Agritourism is defined as attracting paying guests to family scale farm or ranch operations for recreation, learning and enjoyment to supplement the income of that operation. This extra funding is what allows many farms to continue to operate.
William L. Bryan of the Rural Landscape Institute presented a seminar teaching start up strategies to farm and ranch owners who may see this as a way to raise extra capital. His company, Off the Beaten Path, arranges customized vacations for people who want to have a farm or ranch experience, one that is not contrived but is real.
His book, Sharing Your Home on the Range, delves into some of those strategies, but much has changed since its publication in 1990. At Off the Beaten Path, he has learned what motivates visitors to want this type of experience.
The first is to appreciate the agricultural heritage of this country. Second is to appreciate cross cultural opportunities when traveling, recreating and vacationing. Third, to learn what the food producers in this country are doing about food security and food literacy.
Fourth, they want to interact with and observe wildlife as well as farm animals. The fifth reason is to have a healthy, active outdoor experience. Sixth is to learn while recreating and having fun on vacation. The last reason is to find or rediscover family roots.
Income from opening a family farm or ranch to this sort of opportunity may help owners respond to the economic imperatives which face family scale farms and ranches. Ten percent of the overall traveling public want this type of experience.
Another aspect of agritourism is fee hunting on your private ground. Many farmers and ranchers supplement their income with this type of activity. Many feel they support the wildlife all year with their property, they may as well receive some income from the wildlife. Fee hunting is becoming a large portion of private farm and ranch income.
Marketing may be the biggest issue in the start-up of an agritourism business. A marketing plan is the first issue to be completed. This plan will direct you for the remainder of the start-up process. You will need to define your customer, complete a budget, set marketing goals, identify your target markets, and produce your plan of action. The follow through with the marketing plan is a must for any business start-up.
Another aspect to consider with agritourism is the possibility of entering into a cooperative which packages agriculture experiences. Being part of a package can help with advertising and promotion of your agribusiness.
When considering how to price your farm or ranch stay, you must account for all your costs. An accurate portrayal of your added value is next along with an assessment of its attractiveness to the customer. The price must be competitive with your competition and it must also ensure a realistic profit.
Bryan concluded by noting the United States is lagging far behind many other countries in the agritourism field. He said at the present, there is a seven state group trying to build a cooperative.