Expanding tourism on your farm can help bring in extra money and get your farm marketed. With so many options to consider, it’s important to think about which type of activity would work best for your farm.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension recommends farmers to identify what type of customers they want to attract and to cater to those interests. According to their white paper, each audience farmers hope to attract will have different needs and expectations so they have to employ specific strategies to attract them.
Here are five types of tourism that might be an option for your farm:
1. Seasonal Events
Autumn time is a popular season for farm tourism. Popular holidays like Halloween have the ability to bring in many families with pumpkin picking, corn mazes, haunted houses and hay rides. With the possibility of a down season, having different events at your farm can bring in families.
According to Hobby Farms, the more a farmer wants to offer in terms of activities the more likely they’ll need more help and a typical fall-harvest farm might even require 10 or more employees. They recommend planning ahead for a two-month spike in expenses to get the most from those activities.
Read more: Get ready for agritourism
2. Farmers Markets/You-Pick
If a farmer grows a plethora of crops that can be sold, opening a small farmers’ market can help bring in extra money. Another option is to have a “pick-your-own” market where customers come in and pick their own vegetable or fruit of choice from what a farmer offers.
Finding a niche will help differentiate your farm from the one down the street, especially if there is a special crop that isn’t offered by another farm. According to Hobby Farms, once a farmer has identified their niche, they need to make sure they promote it whether it be in newspaper ads, billboards or roadside signs.
It’s crucial to have a plan when attracting visitors to your “you-pick” farm, especially when small children are present because they “contribute to disproportionately to damaged crops and inventory shrinkage”, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Having restrooms and enough parking is also important in the business plan.
3. Vacation stays
For customers who want a getaway, farms can offer cabins or bed-and-breakfast amenities. With B&B, it requires farmers to interact more with guests. While many B&B’s don’t offer many activities, that gives the guests the perfect opportunities to explore the town they’re in.
According to Hobby Farms, guests are encouraged to discover the area surrounding the B&B, which also acts as a retreat from life outside the farm. A farmer should decide which days of the week work best for them to have guests at the B&B.
Along with seasonal events, tours can help bring in schools and teach children about how farms work. According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, people who visit farms are doing so in part because they want to learn more.
Farm tours are a great source for agritourism for children and others to learn more about farming and everything that goes into it. Having extra activities for children like storytime or even the ability to milk cows is a great hands-on activity.
Read more: Agritourism to fit your (working) farm from Growing Magazine
5. Petting zoo
A petting zoo for visitors can entertain and help the public learn about the different type of livestock on your farm. In a case study by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Balky Farms in Massachusetts invites schools to visit during lambing season in March and April and Old McDonald’s Children’s Village in New York offers ponies, rabbits, ducks, lambs and more. They also offer pony and wagon rides.
Keep in mind the adequate time, liability issues and employees needed when drawing up your agritourism venture. Making a business plan will help keep you on track and in return, your agritourism business will boom.
Read more: Agritourism: growing more revenue