This summer, get outside and see what Minnesota Grown farmers have to offer with a road trip around southeastern Minnesota. Though not the most well-known area of the state, the southeast offers a picturesque landscape of rolling plains and deep wooded valleys, with the Mississippi chugging along to the east. The high bluffs, clear waterways, and ample farm space make for a diverse environment that fosters an ideal growing climate for a multitude of crops.
Fossum Family Farm, near Northfield, kicks off our drive. Guests can call ahead to schedule a tour of the farm. This unique operation has around 70 alpacas and some highland cows. The Fossum family works hard to breed top-quality bloodlines and sought after characteristics in their animals, and the effort shows. Stretch your legs on a guided tour, and be sure to snap photos with your new furry friends.
Jump in the car for a short, 25 minute drive from Fossum Family Farm to Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings, the oldest vineyard in the state and the first to produce wine from 100% Minnesota grown grapes. This winery is open on weekends and offers wine tasting with seven samples. You can also create your own tasting menu or purchase by the glass or bottle. While at the winery, guests can take a walk in the sculpture park, play bocce, or have a picnic on the lawn. Their shop offers a variety of local cheeses, crackers and other treats to make your picnic come to life. (Tip: Buy a bottle of wine here or at our next stop to pair with pizza later)
Continue exploring Minnesota’s vineyards another 40 minutes southeast on the Great River Road at Flower Valley Vineyard and Winery in Red Wing. Open on weekend afternoons and evenings, stop in to learn about the seven different varieties of grapes grown at the vineyard. The tasting room is a great place to sample their 15 wine varieties. Big groups can call ahead and schedule a private tasting. This July, they will be completing an outdoor patio space where guests can sample wine in the open air. While the adults are tasting wine, kids can enjoy themselves playing lawn games outside. Pets are welcome, too. Before you leave, take a stroll around the farm to see donkeys, goats, chickens, horses, and a miniature cow.
Travel 30 minutes south on US-61 to visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. Learn about our national symbol by exploring the interactive exhibits, meeting live bald eagles, attending a daily program, or scanning the skies above the Mississippi River on the observation deck. Another 10 minutes down the highway, pop in to Lark Toys for an ice cream, a game of mini golf, and a ride on the wooden, hand-carved carousel. In Winona, art lovers can stop at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum to see works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne, Leutze, O’Keeffe, and Cassatt.
If you are traveling on a weekend in late August through October, you can continue on to Southwind Orchards, 30 minutes south of Winona. This picturesque orchard sits at the base of a small valley with a reservoir at its center. A quaint gazebo overlooks the water and a bridge stretches across to a small island. At the store you will find a variety of apples and local products such as jams, jellies, apple sauce, cider, caramels, honey, and maple syrup. Afterwards, pull off at Kapper’s Big Red Barn in Chatfield. Their self-serve store is open until 8pm daily, so it’s the perfect place to stock up on fresh dairy products for the week. Don’t forget to bring a cooler with ice!
Finish off your trip with dinner at Squash Blossom Farm in Oronoco. The farm hosts live music and makes fresh pizza featuring Minnesota Grown tomatoes and herbs on Sunday evenings. Order ahead online to ensure you have a pizza waiting for you. Cold beverages are available, and from time to time they offer homemade desserts. Bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket, and pull out your Minnesota wine for a delicious local meal in the open air.
Of course, these are only a few of the fantastic Minnesota Grown members in southeastern Minnesota! To mix and match other destinations into your road trip, use the Minnesota Grown Directory.
Want to make it a full weekend affair?
Camping is an affordable way to see southeastern Minnesota. Follow these links for campgrounds throughout the area:
Whitewater State Park: https://bit.ly/2LZVvTn
Carley State Park: https://bit.ly/2JgxqKb
Hok-Si-La City Park and Campground: https://bit.ly/2HmDkUr
Zumbro Bottoms Horse Campground: https://bit.ly/2JwtXGA
Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park: https://bit.ly/2HpatP8