If you’re not convinced that agritourism is right for you, then I am sure these 15 reasons will make you fall in love with agricultural tourism.
1. Boost Agricutlrual Revenue
In an era of increasing urbanization, or people moving away from rural areas into urban zones, many rural communities struggle with a declining economy and population. Many of the younger generations will leave town in search of high-paying jobs. However, the rise in agritourism can provide an economic boost to both farms and the surrounding community by luring people in with higher-paying jobs.
In the United States, revenue from agritourism ventures was $950 million in 2017, providing some farms more than 5% of their total revenue. This number is much higher in developing economies or for small producers. Many small producers in the Mudgee wine region discussed how tourism transformed their business. Previously they would only sell grapes to larger wineries, but with increased tourism, they could sell their own bottled wine directly to consumers increasing and diversifying their income streams.
When I was in India, we visited the coffee farms in Karnataka. As these farms opened their doors for coffee tastings and tours, we took advantage of sampling some fresh-roasted Indian coffee. This was an excellent way for these plantations to boost revenue.
2. Support Economic Diversification
As farms and agricultural ventures incorporate tourism into their business plans, they require more skilled workers in various jobs. For example, if a farm begins to host events like hay rides or olive oil tastings, it may hire an event planner or a marketing expert. These jobs often appeal to former residents of the small town that may have left to obtain degrees and higher-paying jobs in urban areas.
When I was in the Okanagan Valley in Canada, we went to a family-owned vineyard that had diversified, opening a restaurant and gift shop. They also offered wine-tasting courses, hosted weddings, and offered walking tours through the vines. They mentioned several family members had returned to work in the family business as they were interested in marketing, management, customer service, or event planning.
3. Revitalize Rural Communities
Agritourism can breathe new life into nearby small towns. As more tourists visit farms and rural areas, they also require services such as cafes, restaurants, shops, and other attractions. Many rural communities near farms see an uptick in art galleries, local boutiques, bed and breakfasts, and food and beverage venues.
Before we started a wine tasting on a small family-owned vineyard in Mudgee, we wanted some coffee. The winery’s owner sent us to the closest town to a small cafe. As we walked to the cafe, we noticed this formerly dying down was coming to life with new boutiques, shops, and coffee shops.
4. Value Tradition and Culture
The increased number of tourists can incentivize a revitalization of traditional handicrafts, art, and skills. We partook in Italy’s slow food cultural tradition while staying at a winery in Tuscany. Slow food is the concept of savoring traditional authentic, and local cuisine. Fast food chains, commercial restaurants, and busy urban lives can all contribute to the decline of traditional food culture. By staying in the vineyard and eating dinner on location every night, we provided value to the slow food tradition in Italy.
5. Support Diverse People in Business
Agritourism employment supports a diverse group of people. Traditionally, in some cultures, agriculture and labor might be male-dominated industries. The tourism aspect of agriculture can create jobs for women and the younger generation. Again, when we were in Italy, our host told us her husband worked all day in the vineyard while she used to manage the household. Since they opened up for agritourism, she was proud to bring additional value and revenue to her family by cooking, selling wine, and managing the campsites for tourism.
Another one of my favorite examples is the Indigenous World Winery in West Kelowna, Canada. This is a 100% Indigenous-owned and operated winery and distillery. When we did a wine tasting on site, our host was a young First Nations woman. She paired our tastings with traditional stories from her culture and shared information about traditional land management and climate change. Our experience was a perfect example of creating a cultural connection, learning about the natural environment, and economically supporting diverse businesses.
6. Support Year-Round Employment
Agricultural work is often seasonal, so locals might leave to seek full-time employment elsewhere. By incorporating tourism activities, farms and agricultural businesses can provide more stable year-round jobs to community members.
7. Connect With the Origins of Your Food
Many people, especially those growing up near urban areas in developing economies, have a fundamental disconnect from their food. Even I, who grew up fishing and eating game meat, didn’t know much about the source of grocery store food.
When I moved to Bavaria, I learned that southern Germans have a unique connection to their food. When hiking, you stop and visit the working mountain farms for fresh cheese and local beer, and those opportunities allowed me to understand more about cheese and traditional lifestyles.
Visiting farms, orchards, and vineyards is a great way to create a connection with your food. Doing this allows you to appreciate the sacrifice of both humans and animals in food production. I think it has made me a more grateful and empathetic person.
8. Engage in Cultural Exchange
When traveling to large cities, you only see one side of a culture. Cultural norms can vary across urban and rural areas. To fully understand the places you visit you should see the city and the countryside. A great way to learn about a country’s rural and traditional cultures or even your home state is to get to know people working in rural agriculture.
After living in Munich for seven years, I can tell you the people living in the city are very different from those living in small towns working on farms. I always loved taking the time to visit small agricultural festivals like the Almabtrieb. Doing so helped me learn about traditional Bavarian mountain life and gain a deeper understanding of Bavarian culture.
