Lately there has been a term used repeatedly in the farming community across North Carolina… agritourism.  So just what is this?

According to the National Agriculture Law Center, it is stated as ‘as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture.  More technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner’.

A look at the Wikipedia begins with a broader definition noting ‘any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch’ as agritourism. 

In the our state of North Carolina, the Department of Agriculture defines agritourism as:  ‘Any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, ranching, historic, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions. An activity is an agritourism activity whether or not the participant paid to participate in the activity.’

As farms across NC continue to transition from tobacco, the NC Department of Agriculture is working to assist in exploring ways to generate revenue on farms in less traditional ways.  Annie Baggett, Agritourism Marketing Specialist, has been working with communities to make this happen. Here are details on a recent promotion from a farm in Johnston County.

Johnston County, N.C. — Summer is fading, and it's time to plan for fall. A North Carolina farm app can help you plan for adventures. Visit NC Farms is an Apple and Android product that will let you search for farm activities.

Josh and April Phillips are husband and wife. Together they own Sonlight Farms. The pair believes in educating children about farms and farm life.

"It's more about children understanding where their food comes from,” says April, "It's more about getting them outside and letting them experience agriculture for themselves.”

A quick search using the Visit NC Farms app can guide you to farms with on-site activities. Sonlight Farms offers hayrides, farm tours and even an 8-acre corn maze. "Really, it's just a fun way to get in the crop and look and see, you know, how it's made,” April says.

Sonlight Farms is nearly 60 acres. They grow corn, sweet potatoes, cotton, soybeans and peanuts. The app will allow you to see what days the farm is open to the public.

Although agritourism in the state does often relate closely to activities of farming, other actions are also considered part of this tourism. Outdoor recreation like fishing, hunting, wildlife study and horseback riding fall into this category. Creating educational experiences and tours also classify as agritourism (for example winery tours in Nampa Valley, or cannery tours or cooking classes).  An element of entertainment also falls into the conversation with harvest festivals and barn dances being classified as agritourism activities. In addition, offering hospitality services, bed and breakfast farm stays, outfitter services, guided tours can also be ways that farm owners can earn income. 

With the proximity of Caswell County to such large population centers and the growing local food movement creating a demand for locally and naturally grown produce/livestock, Caswell farmers are positioned well to capitalize on unique farm related revenue streams.  

Agritourism is surely something to be considered if you are looking for different ways to generate income from your land. 

The Caswell Ag Chat is a weekly snap-shot regarding various aspects of agriculture in Caswell County. We’d like to have different perspectives, highlight different farmers in Caswell as well as fold in those farm owners involved in agritourism in order to highlight ‘all things agriculture’ in our beautiful county.  Our number one economic driver here is agriculture and as we transition from the larger row crops of tobacco, that are still critical to our county, we would like to keep the citizens of the county aware of how much we have to offer to those who make all types of farming their career choice.

As published by the Caswell Messenger - Ag Chat September 4, 2019

Written by AC Hodges