The farmlands that extend inland across three counties from St. Augustine channel American history. Timucuan farms sustained the Ancient City. “Farm-to-table” endowed Flagler Era hospitality. Now the nonprofit St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance is helping define this rural corridor for family visits. St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler County government are on board. So are tri-county Extension offices. So is the Putnam-St. Johns County Farm Bureau.
St. Johns County has proclaimed the corridor “critical to the survival of local agricultural communities.” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam at a recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Blue Sky Farms praised what the corridor could accomplish.
“To see this county come together with an agritourism corridor is very exciting. . . it creates a whole new revenue stream potential. For society, it creates the opportunity to bring your kids and grandkids out here to see how all of this happened and have some good, old fashioned family fun.”
That’s the opportunity the Alliance has taken up: to strengthen the agrarian economy by introducing farm visits and by adding off-farm activities of a compatible kind.
Of course the trail isn’t yet finished, but hundreds of cyclists a week along portions already in place (and otherwise detouring around gaps) have begun discovering this cradle of American family farming. Many more already drive the corridor daily.
Where before there were only individual farms and isolated activities, the Tri-County Agritourism Corridor is becoming a defining wherewithal, an umbrella collection of things to see, do and enjoy. Already in place or coming are:
- The Florida Agricultural Museum
- The Bartram Heritage Trail
- Armstrong, the 200-soul Gullah community at the southern terminus of the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a National Heritage Area
- Events at 3 county fairgrounds including county fairs and Cracker Days
- Produce, honey, home-made pie, organic egg and premium Florida-brand peanut stands.
- Authentic country stores
- A local crafts barn
- A seasonal fall corn maze
- The seasonal late-winter azalea spectacle at Ravine Gardens State Park
- Spring and fall county celebrations
- Outdoor riverside brunches, plant swaps and kite flying
- Barn jams
- Pubs galore
- Horse farms, training centers, and Andalusia cattle farms
- A petting zoo and outdoor event tent
- Two of the last 3 public ferries on the St. Johns River
- Local riverfront and lakeshore restaurants and places to stay, from fish camps to B&Bs
And of course the region also claims coastal St. Augustine, riverfront Palatka and lakeside Crescent City.
We will shortly compile a calendar of corridor activities for visitor enjoyment. By fall we will start posting DIY itineraries for visits.
Your feedback welcomed.