9. Get Some Fresh Air
Agritourism activities are often outdoors and are a great way to get some fresh air in a low-intensity environment. If extreme hiking and biking aren’t your things, then perhaps getting outside to go strawberry picking is more your style. Getting away from the city to enjoy the fresh air will benefit your health and the rural areas you visit! The air quality is often much better in rural areas, and it is common practice to “get away” from urban centers to improve your health in many European countries. A visit to a rural area is often covered by German health care!
10. Create Lasting Memories
Agritourism activities, such as visitor experiences like petting zoos or corn mazes, are intangible but great for making memories. These are fun ways to enjoy wholesome fun with your family or friends. These experiences also make great zero-waste gift ideas. Next birthday, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or Christmas, check what fun activities are happening at a nearby farm or orchard. Get a group of friends, round up the kids, or spend time alone with your partner for a fun day out of the city.
11. Stock up on Fresh, Local Products
My favorite way to get food is direct from the farm. When I am on a road trip driving through a rural area, I often stop and visit fruit stands. Driving across Albania, all my road trip snacks came from fruit stands or farm kiosks. During our family road trip through B.C. Canada, we had an endless supply of local cherries. The food is much healthier than chips and injects money directly into the farm.
You might also visit a place that sells seeds for your garden. When I visited the Irish Seed Savers in Ireland, they were selling heirloom seeds of local plants that helped boost biodiversity and worked great in local gardens.
Another incentive is wine direct from the producer is much more affordable. Ganesh bought wine by the case load while road-tripping through rural Europe. Many vineyards we visited only sold directly to consumers on their property, making them 100% reliant on tourism.
12. Learn New Recipes
When visiting the world’s largest pumpkin festival, dozens of recipes are circulating, ripe for picking. I stocked on pumpkin seasoning, which included a great recipe for roasted and stuffed pumpkin. This recipe is now a staple in my autumn cooking. Every time I made it, I remember all the great times I had exploring the pumpkin festival and my time living in Germany.
13. Enjoy Slow Travel
I highly recommend trying out slow travel through rural areas. I love checking into a lovely local bed and breakfast and getting recommendations from the host about what to do and see. Ganesh and I spent some time in Napa just relaxing at the bed and breakfast in the heart of wine country. We planned on days based on local recommendations and made sure to stop and visit the small wineries and local favorites.
14. Party At a Festival
If you prefer crowds and a more upbeat style of travel, plan your adventure around a festival. When visiting Mudgee, our family group booked a farmhouse for a week to coincide with the Mudgee wine festival. This allowed us to stay for a few days, maximizing our economic benefit while enjoying a fabulous wine festival, which was perfect for those at our party who wanted a lively experience.
Most agricultural venues will have annual events or festivals. Look for regional wine festivals, harvest festivals, spring blossom events, and more!
15. Stay in Amazing Accommodation
We booked a renovated farmhouse during our family trip to Mudgee in Australia. The rustic and cozy farmhouse had a great kitchen, so we could cook meals together using local produce we bought directly from the farm. Of course, plenty of Mudgee wine was circulating as we sat around the fire pit, star gazing and listening to the wild animals’ chatter in the distance. When we didn’t feel like cooking, we could walk over to the on-site restaurant so we could pair wine grown right outside our farmhouse with vegetarian-tasting plates. There were a handful of glamping pods on site for those traveling in smaller groups.
During our Swiss campervan road trip, we found affordable parking on a quaint Swiss farm with chickens, sheep, and bouncing baby goats. For those not traveling with a bed on wheels, cozy tree houses high up in the tree tops with sweeping views of the villages below.
Whether you book a large farmhouse, glamping pod, treehouse, campervan parking spot, or bed and breakfast, the accommodations found on farms are some of the best. They often abide by an eco ethos, are family-owned, and allow you to fully immerse yourself in a slow, rural life.
Agritourism is for Everyone!
My favorite thing about agritourism is that there is something for literally everyone. Family groups might enjoy a day out picking berries or going to a petting zoo. Groups of friends might enjoy wine-tasting events or attending a wedding on a farm. Couples might enjoy checking into a bed and breakfast for a long anniversary weekend. Sustainable travel advocates will enjoy staying a while in a rural area and enjoying slow travel and slow food. Solo travelers might like festivals to meet other travelers.
Those passionate about local travel can support their local rural economies while enjoying easy-to-plan weekend trips. Those who love to seek far off destinations can
No matter your reasons for enjoying agritourism, supporting tourism in rural agricultural areas will benefit you, the farm, and the surrounding community in numerous ways.
How to plan and book your next agritourism adventure
You might be wondering about the best way to plan an agritourism adventure. My top tip is to start local! Review tourism board websites in small towns near you and look for festivals, events, and activities.
I suggest spending several days researching small towns and their tourism boards near the urban hub you are flying into for the international traveler. I always start by looking up what the local delicacy or regional cuisine might be. For example, Valencia, Spain, is known for sweet orange trees – if you are visiting Valencia, take some time to visit rural orchards and see if you can find a nice bed and breakfast that will serve you fresh orange juice every day!