Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Ohio County Monitor.
By Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture
FRANKFORT, Ky. — It’s that time of the year: The days are growing shorter, the leaves are changing colors, and farmers are harvesting crops. Autumn provides a great opportunity for Kentuckians to get outside and explore the many agricultural destinations in our state. A recent study shared by The Washington Post revealed that an estimated 16.4 million Americans incorrectly think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. While I think in Kentucky we know a bit better than the average American about how our food gets from the farm gate to the dinner plate, there’s no better time like the fall season to learn about agriculture at any of our fine pumpkin patches, orchards, and other agritourism locations.
The first thing that comes to mind for many during October is a large orange pumpkin. Nothing is more fun than taking your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews to select their very own Kentucky Proud pumpkin. Fortunately, there are numerous Kentucky pumpkin patches you can visit this fall.
Friends in the western part of Kentucky can head over to Chaney’s Dairy Barn for ice cream and family fun. You can’t miss Chaney’s big red barn and jumbo jumping pillow located right off of 31W South near Bowling Green. Add the corn mazes and pumpkins, and your family is sure to have a great time. Before you leave, you must indulge in Chaney’s ice cream, which was named the top ice cream in Kentucky by USA Today.
Farther west, Wurth Farms in McCracken County offers hayrides on weekends (weather permitting) and is decked out in a vast array of pumpkins and gourds. In eastern Kentucky, Imel’s Greenhouse is the place to go for pumpkins and plants that will provide fall color for your home, and the kids can romp in the playground while you shop. Two Sisters Pumpkin Patch near Mount Sterling offers baked goods, hay rides, horseback riding, and other activities as well as pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Don’t want to carve your own pumpkin? Consider a trip to Louisville to visit the incredibly popular Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, where you can marvel at more than 5,000 carved pumpkins from October 12 to November 5 at Iroquois Park.
The Bluegrass region of Kentucky is best known for its world-famous Thoroughbred industry, and for three weeks in October, you can see some of the best racing in the country at Keeneland in Lexington. When the horses aren’t running, you can still catch a glimpse of the equine industry at the Kentucky Horse Park or at horse farms that welcome visitors.
You can’t mention Kentucky and agritourism in the same sentence without talking about our most well-known agricultural commodity: distilled corn, or Kentucky bourbon. Take a Saturday to explore a distillery and learn about our $8.5 billion bourbon industry. If bourbon isn’t your drink of choice, visit one of Kentucky’s many wineries or sample an official Kentucky Proud craft beer produced with certified Kentucky hops. Always remember to enjoy these agricultural products responsibly.
In a time when most do not have a direct connection to the farm life of our parents and grandparents, our many farm destinations offer a way for folks to better understand the skills and work that go into producing the food and fiber we all enjoy. You can find any one of our more than 500 agritourism destinations by visiting www.kentuckyfarmsarefun.com. I encourage you to share your agricultural experience on social media with #KyAg365 to show how you choose to fall into Kentucky agriculture this autumn.
Elected in 2015, Ryan Quarles serves as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture.