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FEATURE ARTICLE Agritourism in Yankton By Katelyn Schramm, Guest Writer In a time seemingly consumed by tech gadgets, there exists the primal urge to ditch the screens and concentrate on creating experiences. The attempt at connecting to our humanity through experiences has also lead to an increase in the desire to know more about the things that used to float in and out of our everyday lives, relatively unnoticed. One such example is the desire to know more about our food and drink. We not only want to know where our food and drink comes from, but we want to know where it goes on each leg of the journey into our home. Even better is when we can be part of the journey and personally follow food or drink from the farm to our table. Enter agritourism, which, broadly defined, involves any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings people to a farm or ranch. Just outside of Yankton’s city limits, on a piece of farmland near Lewis and Clark Lake, agritourism exists in its finest form- a family-owned and operated hop farm called 6th Meridian Hop Farm. The husband and wife pair that operate the hop farm, Ryan Heine and Michelle Donner, did not set out to be part of a movement. The genesis of the hop farm started with a desire to move to Yankton, preferably the country, close to home for both Ryan and Michelle. With a little discussion, Ryan realized he could make their dreams come true on the piece of land that he already owned near Yankton. Michelle had a catering business in Omaha, and that business put Ryan and Michelle in 18 | Yankton Visitors Guide | www.VisitYanktonSD.com contact with brewers who talked about hop farms. The hop farm idea stuck. With some research into the process of growing hops, a piece of land on which to grow the crop, and a desire to settle in the area, the dream took shape. Now, several years after the first harvest, this innovative couple decided to invite visitors into the operation. After overcoming obstacles like the discovery that harvesting by hand is a terrible idea and navigating the brewing culture where you have to establish yourself as a reliable and sustainable hop farm in order to gain a brewer’s trust, Ryan and Michelle decided it was time to push the limits again. Ryan tells me, “It’s about the flavor. It’s not about the beer.” With that seemingly small statement, he says so much. Heine is in no way discrediting the beverage that comes from his crop. What Ryan was hoping to convey was the importance of living in the moment and enjoying an experience. The hop farm yard has tables and chairs, a tap station, the Counterfeit Curbside food truck (owned by the couple and operated by Michelle), live music, yard games, and charming décor. “We wanted to create something like a European beer garden where people can come as a family and not feel awkward about drinking a beer with their kids along. We had to have food, music, and, of course, beer,” explains Heine.