As land professionals we wear many hats when promoting properties and one of my favorite hats to wear is Rural America Promoter. Agritourism is showing up more and more these days as people find new creative ways for the usefulness of their land. Guest or dude ranches have long been known as rural businesses but what exactly is agritourism? Agritourism uses the agriculture basis of the land to promote the area or a product to help bring in visitors. For example, corn mazes are well known form of agritourism.
So how could your land use be used for agritourism or even tourism in general? First, you must be passionate about whatever it is that you endeavor upon. Starting up a Bed & Breakfast if you like cooking, incorporating horses if you are an avid horseback rider or anything that you might already do on your land is your best place to start. Seasonal operations are the most popular ways to add some agritourism such as pumpkin patches, corn mazes or Christmas tree cuttings.
One corn maze operator became so successful at his farm corn mazes that he turned it into a whole new business. He now provides consulting services and corn maze design services to farmers all over the country.
Specialty products are one of the fasting growing areas and a good place to start. A honey farm started in a rural town in Kansas by two guys named John & Wayne turned into the John Wayne Honey farm and now they sell their specialty honey products online and at local grocers. Beekeeping might not be your thing but consider all the daily things you already do on your land. Many landowners have small orchards and some farms offer a Rent-A-Tree service for fruit picking where a family can rent a particular tree and then harvest and pick the fruit from that tree for a season.
Leasing your land for hunting or offering guided hunts are very popular with landowners that enjoy hunting. Many of these operations have blossomed into full resort lodges with restaurants and catered events. Offering trap shooting or target practice in a club setting with a clubhouse has allowed many landowners to also rent their building out for family reunions or weddings.
Wineries have been a popular option for grape growers so that they can have an end product instead of just wholesaling off their product. Most of these operations are supplemental to the main farming operation but still can provide income and help support rural areas. Many farmers offer their time to local schools and organizations for tours so they can help educate the younger generation about how food gets from farm to fork.
Many resources are available for helping you start a rural business. The USDA Rural Information Center has entire website section devoted to Promoting Tourism in Rural America.
Articles abound and a quick search will find articles about Agritourism being promoted in the state. An extensive list of ideas for agritourism for your land from Virginia Cooperative Extension and your local USDA office is a great source of information for rural business.
Think about your passions and check some resources and see if you might be able to help promote rural America with your land.
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