Cultivating Agritourism

Posted on 06/29/2009 at 12:00 AM by Christa Hartsook

Blog entry written by Christa Hartsook, communications specialist, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University Extension, hartc@iastate.edu 

In simple terms, agritourism is defined as the connection of tourism and agriculture. Goals of the travel industry are to increase visitation and extend overnight stays, expanding revenue. Agritourism takes those travel industry goals one step farther to increase revenue from on-farm activities, protect the farm from fluctuating markets, expand on-farm employment, provide off-season income, improve business sustainability, diversify farm operations and preserve land for future generations.

People are looking for new educational experiences and an inexpensive way to provide entertainment for their family in light of a struggling economy.

Jane Eckert of Eckert AgriMarketing maintains there are three levels of agritourism. Level I simply involves selling what you grow from a farm stand, tent or small store. A Level II operation creates an authentic farm experience that can be simple or involved and may include an expanded retail area in a permanent building and activities that offer a variety of options such as play areas, pick-your-own produce, corn mazes, workshops, petting zoos and concessions. A Level III operation graduates to a large retail shopping destination/facility that is open year-round with a restaurant, permanent restrooms, paved parking and major special events.

Eckert advises that all producers considering agritourism as a side business must first start with their property and evaluate the size, buildings, geographic location and farm setting itself.

Then, producers need to look at their family. Is there a desire for children to work on the farm? What are the skills and talents of each family member? What personalities of each family member would be good in what specific areas for a farm destination? What are the hobbies and interests of each family member? Is there a way to incorporate those?

Agritourism requires dealing with the public, and some farm operators prefer a quieter operation without the traffic, customers and direct marketing.

The first step in marketing your farm is to take care of the basics. Look and see your farm through your customers’ eyes, Eckert advises. The customer will have an almost Norman Rockwell image of farming - no trash on the ground, clean, kept-up buildings, parking areas, landscaping and flowers are all important.

Eckert also suggests creating a farm ambiance and paying attention to that first impression through signage to direct them to the farm, welcome signage at the farm with a country feel and continuous improvements to the grounds, facilities and offerings.

Today's financial economy and the growing local foods movement bring opportunities for producers to investigate adding an agritourism enterprise to your farm revenue.

For specific consulting questions on marketing agritourism, consult Jane Eckert at www.eckertagrimarketing.com. For more information on agritourism operations, business development assistance and agritourism examples, visit www.agmrc.org.

Categories: Agritourism