Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan, are known for their strong agriculture business, including farm markets and farm experiences. In fact, even those in the agriculture industry gather here to learn best practices and share ideas.
In February, the International Fruit Tree Association met in Grand Rapids. And this week the 2016 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo kicks off here, bringing more than 4,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors and vendors from across the country.
One of the first pre-conference activities is a bus tour highlighting the area’s agritourism options.
“We have some of the best farm markets in the country, really,” said Allyn Anthony, executive secretary of the Michigan State Horticulture Society. “Most the fruit and a lot of the vegetables are grown on the western side of the state of Michigan, and Grand Rapids is really the geographical center.”
Many area farmers capitalize on their quality by going beyond the market to activities and features aimed at entertainment and education. Kent Harvest Trails highlights some of those farms with an easily searchable website.
And while apple picking, hayrides, pumpkin patches and petting zoos are great family activities, some also offer wine and hard cider tastings making it appealing as a unique meeting location or team-building activity for groups or businesses, Kent Harvest Trails Coordinator Dave Van Antwerp said.
“We have some farms to do a lot of corporate meetings, weddings or recognition dinners,” Van Antwerp said. “They often make special provisions and welcome groups out there during a time when they’re not normally open. They’re great when someone wants a farm atmosphere.”
The locations are also only a short drive from downtown, making it convenient for meeting planners coming to Grand Rapids to schedule activities for their attendees. They can go from a vibrant urban environment to a rural farm atmosphere in minutes.
If even a short drive is not feasible, there are still great farmers markets close to downtown facilities. Fulton Street Farmers Market and the Downtown Market can provide a taste of the farm without ever leaving the city.