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Agritourism: where agriculture and tourism meet

A corn maze. Barn weddings. A tour of a bison ranch.

 A framework diagram of five core agritourism categories with examples of activities. Categories include direct sales, entertainment, outdoor recreation, hospitality and education. Sub-categories and activities include: Farmstands and u-pick, corn mazes and hay rides, horseback riding, on-farm festivals, farm stay, dinners and tastings, classes and tours, Farmer's market, weddings and concerts, photography, fishing and hunting, hiking/wildlife viewing, on-farm outfitter, ag fairs and museums.

Today the public is seeking authentic, on-farm experiences that can extend from well-known activities, such as a pick-your-own berries on-farm, to an overnight stay in a yurt in a sheep pasture and duck hunting on the edge of a farmer’s pond.

All of these on-farm activities are part of agritourism, which is most simply defined as where agriculture and tourism meet. Often this entails attracting visitors on-farm to experience its location or products, but the variety of possibilities and farmer ingenuity consistently presses the boundaries of the term.

What is the value for farmers and communities?

For some farmers, agritourism may be a source of new revenue to diversify business. For others, inviting visitors on the farm to see daily operations may help better educate the public about agriculture. Whatever the reason, however, whenever a visitor and farmer share a positive exchange, good things happen.

For rural communities, agritourism can play an important role in business and community development. On-farm businesses provide an avenue for local business development and can attract visitors — and their spending — to the communities. In addition, they can help define a local identity or preserve rural amenities and character.

MN Statute 604A.40 defines agritourism:

“Agritourism activity” means activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows organizations or members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, charitable, or educational purposes, to view, enjoy, or participate in rural activities, including, but not limited to: farming; viticulture; winemaking; ranching; and historical, cultural, farm stay, gleaning, harvest your-own, or natural activities and attractions. An activity is an agritourism activity whether or not the participant pays to participate in the activity.

Is agritourism right for my operation?

Similar to investigating any additional enterprise, you must decide how an agritourism venture will complement your current activities. Agritourism can be as simple as hosting an early childhood class to see farm animals or as complex as developing a posh farm-to-table dining business.

Connecting with educational resources, associations, and agencies that support agritourism activities in Minnesota is a great way to start and explore possibilities, anticipate risks, and build connections with other operators. An open exploration should provide tangible ideas of how agritourism plays out in “real life” and give a grounded view of how to get started.

Come and Get It (a guidebook for on-farm food service) provides assessments and questions to provoke your thinking:

  • What is my current schedule like?
  • Is there synergy with other farm operations?
  • Where is the bulk of my current time and commitment to this operation going?
  • What is the appeal of your farm to visitors? How do you present your farm to visitors?

These questions related to risk management, food safety, and customer service are key to examine before launching even the simplest on-farm event to make sure you and your visitors have a positive experience.

Agritourism planning resources

Use the links and information in the below section to help plan for and promote agritourism. 

This agritourism content was created in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, University of Minnesota (Extension, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Tourism Center, UMASH, and Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture), Explore Minnesota Tourism, Minnesota Department of Health, and Renewing the Countryside.

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