Agricultural tourism or “agritourism” is a fast-growing trend in the travel industry, but it’s not a new concept. In Europe and beyond, farms have long been offering a variety of agriculture-based experiences, ranging from on-farm accommodations to educational and “pick your own” tours. Some regions would take advantage of harvest seasons by hosting festivals and offering picking tours, capped off with elegant dinners.
With many people taking to the countryside to unwind and soak in rural life, it is no surprise that agritourism remains a profitable industry. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to turn your farm into a tourist attraction.
From farm stays that let guests have a taste of working the land to farm-to-table dining, there are countless ways to attract tourists to your little slice of paradise and earn a little extra off your acreage. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
1. Plan and Research
Before you start rolling up your sleeves, it’s important to have a clear idea of what types of experiences you want to offer guests. You’d want to be as authentic as possible, so draw inspiration from the landscape and find out what types of people your farm will attract. Is it set on rolling hills with happy livestock grazing over the pasture with an idyllic town nearby? Then your target market would most probably be well-off adults who like nice hotels and top-notch service. If your farm is set in the wild country a la Eustace Conway’s Turtle Island, you’ll have better luck at attracting backpackers and eco-conscious travelers. Survey your farm and see what kind of amenities you can offer. Are you going for a raw experience or something fancy? If it’s the latter, then be ready to invest in some modern facilities.
2. Set Up Accommodations
Have a few acres to spare? Make good use of that space by building accommodations for farm stays. Are you going for a more authentic, camping-style accommodation? Building a communal longhouse and a few cabins are a great place to start. Want to offer something more relaxing and posh? Turn your farmhouse into a bed & breakfast or boutique hotel complete with elegant decor, amazing views, and a restaurant. Do you run a cattle farm with a vast expanse of grazing land? Give your guests a one-of-a-kind “Wild West” experience with a vacation ranch. Be careful not to go overboard and don’t lose sight of what your farm is about. While it’s important to offer comfort and convenience to your guests, you would still want your farm stay to be in harmony with its surroundings. After all, this is the biggest draw of agritourism.
3. Conduct Workshops
You’ll be amazed by how many people, especially those living in the city or suburbs, want to learn farm skills. And more often than not, they want to learn from the pros themselves. Offer workshops and you’re sure to have guests over regularly. From beekeeping and woodworking, to viticulture and caviar making (if you have a fish farm), there is a long list of things you can teach people. Think of what you do best and schedule classes whenever it’s convenient so you can earn a little extra and grow your network. Teaching will be a nice break from all the back-breaking work in the field, too. Plus, you’ll be sharing valuable insights and passing on useful skills to passionate individuals. Who knows, you might inspire someone to take up farming one day, too.
4. Build an On-Farm Restaurant
Farm-to-table dining has been making waves in big cities, with restaurants boasting the freshest produce and tastiest grass-fed meat sourced from nearby farms. Having a productive farm gives you a distinct advantage to capitalize on this trend because proponents of farm-to-table cuisine would put a price on food that comes straight from the source. Serve up the freshest, seasonal ingredients and give your patrons an immersive experience of your farm and you’ll be the talk of the town in no time. Whether it’s a casual cafe or elegant setup with a tasting menu, an on-farm restaurant is a great investment that will easily turn your farm into a popular tourist (and local) attraction.
5. Offer Interactive & Educational Tours
Interactive farm tours involve any activity that lets guests participate in hands-on activities to educate them about living off the land. Activities like “pick your own” (sometimes called U-pick in America) can be a great way to engage tourists and save on labor costs at the same time. Add more value to your guests’ experience by combining this with a tasting tour. Walk them through the process of growing your specialty crop as they comb through the field selecting the one they’ll buy. Then have them sit somewhere with a nice view and give them a taste of your best products.
Whether it’s just a hobby farm or rows upon rows of orchard trees, agritourists would put a premium on having a taste of your produce. Have a specialty artisan product? Walk guests through the process of making your products and end the tour with food tasting or pairing.
6. Involve the Community
While some people would be fine to just curl up in a nice room with a scenic view and listen to the sounds of nature, some people want variety in their experiences. To encourage extended stays, give them a glimpse of how it’s like to live in your area. Create tour packages that include other activities beyond your farm, like visiting nearby cultural spots and or natural features. You can also collaborate with local artisans and fellow farmers and set up the tour packages with them. This way, you can share the operational costs and at the same time, reward guests with a better stay.
Living off the land requires a lot of hard work, and sometimes, money can be tough, especially if you run a small-scale farm. Inviting tourists in for a small fee or transforming your farm into a relaxing escape will not only put your farm and locale in the map, but also expand your agribusiness.