BAYFIELD, Wis. – It is no news to folks in the country that if they wait for help from far away usually all they do is become older. Folks in rural areas tend to work together to accomplish things.
And so it is with the Bayfield Fruit Loop. In northern Bayfield County at the tip of Wisconsin the state’s big toe dips into Lake Superior. There a productive relationship has developed between the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen farms.
The Bayfield Peninsula is surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, which leads people to believe the area is cold year-round. Lake Superior is cold. But it acts like a big thermostat that moderates air temperature. Land close to the lake can have a longer growing season due to the overall moderate temperature of Lake Superior’s water. The microclimates formed by the unique relationship between land and lake are perfect for growing fruit.
The Bayfield area has a history of growing fruit that stretches back for more than a century, said David Eades, Bayfield Chamber & Visitor Bureau executive director.
“What we really try to do is highlight our local producers here,” he said. “Farmers and other food producers are so passionate about having a vibrant food culture, and we promote it. The Fruit Loop isn’t a single road. It’s the whole area around Bayfield.”
The chamber distributes brochures statewide. Special recognition is given in its travel guide and on its website. Radio and television ads promote the Fruit Loop.
“We want to share,” Eades said. “I am biased; (it’s) the best-tasting fruit in the state – apples blackberries, blueberries, currants. We work with the University of Wisconsin-Extension and farmers to keep highlighting (fruit growing) and including more and more producers in the Fruit Loop.
“Culinary tours happen all over the country. We have some of the best chefs and restaurants in the Midwest here. You can have a five-course meal or a burger at a bar. All of our restaurants try to use locally sourced products. We are working together to ensure we have a vibrant food system here. This area was designated a decade ago by the state Legislature as the berry capital of Wisconsin. I talk to people every week who come here from all over Europe, South America, China. This is definitely an international destination.”
Justin Sexton and Mackenzie Smith, owners of Apple Hill Orchard, said they’re glad to be part of the Fruit Loop.
“It’s a group of orchards that work together to promote what we are selling,” Smith said. “A lot of them are family-owned. We joined about a year and a half ago. People are able to jump from place to place to get the type of fruit they want. The Bayfield Chamber is huge for promoting … They call daily this time of year to get out news about what is available. We produce sweet cherries in summer. In fall we have apples, pears, plums, and we make caramel apples and pies as well.”
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism estimates tourism had a $50 million economic impact in 2018 in Bayfield County. The Fruit Loop as well as restaurants and other farms play a huge role in that tourism number, Eades said. Bayfield County, Ashland County and towns all work together to attract visitors. Folks work together to accomplish things.
Visit bayfield.org/what-to-do/orchards-berry-farms for more information.