Agritourism continues to grow in popularity in the Midwest, and I’m seeing it more in Nebraska each year. Visiting a working farm is an example of agritourism, which not only gets us outdoors and active, but more importantly, to connect us with our state’s roots and food system. Our recent visit to Nelson Produce Farm in Valley, Neb., is a prime example of ag-tourism done right.
A farm close to Omaha
This year, I’ve been seeking close-to-home adventures and hidden gems. I’d heard about Nelson Produce Farm last fall, when social media exploded with pictures of their gorgeous sunflower field.
Months later, I still hadn’t visited so I decided a summer field trip, of sorts, was in order.
2020 UPDATE: The farm currently requires families to pre-purchase tickets for a reserved time at the farm in an effort to keep capacity at 50%. Masks are recommended, and staff will wear them if the temperature is under 85 degrees. It was hotter than that on our visit, so no one had masks on. Also, hand washing stations and hand sanitizer could be found throughout the farm.
Valley is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Omaha, and even closer if you live in West Omaha. It’s not the closest working farm to Omaha, but it still attracts a crowd.
There’s plenty of parking, but it’s all on a field, so if your car isn’t designed for off-roading, don’t go on a wet day.
The food side of the farm
There are two draws to the Nelson Produce Farm: Animals and produce. I’ll start with the produce side since I think it really sets it apart from other farm experiences.
We visited in early summer, so strawberry season. The kids decided to pick strawberries, each getting more than a point of bright, juicy berries.
While half of the group picked berries, the other passed time riding the trikes nearby and shopping in the store.
The Market is a darling little shop selling produce, farm-raised meat, baked goods and a few toys for kids.
Nearby, a concession stand sold hot food, snacks and drinks. It was so incredibly hot, that we opted for a refreshing snack of watermelon slices.
The animal side of the farm
There were plenty of animals on the farm, but there was a distance maintained between guests and most furry friends. This is a different experience than those who’ve been to Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha.
The goats, sheep, horses, and cattle were in their pens when we visited. You can buy food to feed the adult sheep and goats. For an additional fee, you can also bottle feed the babies.
Inside the barn, families encounter more animals like lambs, pigs, and a bunny. One employee on the farm took Solo, the bunny, out of her cage while we were there, so the kids got the chance to pet her.
He also let my kids know it was OK to pick up the baby chicks. I hope that was OK! I kept telling my kids to not do it, and then he OKed it. So, when you go, maybe ask?
You can, however, get close to the ponies and pet them without worry. They were out in the open.
Things the kids will like
So, after animal petting and feeding, and strawberry picking, what else is there to do? Play time.
Here’s where they’ll get messy and – fingers crossed – tired.
The first thing kids want to do when they arrive, and when it’s time to leave, is play on the hay bales near the entrance. Several are lined side by side, allowing for a fun running track for kids.
There’s also a tire mountain to climb. This was where our kiddos spent the most time playing.
Your kids may like the digging area, where a bucket, shovels, and a mount of dirt wait for them. My kids are past the digging stage, so we didn’t hang out there for too long.
There’s also a mini train, but it was not operating while we were there.
How much time should you plan to spend there?
Current requirements at the farm (due to the Coronavirus) state that guests plan on spending two and a half hours at the farm. On a hot day, that was just about all we could stand anyway.
On a nice day? I could see us spending three or more hours there.
How much does it cost?
Admission to Nelson Produce Farm in 2020 was $6 per person (plus a processing fee online). For now, you’ll want to buy your tickets ahead of time, since they are trying to stay at a 50% capacity this summer.
I have some friends who have a membership here, which means they can visit all season long (but they still need to reserve their visit time online ahead of time).
Animal food was $2 per cup; interaction with baby animals was $10 per person. Train tickets were also an additional fee.
Strawberry picking was calculated by-the-pound. Food prices from $6.25 for kids’ meals and $10.99 for adult meals, to treats from $4-$6. The desserts sounded awfully tempting, like strawberry shortcake, root beer floats, and berries and ice cream.
We went the healthy route and opted for gigantic watermelon slices.
FYI: You can buy whole watermelon on the farm to take home. I’ve been told their Black Diamond watermelons are the best.