Lee Ann Fields, Hatch, Dora Ann
Each year I end the year challenging myself to discover new opportunities for the upcoming year. As the coordinator of the agritourism progam at the LSU AgCenter, I’m uniquely positioned to assist people who own land they are currently farming or ranching to re-envision their land use.
In 2007, agricultural censuses begun collecting data on agritourism. Since agritourism is defined differently in each state it is difficult to ascertain an accurate accounting, but regardless the source you check, agritourism is growing. “Seventy million people visit farms each year in the United States, creating $700 million in farm revenue,” according to the latest statistics from the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Most of the operations contributing to the statistics are seasonal operations open only when farming is in the off-season.
If you own land and have a seasonal agricultural operation, you might be a candidate for agritourism. Agritourism provides the farmer with an opportunity to extend his income during the slow months, keep farm help on the farm in the off season and to share the message of agriculture to hundreds of people who will never know farm living.
I have had personal experience with farm visitors. Growing up on a farm and I recall lots of visitors during the holidays and summer months. Although we did not charge them to stay or eat, while they were at our farm they enjoyed working alongside us. What was routine work for me was new, fun, exciting adventures for them. Having a genuine experience of working alongside a farmer learning where food comes from and how to herd cows are just things the majority of Americans watch on television or at the movies but never have the chance to experience.
Active, experiential vacations are the new attraction for people. They want to live it, not just read about it. They are also willing to pay for the adventure and their lodging expectations are less than you might think.
Two types of accommodations regularly used for agritourism venues are Bed and Breakfasts and Airbnb’s. Bed and Breakfasts are extremely popular and can be catered to blend with the agriculture surroundings. These operations are personable and provide the guest with lots of attention. The other option, Airbnb, is an affordable way to start a lodging operation at an agritourism destination. Overtime, this could grow into a larger operation.
For more information on how to start an agritourism business, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/agritourism. Also visit this website for information on upcoming workshops planned for March 7, 2017 in Arcadia and March 9, 2017 in Albany. To talk directly to someone, call Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter’s agritourism coordinator at 318.927.9654 ext. 229 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org