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The Opportunities in Agritourism

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Agritourism is a growing industry that benefits both curious visitors and farmers.

Many of us have participated in agritourism even if we haven’t heard the term. It can include anything from tasting the wines on offer at local vineyards, picking the perfect pumpkin, or filling up baskets at an apple orchard. However the industry is expanding and taking new forms as the trend towards local food and organic products gain in popularity. There are over 23,000 farms in the U.S. that participate in some sort of agritourism and many of these farms are broadening the experiences they have to offer to include farm to table meals, farm stays, and even farm camps. This more immersive and active approach provide visitors with a closer look at where their food comes from and perhaps the chance to learn a new skill.

However one of the major challenges many of these farms have discovered has to do with insurance and liability. If someone gets injured on their property, it could mean getting sued and potentially losing their livelihood. Insurance companies and state legislators have had a challenging time dealing with the growing industry. Many insurers have dropped farms that expand into agritourism or prohibitively increased their costs. About half of the states where there is agritourism business have passed laws protecting farmers from liability. Kansas was the first state to enact such a law and Colorado is the most recent to safeguard farmers.  

Despite the liability issues, agritourism continues to grow. California leads the way with the most farms offering agritourism experiences and each farm bringing in on average an extra $50,000. Nationwide, the average agritourism farm gains an additional $24,300 in annual income. Brett Herbst, owner of The Maize, a company that constructs corn mazes, said, “It’s virtually impossible to make a living just off traditional farming on a small farm. This really provides an opportunity to keep the land, keep a family farm existent, even amongst urbanization, and allows someone to depend less on an outside job for their income.”

Photo by Viaje a Canada, licensed under Creative Commons.