Strolling, hiking, running, and meandering along a farm trail can be added to the list of agritourism activities encouraged on Vermont farms, thanks to the newly formed Farm Walk Trail network. The Farm Walk Trail network is a collaborative initiative of food, farming and agritourism organizations brought together to create a directory of walking trails on farms across the state. Network partners include: Farm-Based Education Network, NOFA-VT, Shelburne Farms, UVM Extension, Vermont Fresh Network / DigInVT, and the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, all of whom collaborate through the Vermont Farm to Plate Network Agritourism Task Force.
Hosted on agritourism website DigInVT.com, the Vermont Farm Walk Trail network is built on the idea that farms are places for both production and recreation. Momentum for the project grew over time, as organizers observed the success of the countryside walking culture in Europe, and other international destinations. The onset of COVID-19 catalyzed the project, as people sought safe places to be outdoors.
“Vermont is known for offering world class agritourism experiences,” said Heather Pelham, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. “It has been a challenging summer for the entire tourism and hospitality sector, and farmers have had the added stress of hot dry weather. The Farm Walks Project is a bright spot. It’s about getting out to know your neighbors, while being safe and outdoors. This is what Vermont is all about.”
“We believe in sharing our land,” Peter Forbes of Knoll Farm in Fayston, one of the participating farmers said, “and at this moment everyone needs beauty, health and access to nature.” Knoll Farm offers daily passes to the farm, so they know at all times who is on the property and can cap the number of visitors. Each farm has their own system for welcoming visitors to their trails: some ask to be notified ahead-of-time and have set hours, while others encourage walkers to stop by and enjoy the views.
“Exploring outside is essential to building a sense of place, and learning about community,” Dana Hudson said. Dana works with Vermont FEED, a program of Trail project organizers, Shelburne Farms and NOFA-VT. “With most Vermont schools having Farm to School programs, many of our kids are connected to farms in one way or another, but school looks different right now. I’m excited that some kids will be able to get onto farms with their families through taking a farm walk.”
When searching for a farm to visit on DigInVT.com, walkers are encouraged to read the description fully, which shares open hours, trail highlights, hazards that may be encountered, fees, and whether you should call ahead or can just show up. Visitors should expect to find trails in varying condition, from mowed footpaths to well worn hikes. Those with mobility concerns should contact the farm before visiting. All walkers are asked to read the Farm Walks Trail Ethic and review the Farm Walks During COVID-19 Guidelines before setting out.
Whether you’re lacing up your hiking boots and stocking your bag with provisions (sometimes from the farm itself) or are looking for a short, tranquil stroll, Vermont farms have a lot to offer. For more information on the Farm Walk Trail Network and ways to plan your own farm walk, visit https://www.diginvt.com/farmwalks. For farms interested in learning more about participating, contact DigInVT at [email protected].