A growing (pardon the pun) market for two leading industries, agriculture and tourism, is agritourism or agritainment. This exciting, interactive area can translate into greater economic impact, especially for rural communities.
But first, just what do I mean by agritourism? One of the definitions that I use is “The act of visiting a working farm or an agricultural, horticultural or agri-business operation for the purpose of enjoyment, education or active involvement in the activities of the farm or operation.” For the farmer, that means an alternative revenue stream where visitors will pay for the experience of being on the farm.
Agriculture as a whole has realized the importance of teaching today’s consumers where their food and fiber originates and how it is produced. That is the purpose of the Ag-In-The-Classroom or Ag-Literacy initiatives. Agritourism enhances that effort. The goal of tourism is to attract visitors from over 50 miles away from a destination, creating overnight hotel stays and thus additional room tax for the destination and state.
The essence of agritourism is to not only sell an agricultural product to the consumer but also to sell the “Experience.” To maximize the Experience and to add value to the products that are sold, an agritourism business should strive to fulfill the four components of the Experience: entertain, educate, escape and aesthetic.
To achieve maximum return from agritourism, the farm or business should sell not only an agricultural product but also the experience of visiting a farm or rural destination. You are then not only receiving the price of a bushel of apples but also the revenue from a corn maze, for instance.
What are examples of agritourism? Produce farms, U-pick operations, orchards, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, wineries, elk farms, alpaca farms and organic farms are all examples of agritourism businesses. Related businesses can also be a part of this sector, such as breweries, food processing plants, nurseries, fisheries and fiber arts studios, to name a few.
One of the methods to really maximize the economic impact that a destination can achieve through agritourism is to create a critical mass of related experiences. And that is where the local events really shine. County fairs, farmers markets or agriculturally related events and celebrations can draw overnight-stay visitors to a destination. Agritourism is really selling the “Good Life” that the consumers from metropolitan areas remember from their childhood. They want to share that experience with their children and grandchildren. County fairs are a prime example of where the country life is experienced. The county fair or other event can be the gateway to attracting people to go to the agribusinesses in that destination. To entice a visitor from over 50 miles away that will stay overnight in a destination, the county fair needs to be packaged with other agricultural experiences. That is where cooperation and coordination become very important. In order to attract new and additional visitors, local agritourism people need to meet with their convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, farm bureaus and other agricultural associations to build agritourism destinations and create a local agritourism task force.
The local tourism experts know how to reach or market to people from many different markets. They use the latest technology and design to position your farm or business to be successful. Another important resource is your state department or bureaus of agriculture and tourism.
One more very important aspect of agritourism is customer relations. When you are in the business of agritourism, you are in the people business. You need to really like to work with the public, and that means all types of public! The most effective marketing can be word-of-mouth marketing. That kind of marketing means not only satisfied customers but “wowed” customers that will go home and talk about the experience that they had and tell others to come.
Today’s consumers are looking for genuine, educational, fun experiences. What better way to grow your success (and enhance your community’s economic health) than through agritourism!