Over the last 18 months, many people have been searching for local activities or getaways. Hiking trails are experiencing more foot traffic, campsites are fully occupied, and water crafts are sold out nearly everywhere. More and more people are safely enjoying the outdoors and sharing local experiences with family and friends.
Experiencing the Farm
Agritourism activities have become a great way for people to reconnect with family, friends and nature. For many city folks, agritourism is a great opportunity for them to wander outside of the city, and experience and learn about agriculture. Pick-Your-Own farm visits and crop tours allow visitors to step on the field and be included in the process. [Check out TCOG’s U-Pick Etiquette: What To Do, Or Not To Do, When Picking Berries.] Agritourism can also include other activities that occur on the farmer’s property, such as fishing, horseback riding, hiking and glamping. These outdoor activities create unique travel experiences for the visitor (and are great photo opportunities for Gen Zers!).
Organic agritourism is fairly similar, except the farmer’s focus is towards promoting their organic farm or agricultural business. As stated by Donatella Privitera, organic agritourism places an emphasis on the protection and conservation of the natural environment while protecting the diversity of the ecosystem. This applies to all aspects of the farm’s activities, including roadways and any transportation system on the property.
Similarly to traditional tourism, organic agritourism is a great opportunity for farmers to teach visitors about farming — this time about organic farming! It allows the visitors to learn about the techniques and benefits of organic agriculture and potentially integrate these practices into their own lives.
Benefits for Farmers
Agritourism has many benefits for the farmer and the consumer. By inviting consumers to visit the farm, farmers gain an additional income. As many of the resources are already available on the farm, agritourism also does not necessarily require a large investment from the farmer.
Consumers also gain exposure to a variety of products and services, whether it’s the produce that’s grown on the farm, or products made from ingredients from the farm (e.g., honey, jams, pies, etc.). Direct-to-consumer sales also give farmers more control over the price that they charge to consumers.
Benefits for the Local Community
Agritourism also benefits the local rural community. As more people travel to and visit the agritourism activity, smaller communities receive more attention from visitors. Local restaurants, stores and attractions gain indirect exposure and promotion as a result. As well, farmers that expand their business to include tourism also create more job opportunities for the local community. Who knows, it might even influence the younger generation to join the farming industry!
Drawbacks to Consider
However, while agritourism is an enticing business expansion for farmers, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Starting an agritourism business involves more responsibilities. It is no longer solely about growing and maintaining the crops. An agritourism business requires additional labour, marketing expenses, and building customer relationships. This also requires more time and additional skills. Since business management requires a different skill set than farming, farmers need to be prepared to invest more time in building their communication, marketing and human resource skills.
Agritourism also comes with an increased liability risk. As farmers invite visitors to their property, they become responsible for the well-being and safety of their guests. Farmers need to be aware of the potential risks and lawsuits that might arise if there is an incident on the farm. As stated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, it is important for farmers to identify and assess the potential hazards, dangers and risk areas on the farm. This allows farmers and agritourism business operators to eliminate or minimize any potential liability issues. Farmers should also disclose any potential dangers to their guests upon arrival.
Resources for Farmers
Local, provincial and federal governments have a variety of resources available to help farmers establish and convert their farm to include agritourism in their business model. The governments of British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba have created detailed fact sheets and/or manuals to guide farmers in developing an agritourism business.
Grants are also available to farmers. The Canadian Experience Fund supports the culinary tourism industry, and local and rural communities to create and improve their tourism experiences. Interested farmers and/or agriculture business operators should consult their Regional Development Agency’s website for more information.