Whether you have roamed a corn maze at a pumpkin patch, sipped merlot during a wine tour, or stayed the night in a charming bed & breakfast, you have undoubtedly (and maybe even unknowingly) participated in agri-tourism. This growing industry has been taking local tourism efforts and communities by storm, offering a unique opportunity for visitors to foster genuine connections with local communities.
It may come to no surprise that agri-tourism is exactly as it sounds – the marriage of tourism with local farming, forest, or other agricultural businesses, combining the two into one tangible and memorable experience. Some destinations have introduced local experiences directly on local farms, including wine tours or cheese making classes, while others have expanded their presence by hosting festivals, celebrations, and other public events.
Common examples of agri-tourism include:
Agri-tourism is becoming increasingly popular in large and small communities across the country – and for good reason. Today’s travelers have become bored with mundane and predictable tourist trap activities; instead they crave adventurous, immersive, and valuable experiences. Agri-tourism provides the unique opportunity of mutual benefit between both the community’s visitors and the local farms and businesses that help establish these location’s character and history.
Through agri-tourism, cities and farms are able to teach the rich history of local agriculture through operations and leave a lasting impression upon curious visitors wanting to truly experience and connect with their food, drink, flora, and fauna.
In Salida, Colorado, Hutchinson Homestead caters to families with camps and trips that show young visitors how to play a part on the ranch, teaching current ranching practices, the history of the homestead, and traditional skills from the pioneers and beyond. This strategy helps younger generations build an emotional connection with the environment around them, resulting in future travelers who understand community values and eco conscious exploration.
Southold Farm + Cellar, in Fredericksburg, TX, takes advantage of agri-tourism through their on-location tastings and tours. Their goal is to make wines that speak of place and time which means you should expect wines to vary year to year, like individual children with their personalities. Their wines tell the story of Texas and that vintage through each variety in each parcel.
In Sequim, Washington, Purple Haze Lavender Farms has dedicated their agri-tourism efforts towards events, acting as a vibrant wedding destination and B&B experience, hosting lavender infusion classes, and even organizing the city’s annual Lavender Festival every July.
No matter the approach or audience, these efforts provide a world of benefits to local communities. They not only provide new tangible opportunities to attract visitors, but also expanding opportunities for local businesses and farms to add additional streams of revenue to their business, a feature that can prove to be extremely beneficial for more seasonal industries or slow times.
Is your community interested in expanding your agri-toursim presence? Before opening your doors to this opportunity, remember the following to ensure that you are setting your businesses and community up for early success.
Remember, It Is A Community Effort
Getting started in agri-tourism requires advanced planning, commitment, and communication between leadership, farmers, and the local community. Get local farmers and business owners involved in the conversation early by establishing dedicated agri-tourism committees, encouraging direct feedback from all potential participants, and holding focus groups/meetings at times and locations that are convenient for farmers.
Don’t Cannonball In
If you are just dipping your toes into agri-tourism, it is important to start slowly and small. This will help your famers, business owners, leadership, and residents to test the waters and adjust to the change. By slowly easing into this new opportunity, it will not only help you understand the logistical implications and potential improvements to be made before you open the doors to tourists, but it may also help you quickly decide whether or not you would like to move forward with expanding agri-tourism in your community at all. You can start slow by focusing on local, community only events, like self-supervised groups and field trips with local schools. Once you feel comfortable with the layout and direction of your efforts, you can begin establishing larger goals and plans.
Any connection to your community’s history, culture or actual agriculture industry is ideal and can create a greater connection with the community. You don’t need to trick it up – just look for ways to keep it real, authentic, educational and fun.
Regardless of your city’s background, location, or offerings, agri-tourism helps to level the playing field and offers nearly endless arrays of opportunity and creativity within a community. And with 77% of people throughout the United States and Australia indicating that they are looking to implement more sustainability in their lives, you can expect agri-tourism to continue seeing much more agri-tourism throughout the upcoming years.