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Have you heard of agritourism, otherwise known as agricultural tourism, agro-tourism, or farm tourism? Whether you are familiar with the term or just hearing about it for the first time, you might be curious to learn more about agritourism. Agritourism can help align your travels with sustainable tourism principles while simultaneously revitalizing rural economies and deepening your cultural connections while traveling.
Likely, you’ve already participated in agritourism, but you might have no known what agritourism was at the time. Agritourism includes tourism activities on rural agricultural lands, such as U-Pick farms, corn mazes, camping among vineyards, or staying in a bed-and-breakfast farmhouse with a local host. While not an entirely new concept, agritourism plays an increasingly important role in diversifying and revitalizing rural economies, connecting people with rural culture and traditions, and fostering sustainable tourism.
In this comprehensive guide to agritourism, I’ll answer “what is agritourism?” by exploring different types of agritourism in practice, reviewing tips for sustainable agritourism, exploring some of its benefits with 15 reasons to try agritourism, and diving into how to plan your next adventure! Also, be prepared for lots of photos of wine and vineyards – I don’t know why, but I seem drawn to wine agritourism the most. I mean, who doesn’t want to drink amazing wine you can’t find on any shelf, while stuffing your face with local cuisine, connecting with locals, and looking at these stunning views??
Make sure you read the following articles, which provide more context into some of the terms described in this post:
- Learn about sustainable tourism’s three pillars
- Unpack economic leakage in tourism
WHAT WE’RE COVERING
- Agritourism is tourism activities that happen on a rural farm, orchard, vineyard, or another agricultural venue.
- They include things like farm stays, wine tastings, honey sampling, or berry picking farms.
- When conducted properly agritourism is a great sustainable travel option.
- It can create economic diversification for farms, foster cultural connections, and help connect people with agriculture and the natural environment.
What is Agritoruism?
Agritourism happens worldwide – from the rolling grapevine-filled hills of Tuscany to the cheese producers of Franche-Comté, the corn fields of the midwest United States, The Australian Bushlands, the rice fields of Bali, the coffee farms of Karnataka, and township farms in South Africa.
Each of these regions likely has its definition of agricultural tourism, but there are common elements that can help us understand agritourism. Essentially, agritourism is the intersection of tourism and agriculture. Rural landowners invite visitors to engage in activities, such as camping, wine tastings, or berry picking on their farms, ranches, orchards, vineyards, etc., to generate extra revenue and diversify in a changing climate.
Agritourism can be part of local tourism, which would involve a day trip out to a nearby pumpkin patch. Or, it can be an aspect of international tourism, like traveling to another country to visit their vineyards. Both options greatly impact smaller communities and positively create cultural connections.
To be sustainable, agritourism should involve education and be conducted mindfully to connect visitors with food production and rural culture and incentivizes sustainable farming practices.
Rural tourism and agritourism go hand-in-hand as many people who visit agricultural areas will pass through or stay in nearby rural nature or towns. Some experts identify the main components of agritourism that contribute to the three pillars of sustainability as:
- Participating in traditional agricultural activities without damaging the surrounding natural environment (Environmental).
- Paying to engage in activities such as berry or fruit picking, ranch experiences, sampling honey, wine tastings, supporting roadside produce vendors, or attending festivals and events like Halloween at a pumpkin patch (Economic).
- Extending your visit to stay overnight in a farmhouse, bed and breakfast, or camping on unused land (Social and Economic).
- Interacting with the landowners or agricultural laborers in exchange for a cultural and educational experience that connects non-farmers to food sources (Social).
Agritourism has been common in Europe for decades. Those on pilgrimages and early tourists stopped at rural monasteries and farms to enjoy in-house beers and delicacies. The trend is increasing in North America and Europe, with an increasing interest in pumpkin patches and cultural heritage tourism.
Why is Agritourism Important?
Agricultural communities and workers are under pressure in a changing landscape. In the era of globalization and urbanization, agricultural communities grapple with decreasing populations, low profitability, distrust in food production, and over-reliance on diminishing government funds.
Many agricultural businesses and owners are responding by expanding into new markets to survive these challenges and changes. With tourism proving itself as a global economic powerhouse, the merger between tourism and agriculture seems like a practical path forward to diffuse mass tourism and support agriculture businesses. Smaller, high-cost producers can use tourism to help stabilize their revenue while connecting urban residents with rural life with environmental and food-related education. Beyond the economic importance, agritourism plays a role in cultural preservation by providing value to traditional lifestyles and customs.
