10 Agritourism Ideas for Your Farm
What is Agritourism and its Benefits?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
This article is also in audio form for your listening enjoyment. Scroll down just a bit to find the recording.
By Michelle Marine – Earning extra cash on your farm is possible with the agritourism ideas I’m sharing today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 80% of the people in the United States live in urban areas. Nostalgia for country life is alive and well though, thanks to a thriving agritourism industry that draws people from the city and helps them experience country life in a variety of ways: participating in farm life, staying overnight at farms, or helping their kids experience the animals and food production.
What is agritourism, you might ask? Quite simply, agritourism is the melding of agriculture and tourism. The term was first coined by the U.S. Census of Agriculture in 2007 and the popularity of agritourism has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, “28,575 farms offered agritourism and recreational services resulting in $949 million in sales” in 2017 (https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/agritourism). Gen Xers and millennials especially are quick to spend their money on family experiences versus things and agritourism is no exception.
Agritourism, while it sounds fancy, is not a new concept. Urban dwellers have been heading to the country to escape city life, weather, pollution, or a host of other things for a long time. Consider Marie Antoinette’s Hameau de la Reine, or Queen’s Hamlet, finished in 1786. This provincial village a short distance from the Palace of Versailles was built to be a small, rustic village and working farm where the queen could escape palace life, take rural walks, and enjoy a slower pace in a country setting. She also used it to teach her four children about farm life, according to the palace website https://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/estate-trianon/queen-hamlet#history-of-the-premises.
While most of us today don’t have the means to construct an entire village for our pleasure, there are many ways to incorporate agritourism and potentially earn extra income on your own farm. Here are 10 different agritourism ideas that have become quite popular in recent years.
- Farm Stays
If you have extra space, turn it into a Bed and Breakfast, Airbnb, or VRBO. Farm Stays are very popular, and the more unique the setting the better. In Iowa, you can stay above a working milking parlor and watch the cows get milked from a second-story observation deck; in converted grain silos; in an old milk house converted into a boutique Airbnb on a working goat farm. Many farms around the United States offer popular farm stays in covered wagons, tree houses, rail cars, houseboats, and barns, too!
Even if you have land and no buildings, you can still offer farm stays by signing up to host campers or self-contained RVers through programs like HipCamp or Harvest Hosts. These programs allow people to stay on your property in return for a fee or an agreement to support your agricultural enterprises by purchasing goods.
- Pick Your Own
Picking your own fruit, vegetables, and flowers is a very popular seasonal activity. If you have a talent for growing produce or flowers, why not make extra income by offering a pick your own area? Blueberries, strawberries, pumpkins, and cut flowers make great “pick your own” opportunities.
- Photo Opportunities
Flower farms are popular photo sites for senior photography, weddings, and families just wanting to take selfies. Sunflower farms have become iconic for photography. For a small fee, photographers can reserve private time to take photos to their hearts’ content!
- Teach Classes
From goat yoga to flower arranging, workshops on making soap, growing food, raising animals, and keeping bees, the possibilities for classes and workshops are endless. Getting people out to the country and teaching them a few things about how their food is raised is a big part of the agritourism concept.
- Pumpkin Patch / Corn Mazes
Pumpkin patches are very popular in the fall and are a great way to teach city folk a bit about rural living. Some of the pumpkin patches we’ve been to recently have become very elaborate with petting zoos, corn mazes, corn mazes after dark, goat pulled chariot rides, bouncy houses, food trucks, hayrack rides, and more!
- Rent Event Space
If you have extra barns or outbuildings consider renting them out as event space for meetings, for other people to conduct workshops, or for corporate activities.
- Rural Weddings
Small-scale rural weddings are all the rage right now. If you have a flair for event management and a beautiful setting, you can offer a variety of rural weddings packages. Ranging from simple to elaborate, rural wedding packages can even include catering with locally grown produce and flowers grown on-site.
- Operate Camps for Children
If you like children, have a variety of farm animals, and a little space to garden, why not start summer camps for kids? Programs can include learning about and taking care of egg-laying chickens, milking goats and other animals, learning how to start seeds, and garden! Children love to get their hands on animals and learn about farm life.
- Petting Farms
Walk my llama, pet my goats, feed my sheep — there are all types of petting farms that families love to explore with their children.
- Farm Tours
Lots of different types of farms offer paid tours to curious people. Bison ranch tours and milking goat parlor tours are two types of farm tours I’ve been on as an agritourist.
If you’re looking for ways to expose children to rural life or are curious about earning extra income on your farm, these different agritourism ideas are something to consider. As with any business venture, though, make sure to learn about local zoning, liability, biosecurity, and other risks involved before deciding to add agritourism to your farm.
What other agritourism ideas would you add to the list? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.