Did you know that millions of people take trips to rural destinations every year? They visit farms to pick apples, take hayrack rides, watch cows give birth, and experience rural life.
Nebraska's Roca Berry Farm offers U-pick
strawberries (Nebraska Tourism)
That’s right; people want to pay to do the things farm families do every day. It’s called agritourism and it is one of the fastest growing niches in the travel industry.
Expanding beyond traditional ag operations to offer farm experiences to visitors is also a way to supplement farm income and educate the public about agriculture. You don’t need to create the next big thing. You just need a little imagination and creativity, followed by some research and planning.
If you are considering opening your farm to the public, there is an abundance of resources to help you determine whether agritourism is right for your operation and family.
The USDA National Agriculture Library website includes a detailed guide on “Promoting Tourism in Rural America” that includes more than 50 links to how-to guides, manuals, and handbooks. The Rural Information Center’s Rural Tourism page provides additional resources including success stories, funding assistance programs, and links to even more information.
The Nebraska Tourism Commission has an excellent “Guide to Agri-Tourism and Eco-Tourism Development” that outlines what it takes to develop an agritourism business. It includes worksheets to evaluate your family’s values and expectations, set goals, outline a financial plan, and more. Many state tourism offices have agritourism consultants that can assist you as well.
If you’ve already done some research and are getting ready to take the next step, consider attending the Nebraska Agri/Eco-Tourism Workshop, Feb. 3-5, in Kearney, NE. The workshop can help you take advantage of your land and develop an attraction. Other states offer workshops too, contact your state tourism board or department of agriculture.