | JULIE FORD
PHOTO | RENEE RICHER AND EVENTIDE IMAGES
Imagine waking to the crow of a rooster, the sputter of a tractor, or the cheerful tempo of breakfast preparation. Wafting through the room is an inviting olfactory blend of sweet berries, fresh bread, and a country breeze, gently nudging one to join the other guests for a hearty farm breakfast. This isn’t a typical bed and breakfast – this is agritourism.
The blending of agriculture and tourism, agritourism is a multifaceted and growing trend in Michigan. Sprawling farm markets, U-picks, and farm-to-table feasts are some of the ways Michigan’s family farms are inviting the public to experience rural life and fresh, local food. For those longing to escape to the country for more than a day, there are a handful of B&Bs focused on providing a farm life respite for the agritourist.
The Farmhouse, Gladstone
Northwest of Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula and situated on more than 200 acres of hayfields, wildflower meadows, and forest, The Farmhouse B&B offers an idyllic farmland setting just six miles from the northernmost shores of Lake Michigan. “Our focus is sustainable agriculture,” says owner Renee Richer. “Everything we grow is free of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. We are also solar powered.” Guests are welcome to gather eggs and pick rhubarb, raspberries, and apples. Future endeavors include additional farm animals and cheese making. Expect wholesome, home cooking with an emphasis on garden-fresh clean eating and the opportunity to relax in one of Michigan’s most scenic areas. This 1880s working farm also produces hay, corn, and maple syrup from its sugar bush. TheFarmhouseBandB.com
Hillside Homestead, Sutton’s Bay
Farm life in 1910 is in order for guests of the Hillside Homestead historic farm-stay inn, located on a working cherry orchard in the middle of the Leelanau Peninsula. Proprietress and food historian Susan Odom prepares made-from-scratch meals on an authentic wood-fired cook stove with eggs, fruits, vegetables, and meats from her farm. Bring a pair of boots and help with the farm chores or just relax and enjoy being fully immersed in the activities of an early 20th-century farm. Odom also offers historic dinners, farmcations, and classes in wood stove cooking, basic canning and pickling, chicken butchering, and more. HillsideHomestead.com
Amanda’s Bequest, Montague
Originally a manse — a house occupied by Presbyterian ministers — this history-filled B&B was built in the early 1870s and rescued in 2010 from certain doom by John and Valerie Hanson. Room by room, the beautiful restoration immerses guests into an early farming lifestyle, where breakfast is created on a 100-year-old range with farm-fresh ingredients using historical recipes and cooking techniques. In addition to the B&B, the owners offer historical culinary arts classes on-site through their Bygone Basics heritage kitchen. Canning, fermenting, bread making, and perfecting the homemade pie are only a few of the classes offered, which makes staying at Amanda’s Bequest a unique educational opportunity to learn the historical cooking and home arts methods of a century-old small farm. BygoneBasics.com
Goldberry Woods, Union Pier
Ramble the 28 acres of diverse ecosystems at the Goldberry Woods B&B and enjoy eating out of hand the cherries, peaches, apples, and myriad berries that innkeepers Julie and Eric Haberichter have planted since opening in 2012. There’s an apiary for honey and a newly added hoop house to extend the growing season of the organic, biodiverse microfarm. Breakfasts change seasonally and are made from scratch with farm-fresh ingredients and locally sourced organic meats. Guests are treated to a unique dining experience meant to “expand the palate” with delightful combinations of organically homegrown fruits, vegetables, and nutmeats. GoldberryWoods.com
“People are really craving farm visits that are up close and personal, and B&Bs are an opportunity to do that,” says Janice Benson, executive director for the Michigan Agritourism Association. “Across the country, farmers are starting to open their doors, and I believe this creates lifelong supporters of farms.”
Trading express lanes for country lanes, connecting with a simpler time, supporting local agriculture, or mingling with chickens, seeking a farm B&B for a summer vacation is a unique way to experience the agricultural diversity of Michigan. Pack the muck boots – there’s a good chance that doing a few farm chores will be just as rewarding as the crisp linen sheets and delightful breakfasts.