Sustainability and Agritourism
Agritourism is considered a form of alternative tourism or a tourism activity that falls in the same realm as sustainable tourism. However, that doesn’t make agritourism sustainable by default. You, as the traveler, can take steps to ensure your next agritourism adventure checks boxes for all three pillars of sustainable tourism.
Support eco-farming practices
Do your research before you visit a farm, vineyard, orchard, or other agricultural business, and check if they follow an eco-friendly farming ethos. As someone who regularly visits vineyards, I will often review their website and look at their growing practices. I look for keywords like bio, organic, sustainability, and eco-friendly farming.
I support farms and agricultural businesses that consider the environment by avoiding chemical pesticides, engaging in regenerative community-based practices, and growing food that aligns with the local ecology and seasonal climate.
If you are a meat eater, look for places that are mindful of how they treat the animals considering their living conditions, welfare, and diet.
An example of what I would consider a farm that goes above and beyond in its environmental consideration is Lowe Family Wine Co. in Mudgee, Australia. Take the time to read Lowe’s farming practices and environmental commitment to understand best practices for agritourism.
Be respectful of the environment
You know the drill, respect the people and places you visit. Make sure you don’t leave behind waste or rubbish; bring your reusable water bottle and all that jazz.
Don’t pick, collect, trample, or harvest outside designated areas.
Keep a safe distance from animals and do not feed them unless you are in a place where interacting with them is monitored with food provided by the farm.
Another idea is to see if you can take public transportation to the farm. Catching the bus or finding a train connection is a great way to reduce your impact on the natural environment. If you’re on a road trip like Ganesh and I often are, can you keep the car parked once you arrive at the farm? We always bring or rent bikes and prefer to explore the surrounding region by bike – we explored all of Bordeaux by bike – it was a great way to reduce our impact!
Explore nearby nature
Rural farms are often located nearby or inside stunning natural landscapes that are well worth exploring. For example, you might enjoy a scenic hike through the German alps to indulge in bergkäse – the delicious mountain cheese made on Bavarian alpine farms.
Immersing yourself in local nature gives you insight into the cultural importance behind the agricultural delights. Take an extra day to go for a hike, view the birds, go for a bike ride, or sit on a bench and enjoy the scenic views around you.
Most international airports will ask you to declare if you’ve been to a farm, interacted with livestock, or engaged in other agricultural activities. It is crucial to be honest on these forms and declare yourself if needed.
I spent some time participating in agritourism in rural Brazil, and as I re-entered the U.S., I had to declare myself. It wasn’t scary; I just had to go through a special cleaning with my hiking boots. Invasive species can spread through seeds that stick to your boots, and livestock on farms can carry certain diseases that can transmit to humans. Declaring yourself can help prevent the spreading of diseases, pests, and invasive species commonly located on farms and in livestock. I think we all know by now we do not want another pandemic on our hands…
Take the time to learn
Even if you are stopping by the local orchard to pick some apples, take a minute to learn something! It could be as simple as what types of apples are grown in the area and if they are at risk from climate change or pests. What is unique about the geology and climate that makes apples in this region so great? Why is apple farming so crucial to the economic vitality of the region? What is the cultural significance of apples in the area? To find out all this information, look for information pamphlets or ask the local staff to help educate you!
Engage with the owners/workers
On that same note, take the time to connect with the owners and workers on the farm. When we camped on a vineyard in Italy, we made sure to chat (with lots of gesturing) with our lovely host as she made authentic home-cooked pasta. We learned a lot about the cultural significance of agriculture in Tuscany. Another time as we were in rural France camping at (you guessed it, a vineyard), we chatted with the owners, discussing the impact of climate change on wine production in Bordeaux. Before you leave, don’t forget to thank and appreciate your hosts for inviting you to share their livelihood and craftsmanship with you.
Reduce Tourism Leakage
When visiting a local farm, it is pretty easy to reduce your tourism leakage. But, as a general rule of thumb, seek out more minor local agricultural producers to stop the leak. Read my guide on tourism leakage for an in-depth dive into this concept.
Buy low-impact gifts
Taking a souvenir home from your agricultural farm visit is a great idea! To ensure it is a sustainable gift, stick to consumable items that highlight the region’s craft – locally sourced organic olive oil, a bottle of wine, organic jam, or even just a basket of strawberries in a paper carton all great ideas.
