If you have a farm business, you should definitely offer agritourism and farm events. This post will explain why. Even if you don’t yet operate a farm business you could start one centered only on agritourism. If that’s what floats your boat.
Why is agritourism an attractive offering? Because we’re all becoming more aware of how disconnected we are from our natural world. It’s a problem exacerbated as each pasture morphs nightly into a morning parking lot. And more of us each day want to understand the survival skills our ancestors knew. Knowledge that is disappearing from our collective consciousness.
As for me, I milk a cow. Twice, in fact, each day. Let’s face it…that’s weird, right? I mean, who does that?
Sure, maybe you do since you’re in my tribe, but trust me, it’s weird. And people want to learn about tons of other things we agripreneurs know. Things like how to:
- make cheese
- cure bacon
- kill a chicken
- cook with a whole chicken
- make soap
- milk a cow
- build something
- grow something
- and so on
And it’s not just the “how-tos.” People want experiences.
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Can you not imagine a soon-to-be-married couple wanting to have their wedding overlooking your beautiful pastures, ponds, and happy animals? I can, and they will pay well for it because competitive alternatives also charge good money for the service.
But ask yourself if this is a one-time, seasonal or continuous opportunity? Perhaps it’s a seasonal business but you could use the same facilities for corporate retreats and other events as well.
What about a farm-stay bed and breakfast in your home or in a refurbished barn? Sounds quaint, romantic, and what a lot of people would be in the mood for, does it not?
If you don’t want to use your house, you can always provide a glamour camping (glamping) experience instead. It could be a yurt, tee pee or the wall tents that are offered at Mary Jane’s Farm bed and breakfast… for $240 per night. Remember that when economic conditions are soft, they are not necessarily soft for everyone. Wealthy folks generally do just fine and retain plenty of disposable income.
Mary Jane’s Farm is not the only one catering to these well-to-do customers. The Martyn House, an 18-acre restored homestead just over an hour north of Atlanta, offers upscale glamping in wall tents as well as event facility rentals, farm dinners, a bed and breakfast, and weddings. Heck, they will even rent the entire farm if someone wants it!
If these ideas are too upscale for you, then consider setting up a permanent tent camping area and facilities on your land. Jinny Cleland did just that at Four Springs Farm on her Vermont farm, where she also offers event rentals, baked goods, catering, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and much more.
If you don’t want guests staying overnight, then you could consider farm dinners. These outings normally feature local chefs and offer the advantage of introducing paying customers to other products or services you have available.
For example, Green Dirt Farm in Missouri has a series of farm dinners and cheese appreciation events throughout the year. Check out the prices and the frequency of their events to get a sense of the revenue potential.
To be sure, there are expenses to offset this for food, chefs, and marketing, but this is a very nice ancillary business to their main business of producing fantastic farmstead sheep’s milk cheese.
Of course, their location being only 30 minutes from Kansas City ensures they have a base of customers to whom they can market, as well as chefs upon whom they can rely, but the point is for you to consider proximity to markets before you purchase land if this model is something that interests you.
A few other agritourism options include:
- RV/tent farm camping,
- summer youth farm camps,
- pond fishing,
- corn mazes,
- Easter egg hunts in the spring,
- haunted woods in the fall, etc.
Agritourism and Branding
Now that I’ve touched on lots of ways a farm business can generate income with agritourism, let me offer a word of caution. Be careful to align the agritourism “product” with the brand persona and value proposition.
Here’s what I mean.
If your goal is to build a brand as a premier food producer, whether it be artisan cheese or high-end meats, then be careful about offering…say…chicken butchering classes. Instead, look at high-end farm dinners with great chefs and pair with local wines and craft brews. That’s much more aligned with the brand perception you want to cultivate.
The chicken butchering classes would work fine for other farms, but would likely attract different customers than the ones you’re seeking for your high-end meats/cheese aimed at “foodies.”
We offered lots of these events over the years on my farm:
- paid monthly tours
- chicken/turkey/hog butchering classes
- charcuterie classes
- farm schools and classes for other farmers
- cheese making classes
- farm dinners with leading chefs
We offered the first three types in our early years to connect with our consumers as we clarified our brand position. Later, we focused on numbers 4, 5 and 6 exclusively as we morphed into a 100% farmstead cheese operation.
But throughout the years, agritourism and farm events were critical to our success for two reasons.
- they provided high-margin income in time periods where we were otherwise slow on the farm
- they reinforced our brand message and helped galvanize a following of loyal tribe members
My friend Jordan at J& L Green Farm in Virginia offers tours and farm classes today similar to what we used to offer on our farm. It’s a smart way to both generate income and cultivate a following of supporters.
So if you’re not including farm events and agritourism in your marketing arsenal, what are you waiting for? It’s what people want, and it’s what you can profitably deliver.
That’s a winning equation.