Driving north on Route 1 from Rehoboth Beach, tour guide Bob Willis told the five passengers in his van, “It's going to be a good day.”
Heading toward Black Hog Farmstead in Lewes, Willis said weekdays are perfect for exploring Sussex County's family farms on a Delmarva Board Sport Adventures Delmarva Discovery Tour.
“Weekends are harder with the traffic,” Willis said, adding land-based tours were added this summer. For the past seven years, Rehoboth Beach-based Delmarva Board Sports has focused on kayak and paddle-board rentals and guided eco-tours.
Willis said business owners George and Janis Markopoulos thought there might be a demand for land-based tours exploring local agriculture, gardens, antique shops, wineries and breweries.
They were right, Willis said.
“The farm tours are probably our most popular,” he said. “But there's something for everyone.”
The large, white van soon pulled up a gravel driveway off New Road on the outskirts of Lewes. Black Hog Farmstead owner and arborist John Feliciani stood outside his home, which doubles as a bed and breakfast, ready to greet the visitors.
Pittsburgh residents Hollie and Jason Meckler and their daughter, 8-year-old Luna, scooted out of the van, followed by Lewes resident Barbara Wallace and her 7-year-old grandson, Parker.
A stack of colorful boxes behind a fence caught Luna's eye, and she scurried over to investigate. Dozens of honeybees buzzed past her on their way to and from the bee boxes housed at the organic farm.
Feliciani led the visitors on a tour of the 4-acre farm, where he grows organic figs and market-fresh vegetables. Luna and Parker lit up as they watched Feliciani's wife and partner, Helen, corral ducks into a fenced garden area.
“We try to be very sustainable,” Feliciani explained as he showed off an organic compost pile that will provide nutrients for their upcoming crop.
After chatting for a while under a curled willow tree, it was time to head to the next stop: Milton's Lavender Fields.
There, as butterflies fluttered close by, the group listened to a presentation about the farm's history, and the culinary and therapeutic benefits of different varieties of the aromatic flower.
As guests munched on some lavender-flavored treats, the van moved on to a much-anticipated stop at Hopkins Farm Creamery. There was just enough time to treat the visitors to a cone of ice cream, and say hello to the newly born calves.
Then they were off again, this time to Indian Point Farms off Route 1, where more farm animals delighted the children and their families.
Farmer Dave Melvin, who was manning the market at Route 1 and Cave Neck Road, said he loves when tours stop by the farm.
“It gets people out here to see what we do,” he said. Too often, he said, city slickers who stop by have little knowledge about how their food gets from the farm to the table. He sees the Delmarva Discovery Tours as a way to educate the public, and said he hopes they might buy something while they're there, too.
“It was like education and fun mixed together,” Hollie Meckler said of the tour as the van returned to Rehoboth. “I think it was wonderful. It was worth it.”
Barbara Wallace said it's easy to overlook that there's more to southern Delaware than the beaches.
“It's nice to remember this area is so agricultural,” she said. “This is such a gem. There's more to Sussex County than Funland. I'll definitely be recommending this to all the Nanas.”
Delmarva Discovery Tours are available year-round and take 3-4 hours. For more about the tours, go to www.delmarvadiscoverytours.com.