The intersection of agriculture and tourism covers a lot of ground, from seasonal events to year-long operations that connect people with nature in fun, educational, often super-delicious ways. Here in Orlando, visitors never have to venture too far off the beaten path to enjoy the fruits of our farms and gardens — for some convention attendees, the goodness even greets them in the lobby. Here are five places in America’s most-visited destination where local agriculture is the top attraction.
Whisper Creek Farm
At the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, they don’t just bring the farm to the table, they bring the table to the farm. Set amid the 500-acre Grande Lakes estate, Whisper Creek Farm features a large fruit-and-vegetable garden along with outdoor meeting space for unique, interactive and educational farm-to-fork experiences. In addition, products from the farm are used throughout the resort at both The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott, in restaurant dishes, beverages, and even spa treatments at the award-winning Ritz-Carlton Spa Orlando.
OCCC’s Center-to-Table Gardens
Did you know that the Orange County Convention Center is a leader in innovative urban agriculture? It’s true. Fresh vegetables and herbs are harvested daily from the Center-to-Table Gardens, a 2,000-square-foot collection of 81 aeroponic towers located in the Westwood Lobby. The gardens yield edible greens in an all-natural, chemical-free environment. Each tower contains 44 planting spots that produce ingredients for many of the meals prepared at the Convention Center. Plants include: kale, rainbow chard, basil, bok choy, celery, peppers, spinach, edible flowers, lettuce and herbs.
East End Market
This trendy neighborhood market, event center and food hub — located in Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District — showcases some of our region’s top food entrepreneurs, tradespeople, artists and chefs. The two-story structure is home to a dozen food and retail merchants, event venues, gardens, kitchens, offices, award-winning catering and world-class dining. East End offers a true taste of Orlando, and it’s always a favorite for out-of-town journalists who work with Visit Orlando’s publicity team to craft stories that showcase our destination’s diverse culinary scene.
More than a dozen farmers markets can be found in and around Orlando, with three of the most popular occurring in Winter Garden, Winter Park and along the shores of Lake Eola downtown. Winter Garden has twice been awarded the nation’s best farmers market by the American Farmland Trust; Winter Park’s weekly event features more than 80 vendors at the city’s historic train depot; and where else but the Orlando Farmers Market can you supplement your fresh-veggie shopping with a swan ride?
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
You don’t have to travel to California to visit an award-winning winery. In fact, all that’s required is a short trip to Clermont’s gently rolling countryside. Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, which opened in 1989, is Florida’s largest premium winery and a pioneer in the development of table and sparkling wines from muscadine and hybrid grapes. More than 160,000 people visit the winery annually, enjoying its extensive tasting room, festivals and gift shop. Together, the Lakeridge and Lakeridge Reserve brands have won more than 13,000 awards for excellence in winemaking.
Orlando’s Homegrown Eats
Farm-to-table trend elevates local dining scene
Over the years, Orlando has elevated its reputation as a foodie hub, adding an impressive amount of farm-to-table dining options along the way. The trend, which started exclusively in the fine dining world, has quickly spread to fast and casual concepts, creating fertile conditions for area farms — and farmers markets — to quite literally grow their business in a big way.
While the movement may have begun with food activists and celebrity chefs, the community at large is now accustomed to sustainable, locally sourced, seasonal produce served in kitchens across Orlando. Even the Orange County Convention Center — as we reported this issue — has gotten in on the act with its innovative Center-to-Table Gardens.
People increasingly want to understand — and take pride in — where their food comes from. And that’s a concept our destination has come to embrace.
Here, we offer a little taste of everything, from award-winning farmers markets to hidden gems like agritourism dining. In a break from city life that’s still uniquely Florida, many local farmers host “table-to-farm” dinners that feature guest chefs and fresh pickings from the day’s harvest.
We’re also home to numerous fresh food tours and festivals, as well as wineries, vineyards and u-pick farms. And, of course, Visit Orlando’s signature Magical Dining Month presents the perfect opportunity for participating restaurants to showcase the best of the best in local ingredients and cuisine.
It’s exciting to see our culinary offerings flourish alongside the booming popularity of farm-fresh concepts. Indeed, Orlando’s leadership in this area only adds to the diversity and depth of our destination, giving visitors the world over yet another reason to choose us for their next vacation or business gathering.