If you can, avoid plastics, cheaply made trinkets like stuffed animals, or plastic Christmas decorations. What you take home should value the local artisans of the region. I love bringing home artisanal delicacies because I can invite my friends over and share all the amazing things I learned during my agricultural stay over a good meal.
Stay a while
Day trips are great, but can you stay overnight? Spending a night or two on location significantly boosts the economic contribution of your stay and the educational aspect. You will have the opportunity to dine on local cuisine and appreciate the surrounding nature. How much time should you stay? Staying at least one night has a huge positive impact. Some places may ask you only stay for 1-2 nights to ensure more people have the opportunity to visit and purchase goods. Other places will be delighted for you to stay for a whole week. Trust your gut and stay as long as possible to feel like you’re walking away having made an impact.
Agritourism is popular in the Mekong Delta, but research shows that most people stay only for a short time, thus not spending much money resulting in low sales, little economic benefit, and a decline in the cultural authenticity of tourism activities.
Go as rural as possible
According to the USDA, large establishments near urban areas record higher numbers of agritourism revenue than smaller rural farms. To maximize your benefits, seek out small, local, and family-owned options away from the city.
Agritourism in Practice
Agritourism occurs in rural areas worldwide, with many diverse activities. Some of the most well-known are pumpkin patches and corn mazes around the United States. However, many examples of agritourism foster a slow travel mentality, where you can stay on a farm for a few nights and truly immerse yourself in agricultural practices.
One of my favorite experiences was camping at a vineyard in Tuscany. Ganesh and reserved a spot for our campervan among the vines and lavender bushes of the rolling hills of Tuscany. Every evening we would join the other guests and sit on the large terrace of our host’s home to enjoy a home-cooked meal and the sunset of the grapevines. The owners would make us authentic handmade pasta and pair it with a selection of their delicious wines. We stayed for several nights, ensuring we had the opportunity to learn about Italian wine production, sustainability, and cuisine (social and environmental). We also spent lots of money on wine and olive oil (economic).
France Passion is another example of excellent agritourism in action. Ganesh and I used the France Passion network during our campervan trip in 2021. We would stay on farms in places like Bordeaux and stock up on wine after an educational wine tasting (economic and environmental). During the day, we would ride our bikes and visit important cultural sites in smaller towns (economic and social). The France Passion network allowed campers and road-trippers a safe and comfortable place to sleep at night while boosting the economy of smaller communities.
15 Reasons to Love Agritourism
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!
Discuss and Share
Hopefully, these 15 reasons to try agritourism helped you fall in love with the idea. If you’re already a fan of agritourism, diving deep into planning a sustainable adventure will help you maximize your positive impact on your next. Agritourism is a wonderful way to incorporate variety during travel and see a different side of your destination outside the urban zones. Planning a sustainable agritourism adventure in your home state or the next country means your money will have a bigger impact on boosting rural economies, and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of culture, all while having a great time.
- Have you had an agritourism adventure? Tell me all about it in the comments! Think about how you had a positive economic, social, and environmental impact.
- Which of these 15 reasons to love agritourism sparked your interest in trying agritourism?
Wow! I had heard the term thrown around a lot, but I didn’t really fully understand what “agrotourism” meant. Thank you for the very helpful article. Here in the States, my husband and I have a membership to Harvest Hosts which connects campers to farms, vineyards, and other cool places. Your link to the ecotourism leakage further helped me understand how important it is to put money into the direct local economy. Thanks!
Harvest Hosts sounds awesome! We used something similar in France called France Passion that connected campers with farms. It is such a lovely concept of Agritourism!
I am totally with you on this! Some of my favorite experiences have been agritourism related (not that I really think of it as agritourism… I just like heading out to the countryside or to vineyards!)
If you ever find yourself in Cambridgeshire where I grew up, I have a feeling you’d like the strawberry picking as well as the quaint English village festivals.
p.s. Did you try the liquors at indigenous? We ended by buying their gin and whiskey – we liked it even more than their wines!
Cambridgeshire sounds lovely – I’ll add it to my list. And yes, we did try the spirits. We didn’t buy any but we went home with an awesome smoky merlot and a few bottles of their Syrah.
This is my favourite way to travel! I love to stay on farms and in guest houses in nature. Especially when there are animals around! Thanks for highlighting all the information here. Very informative!
It is a double bonus if animals are around! They place we stayed in Switzerland had many chickens and baby goats running around. It was awesome.
Love this piece of writing. I think as we travel we have an opportunity to influence the health of the planet and ourselves by choosing to support sustainable and kind land based production, I hope to visit some of the places you have mentioned in your article.