We took a road trip this past weekend. We needed to be just north east of Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday morning and to be back in Northwest Florida by mid afternoon the same day. We decided to take all day Saturday to make a leisurely drive, stay in a B&B overnight (more of this in a separate post) and then high tail it back on Sunday.
This day and age, I guess we all reach for our GPS of choice, enter the start and end points and hope for the best. Most of the modern built-in GPS (or SatNav, for my UK readers) systems will allow you to enter preferences – avoid highways, avoid tolls, don’t drive into rivers, etc. – but come up with a single route. The stand alone ones, Google Maps, Apple’s Siri, Waze etc., do offer a number of choices. We looked at the last three systems and they couldn’t agree on common routes. The apps even came up with different routes on the same app on separate devices!
I began to think that we’d be better off with a paper topographical map (again for the UK – an O.S. Map) so we could work out where we wanted to go and not be seduced by the ‘you can save 5 minutes by taking the interstate – unless there’s a wreck we haven’t noticed’ suggestions.
However we finally chose a Google route (which Apple Maps later agreed with) to take only back roads between the Panhandle and Watkinsville GA. It was glorious! Small but fast roads through beautiful farmland, small towns that don’t appear to have changed since 1940 – maybe 1840 in some cases – and virtually no traffic. Total travel time was only 40 mins longer than if we’d travelled interstate and gone through the center of Atlanta.
The downside was that there were few fast food joints on the back roads. That may be a good thing, but when you just want some fast Human fuel…. We did find a Huddle House somewhere in Back of Beyond Georgia. What a gem. Virtually empty and staffed by a group of Deep Southern Ladies who cooked everything to order, great sized portions, tasty and very inexpensive. Best of all, they were blown away by my English accent and kept on asking me to repeat the order just so they could all giggle – y’all! Thanks ladies, you did a great job in making this tourist happy.
We also saw a sign advertising Georgia Peaches for sale. Thinking this would be a roadside stall we went to investigate. We found Dickey Farms (founded 1897). Their website is at:
http://gapeaches.com/ and they’re on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Dickey-Farms-100232761473/.
They are peach farmers and packers, and their packing plant is also a store and visitor’s center. It’s a great place. Grab some fresh peach ice cream, take one of their free fans (like Southern Ladies used to keep cool while sipping mint juleps on their front porch swings!) and watch the packing line – see the photos. You can buy peaches of course, but also cobbler, peach cider, peach sauces, jellies, candy, you name it. If it can have peaches in it, they’ve got it. The whole area around the packing plant is a mini theme park. Again, look at the photos.
All this added to my thoughts on the drive up that Agri Tourism is a growing (sorry, pun intended) and vital part of the rural economy. There is a current movement to preserve the rural way of life in Florida. Despite the impression that Florida is the theme park and beach capital of the world, agriculture is vital to Florida. Farm cash receipts from marketing Florida agricultural products in 2012 amounted to $8.22 billion, a slight decrease from 2011. Nationally, Florida ranks second in the value of vegetable and melon cash receipts with a value of $1.42 billion, 13th in crop cash receipts with a value of $6.38 billion and 10th in total cash receipts. In 2013 Florida had 48,000 commercial farms, using a total of 9.55 million acres; Florida ranked second in the U.S. for value of vegetable production; first in production value for oranges, fresh market tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, fresh market snap beans, fresh market cucumbers and squash; second in the production of greenhouse and nursery products, bell peppers, strawberries, fresh market sweet corn, spring potatoes, tangerines and avocados; 12th in beef cows; and accounts for 63 percent of total U.S. citrus production. Florida ranks eighth in agricultural exports with over $4 billion. (Source: Florida Department of Agriculture).
Florida has a vibrant Agritourism business (http://visitor.visitfloridafarms.com) as does Georgia (http://georgia-agritourism.org), which offer everything from pick-your-own to farm-stays. Many farms we passed in Georgia had signs offering ‘on farm accommodation’. Of course, the Dickey Farms operation is a part of this agri-tourism movement.
There’s much more to tourism than that which immediately comes to mind. To the counties of Northwest Florida (for example – this applies worldwide) there is a compulsive economic reason for promoting beach tourism. There’s a duty also to promote agriculture and to protect rural life by encouraging tourism to the inland areas. This may also get those inland residents ‘on board’ with tourism issues.
Anyway, off the soapbox! By taking the back roads we added 40 minutes to our journey but added to our knowledge of the country, the enjoyment of our trip and learnt more about peaches than I thought possible. It was a great stress reducer too.
‘Siri, directions to a more enjoyable journey please’