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Agritourism Business Exploding in Illinois
From pumpkin patches to wineries to corn mazes, more and more people are looking for unique experiences, and they're finding them on the farm.
"I think people are looking for that unique experience and what it is about the destination that makes that destination unique," said Gina Gemberling of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.
For many who have never been on a farm, they're looking for an agriculture experience.
"We have different tours that come through and that kind of thing. They generally schedule big tours through the chamber of commerce in Jacksonville, so bus tours and that kind of thing," said Prairie Land Heritage Museum show chairman Mike Hall.
Visitors are traveling to the Prairie Land Heritage Museum in Jacksonville from all over the world.
"I see a lot of people that come through on the Route 66 tour. So a lot of them divert to come over here and take a look at early American agriculture because they come from Norway and Denmark and New Zealand and everywhere," Hall said.
But for some visitors, it's not enough to just look at farm equipment. They want to see it in action.
"We're going to be taking them around the farm starting out, explaining to them what corn and soybeans are, take them and show them how the combine, how it works, grain bins, tractors and auger wagons, semis, the whole system of farming," said Logan County farmer David Sasse.
Not only do Gail and David Sasse give tours of their farm, but they run Gail's Pumpkin Patch, attracting more than 10,000 visitors each fall.
"We have over 60 varieties of pumpkins. We have the typical, great-looking orange pumpkin. Then we have whites and blues and Cinderellas, which are a bright brilliant orange," said Gail Appl-Sasse.
For those wanting a true on the farm experience, tourism experts say central Illinois is the perfect destination.
"Because we're located in the middle of some of the richest farm ground in the country, Springfield is an obvious destination for all kinds of agritourism," Gemberling said.
And it's bringing in big money for the state.
"Agriculture is an economic driver for all types of industries, including tourism," Gemberling said.
One of the driving forces behind the state's growing agritourism market is wine.
"It's one of the top ranking in wine production across the nation and we now have over 100 wineries across the state of Illinois, so agritourism is a big business for the state of Illinois when it comes to the wine industry," said Jennifer Tirey of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Lindsey Hess, ABC NewsChannel 20