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How Agritourism is Saving American Farms

August 2, 2023 Katherine Follansbee

How Agritourism is Saving American FarmsFor hundreds of years, farming has been the way of life in many rural areas. However, with changing supply chains, rising input costs, and shifting values, farming alone is no longer enough to keep many families afloat. In fact, agricultural production items increased in price by 15.6% from the end of 2021 to 2022more than double the rate of inflation — and this trend is not slowing down. At the same time, and perhaps as a result, the number of farms in the US continues to decline.

The solution? Agritourism.

Agritourism (or agrotourism) is a subset of tourism in which visitors seeking unique experiences take classes, participate in farm chores, stay overnight, and recreate in other ways at working farms.

Farms across the world, from vineyards to dude ranches to flower farms, host agritourists. For visitors, staying on a farm means clean air, dark starry night skies, fresh produce, and the chance to play with animals and bond with family. For farmers, agritourism means a chance to generate supplemental income that can keep their farms operating.

If you have ever gone apple picking, attended a barn wedding, or bumped along in the back of a tractor to find your perfect pumpkin, you were supporting this niche, but rapidly growing, industry. Revenue generated by agritourism in the US more than tripled from 2002-2017, generating an estimated $949 million in sales in 2017.

This growth is not expected to stop any time soon and goes beyond the US. In 2021, the global agritourism market was valued at $45.4 billion, and it is expected to reach an estimated value of $141 billion by 2030.

Keys to Success in Agritourism

There are a number of factors necessary to make agritourism possible in your community and even more to help make it successful.

  • Reliable internet connection. Many rural areas struggle with internet connection issues, making it difficult to facilitate online bookings, marketing, and communication with customers. Investing in high-speed internet is a key step on the path to agritourism, and many states are taking advantage of the federal government’s $42 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program to do just that. Contact your state’s broadband office to learn more about any plans to expand high-speed internet access in your community.
  • Local government support. Agritourism is made possible by government support. If your local town/city or county ordinances and zoning codes don’t currently allow agritourism on existing farms, work with your local government officials to get them changed. Additionally, many local governments provide grants and other funding to agritourism providers. Looking into available resources can be a great way to get more familiar with the local agritourism scene.
  • Insurance. One of the main concerns when inviting guests to a property with electric fences, uneven ground, large animals, or other hazards is keeping everyone safe and protecting farmers from legal action. The key to inviting guests to a farm is to investigate the appropriate forms of insurance and find out if the state has a suggested safety and liability sign that you can post on the property.

Agritourism can be made even more successful with:

  • The help of local agritourism organizations. Local agritourism organizations can help farmers navigate the paperwork and legal matters that come with agritourism, as well as facilitate marketing, events, and conferences. If a community does not have such an organization, one may exist at the state level, or farmers can create their own to share advice and resources.
  • Agritourism maps/trails. Brochures or websites with maps of local agritourism providers or other marketing materials like wine trails can help bring attention to a community’s rural tourism activities. The more there is to do for an agritourist in an area, the longer they will stay, benefiting local farmers. This is one of the reasons why collaboration between farmers is key.
  • Collaboration between farmers. While it may seem counterintuitive for farmers to share their guests with other farms, working together to bring visitors to the area and sending them on day trips to other nearby farms keeps heads in beds for longer and provides something for everyone.
  • The incorporation of agritourism into the local identity. Making farms and farm events a part of the community identity can draw attention to the local agritourism scene and bring more business to the local area. For example, holding a festival celebrating a local crop (pumpkins, apples, corn, etc.) that all the local farmers can take part in brings more tourists than one farm selling pumpkins would. Furthermore, other local businesses, such as food and beverage vendors, can participate as well, benefiting the community at large.

While every farm and community has its own considerations to take into account, these common factors can help get agritourism off the ground, and once in place, guests and supplemental income are soon to follow.

Camoin Associates can help you better understand your local farming industry, develop strategies and recommendations for improved economic resiliency, assess the financial feasibility of proposed changes and new investment, and complete visitor and economic impact analyses of agritourism activities in your region. Learn more about our services.