Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Love Those Tours

Handmade in America in western NC was the first group that really turned me onto the power of tours. Those 21 counties turned an independent bunch of artisans into a coordinated marketing effort that today has evolved into a $500 million industry, positively impacting hundreds of small towns.

In Wausau, WI, I was excited to find tours of maple syrup producers, dairies and cheese, orchards, beer and wine.

I didn’t know until last week that you could visit 116 different cheese producers in WI, 60 orchards, 116 maple syrup boilers, 26 vintners and even 25 brewers. Throw in Lambeau Field in the ‘frozen tundra’ and you’ve got weeks of exploring that you can do in the state.

While dairies, cheeses, maple syrup and beer probably don’t shock you about WI, I’ll bet that you didn’t know that central WI is THE market for ginseng. Over 95% of the ginseng root exported from the USA, mostly to the Far East, is grown here. Ginseng berries turn red in August and harvested in September. The roots are harvested a month later.

There are a lot of niche producers in WI. If you get a chance, pick up one of their tour maps and explore.

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