Is an Agritourism Venture Right for Your Farm?
Agritourism activities are becoming an important component of many agricultural operations. These activities have the potential to increase farm revenues and maintain the sustainability of the industry. According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2007, 23,350 farms nationwide reported that they received farm income from agritourism activities. Agritourism is a new business paradigm for many farmers, requiring a shift from a production-centric focus to a focus on service and hospitality.
Although agritourism may offer an opportunity for farmers to increase on-farm revenue, these activities are not well suited for every farm or farmer. Before starting an agritourism operation, it is recommended that farmers spend some time assessing the potential that these activities may bring to their operation.
Agritourism activities are dramatically different than most traditional agricultural responsibilities. While most on-farm responsibilities are centered on producing a commodity such as a crop or animal product, agritourism focuses on creating an enjoyable experience for your customer. This experience usually involves customers visiting a farm to participate in various activities such as harvesting crops, sight-seeing, hay rides, corn mazes, and many others. These customers often do not come from a farming background and will ask many questions that may seem trivial about daily farm activities. A successful agritourism operator must be willing to share information about their farm business and spend the time to make customers feel welcome. The ideal agritourism host requires many of the same personality traits that make a good host at any tourist attraction or service industry. Because the qualities that make a great farmer may not be the same as the qualities that make an effective agritourism host, it is important that farmers critically evaluate their personality type before developing an agritourism operation.
Some important questions that you should ask before starting an agritourism operation include:
- Do you enjoy entertaining guests?
- Do you like crowds?
- Will you enjoy having people visit your farm?
- Can you create a warm and inviting atmosphere for people visiting your farm?
- Can you manage the additional business responsibilities associated with an agritourism operation (including marketing, employee management, and customer relations)?
- Are you willing to create the ideal “experience” for your customers?
- Are you willing to work and “entertain” clientele on weekends, evenings and holidays, when they are most often available to come to your farm?