I am a farm boy. Grew up on a what today would be a small farm. My summers and after-school hours were spent working on the farm. Days were long and there was always something to do. Putting up hay always happened around July 4th.
For most of my farming friends, this was a way of life yet few people ever came by to see what we were doing, well maybe the relatives. There was no reason as many had grown up farming or were closely connected with the people who worked the land such as a relative or family friend.
In my world, I couldn’t imagine getting people to come and pay money to load hay, shovel grain, feed cows, or just wander the farm.
Today, this has all changed. People are now looking for an experience, and agritourism experiences are capturing interest. For those of us old enough, we may remember the movie “City Slickers.” . Today, some of us want to relive those days or may be a desire to learn more about where our food comes from or to experience something our ancestors once did. For a third group, it is making connections with our history.
Agritourism can be a business opportunity. From pick-your-own to pumpkin patches and corn mazes to dude ranches to birding and wildlife to a bed and breakfast, all of these can be developed into a profitability venture. They can be near, or even in, the city but can also be well away from the beaten path.
Not only can such businesses be economic engines for the business owner but communities can also build around those efforts. Visitors will want to see other local sites, they are interested in local history and they want to spend money, for food, beverages, gas, souvenirs, etc. The community needs to be able and willing to offer those items as well as to help link agritourism and other business owners together as collaborators.
Admittedly, agritourism businesses may not be an opportunity for all. If you do not want people on your farm or ranch or if the peak demand times might interfere with existing operations (although you could always get more help but that is another issue), you may want to look for other ideas.
Now may be a great time for developing agritourism on your farm/ranch and in your community. They can be good business opportunities, a good fit into your existing business as well as your community and a great way to increase your return on the assets you already have.
Glenn Muske is the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality. Follow Glenn on Twitter: @gmuske
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