SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When you think of South Dakota you may think of many of the tourist attractions across the state —from Mount Rushmore to the Corn Palace — or maybe you think about farming and cattle grazing on the prairies.

Now, some people are combining these two industries and giving visitors a chance to be a tourist at many agricultural locations and meet the faces behind their food.

Like to play mini golf, eat cheese and pet exotic animals, all while learning about the dairy industry? Then Farm Life Creamery in Ethan is a must-stop tourist destination.

Chad Blase’s family has operated the dairy farm and this creamery for generations, but when the dairy industry really started to struggle, they knew they had to find another way to make their farm profitable.

They decided on turning their creamery into an agritourism location.

“It was decision time, either get out or add value to the product, so that was a big reason why we started considering it, we’ve been thinking about it off and on for probably 10, 15 years, and we just finally decided that it was time to make a change and add some value to the product,” said Blase.

The business sells a variety of cheese, milk and ice cream. They also give visitors a chance to tour the facility and see how the products are made.

“Just teaching kids that there’s a lot to making food I guess is a very important thing for us,” said Blase.

“So educating the consumer when they are here and they see it and how we do it, compared to like a larger manufacturing facility, I think it helps them understand,” said Laura Klock, co-owner of Farm Life Creamery.

But, the farm is about more than just dairy. In 2020, the couple added a mini golf course, tractor tire playground and a petting zoo to the operation, adding to the tourism experience.

“I love interacting with kids and just seeing them with the animals and things like that. One of my favorite things is just being out here in the yard doing things and there’s people over on the mini golf course and they are playing and you’re hearing families laugh and just enjoying things like that,” said Blase.

Ag tourism has taken on many forms across South Dakota. If you take a trip to Lennox, you will get a totally different experience at Good Earth Farm. This farm is a sustainable vegetable farm, but more recently it has become an event venue, thanks to its beautiful historic barn.

“Traditionally we’ve been a CSA farm, which means we have a community of people who buy vegetables from us, we deliver those vegetables to them throughout the year. But, we’ve been working on the farm quite a bit to get it a place where people who are interested in being outside in a space like this can gather,” said Nancy Kirstein, owner.

The farm has hosted a variety of community events this year, from open mic events to create your own pizza nights.

“It’s really fun to see you know, kids out here running around playing, we’ve got a dirt pile over there from construction projects, that seems to be a hit, so we don’t really need bouncy houses or other types of brought in entertainment for kids to have fun out here they get to run around and just be in a wide open space,” said Kirstein.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is excited to see the agritourism industry grow in the state.

“I think we see the interest from visitors so much. They are coming to South Dakota, we have our wonderful national parks, and so many other wonderful businesses but they really do resonate agriculture when they are coming here and there’s not a lot of businesses that say ‘oh yes you can come out on our farm or just stop by,’ so we really want to give visitors that unique learning experience that they want when they come to South Dakota,” said Jacey Ellsworth, industry outreach development representative and agritourism manager for the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

Right now, there are under 100 agritourism locations in the state, and there are many aspects of the industry that are left uncovered.

“I think there is still so much untapped potential for producers and we are completely understanding that the family has to be willing to welcome visitors, it’s not for everyone, it is a time commitment, but if families are looking to diversify their ag operation, it’s a great opportunity and people have had so much fun with it,” said Ellsworth.

But as these producers say, don’t be afraid to go for it and add something new to your operation.

“It’s worth the time and it’s worth the effort and bringing people, education is absolutely huge. We owe that to our young people to teach them how much work goes into making food and what’s all behind it, there’s a lot of work that goes behind it, and teaching people that is very important so I would absolutely encourage anyone that’s interested in doing something to at least research it and look into it as much as possible,” said Blase.

If you are interested in adding an agritourism aspect to your farm or want more information, you can contact the Department of Tourism. They will also be hosting an agritourism workshop Thursday, November 17 in Sturgis.