Agritourism is definitely not an enterprise every farmer will enjoy. However, for those who are energized by the idea of sharing the farm with the public, this business offers substantial benefits.
Here are a few of the ways agritourism benefits the farmer, the community, and the public at large.
Benefits to the Farmer
- All the advantages of direct marketing. Agritourism can transform a farmer into a price-maker rather than a price-taker.
- An additional, complementary stream of income. Having multiple streams of income is a great idea when you’re farming (or running any other small business, for that matter). This one offers an opportunity to generate additional income from an existing land base. Maybe it will even tap into otherwise underutilized talents and skills!
- Increased profits. Agritourism has proven very profitable to those with the know-how. This boost in income can not only improve the lives of the farm family—it can enable a farm to create new paying jobs for multiple family members, perhaps including some future farmers.
- Seasonal flexibility. Is your cash flow limited by your growing season? Adding agritourism to your lineup can provide an opportunity to make the farm pay the rest of the year, with a little ingenuity. For example, a cut-your-own Christmas tree enterprise will generate income in December. A grassfed beef program that only offers beef in the fall can double as a guest ranch in the summer.
- A new way to market old products. The crowds drawn to your farm as a tourism destination may be interested in making purchases. In fact, the appreciation and understanding that they have developed through their agritourism experience may encourage them to support your endeavor and bring home some real food!
- Interaction with the customer. Many agripreneurs value the opportunity to interact with their customer base, cultivate relationships with them, and listen to their needs. Agritourism by its very nature fosters farmer–customer partnerships.
Benefits to the General Public
- Transparency. Are you selling real food to health-conscious consumers? They may appreciate a chance to see what goes on at the farm.
- Education. Many families and schools these days see the importance of educating children about where their food comes from. And many adults are interested in reconnecting with their roots, as well! A farm set up for tourism offers excellent real-world educational opportunities.
- Back-to-the-land entertainment. Those looking for family-friendly destinations find a certain appeal in farms. An agriculture-based day trip or vacation gets everyone out of the city and offers interactions with nature, plants, and domestic animals.
Benefits to the Local Community
- Improved relationships between farmers and the community. A thriving, reputable agritourism destination is usually an asset to the community, in contrast to many conventional farms that can justly be seen as liabilities.
- Promotion of small communities. Agritourism has the ability to put a small town on the map.
- Increased sales of local products and services. The visitors to your farm just might stop in nearby towns to fill up the gas tank or do a little shopping and dining. If you offer your farm as a marketing venue for neighboring small farmers, they may see some enhanced revenues, as well.
Of course, inviting the public onto your farm carries certain liabilities, which are beyond the scope of this post. But there is no question that agritourism can foster a symbiotic relationship between the farmer, the public, and the local community. This in turn makes it extremely compatible with a balanced definition of sustainable agriculture.