AgriWhat? How the Emerging Trend of Agritourism Can Help Your Business

What do the following have in common?

  • Pumpkin patch
  • Crop maze
  • Farm store
  • Petting zoo
  • Wedding barn
  • Dairy with ice cream and cheese
  • Pastured pork farm
  • U-pick apple orchard

They are all types of agritourism activities and locations.

No matter what you call it – agritourism, agri-tourism, agrotourism, agritainment – it is cool! More than half of all U.S. states have some type of agritourism language written into their respective state laws. So what does this mean for you and your client? Knowing about the agritourism trends and practices around the country can not only assist you in finding the appropriate land for your clients, but can help your clients find future business opportunities. This follows the “growth begets growth” theory.

What is the difference between agritourism and ecotourism? It depends on the location and governing entity. Confused yet? No need to be. The bottom line is that knowing what is applicable within your sales region will help you help your clients, which in turn helps your bottom line.

Agritourism Operations

To be successful, agritourism operators must follow best management practices on their farms, but also must be welcoming to consumers and offer activities that pique their interest. Seasonality comes into play for all operations, with some farms offering multiple attractions year-round, and some farms offering only one or two options in a short amount of time.

An example of the former could be a dairy farm that produces value-added products for sale on the property year-round. Farm visitors can view cows and calves, see a milking parlor, walk through the processing plant, and end up in a store where they can sample and purchase farm-fresh ice cream, cheese, and other products.

An example of the latter could be a Christmas tree farm. The size of the land to grow trees is of foremost importance since the farm may only be open to the public six to eight weeks a year. However, the farmer may decide to be open for events during other seasons (e.g. pumpkin patches and corn maze “haunts” in the fall, u-pick hydroponic fruit and vegetables in the spring, or pick your own flowers in the summer).

In both of these examples, the land size matters. Having a workable space for the farmer is critical to the operation. However, having a safe place for agritourists is also critical. REALTORS can help farmers determine how much land is needed to conduct both public and private business, and can assist in finding the most usable, arable, visitor-friendly space possible.

In the Christmas tree farm example, space is needed to grow the trees, to prepare the trees for purchase (cut, shake, wrap, load), for customer parking, for tree and other product sales. For this type of operation, when parking is needed, usually LOTS of land is needed to accommodate the customers. If the farmer decides to provide other agritourism activities throughout the year, the acreage needed for those activities must also be considered. These are all things to consider when looking at property before purchase.

Ecotourism Operations

Again, depending on the governing entity, what one state considers agritourism may be considered ecotourism by another. This may or may not matter to your client depending on what they want to offer, but the distinction is important in terms of liability protections for one category over another.

Ecotourism can be any outdoor activity that doesn’t need to be consistent with a farm. It CAN be, but doesn’t need to be. These include kayaking, ATV tours, skeet shooting, zip lining, hiking, and many others. Your clients may want to provide these opportunities for their existing or potential customers, and the land specifications are as important for them as if they were considering offering agritourism. Where you can add value for your clients is by knowing the difference, especially in terms of statutory and legal definitions.

The Future

The possibilities for agritourism opportunities are numerous and exciting for REALTORS®, clients, and consumers. Getting people to experience the outdoors and hearken back on America’s agrarian history is a way to tie us back to the land. By navigating the nuances of agritourism policy and how that can shape a client’s business future, a REALTOR has the ability to help clients achieve their dreams. How many people can state that?

I encourage you to take a look at what agritourism operations exist in your nearby communities. If you get a chance, stop by to see the possibilities for how your clients can take advantage of this emerging trend. And don’t even get me started on the exciting trend of agrihoods …

About the Author: Melissa Hunt is the Chairman of the National Agritourism Professionals Association. Learn more from Hunt on this topic at the 2017 National Land Conference in her presentation on Is Agritourism a Viable Option (For You or Your Client)?