Agritourism—Connecting with your Local Farmer
Posted: July 14, 2011
More often than not, when considering the dilemma of purchasing for convenience or purchasing to support local businesses, convenience wins out. However, by becoming educated about the care and effort local farmers put into harvesting their crops, in addition to learning of the relatively low environmental cost of buying locally produced foods, consumers may be more inclined to support local businesses. In encouraging the spread of agricultural education, the KYF initiative supports the agritourism industry, which acts as an educational tool for the agriculture industry. Agritourism offers a glimpse into a day in the life of a farmer and looks to educate customers as to the origins of the foods they eat and the process of how it gets to their plates. Catherine Kramb co-owner of the Adams County Winery says “Our agritourism operations provide valuable and enjoyable educational opportunities for visitors. We give free tours of our grounds and talk about the art of wine making. By coming here, visitors get an inside look into the mechanics of a winery operation, seeing how we grow and care for our grapes, as well as the vinification process from selecting the grapes to making them into wine all the way to the bottling process.”
Emma Lower, of Boyer Nursery and Orchards, says, “In order to teach our customers about agriculture, and to cultivate further appreciation for the art of farming, we allow the public to pick their own fruits, we have hay ride tours of the grounds, and we participate in and hold many educational events, such as the Apple Harvest Festival. We try to create an educational, yet entertaining atmosphere where people can get a hands-on experience with agriculture.”
Agritourism is not only an educational endeavor; it also generates farm profitability by drawing in tourists from all over. “A fair number of our customers are from the area, at least 25% are locals, but we have people who hail from more metropolitan areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia who visit, and even revisit year after year for various events,” says Catherine Kramb. The agricultural attractions found in Adams County help the local economy flourish and help maintain the operation of many of our agricultural institutions. Emma Lower adds, “Audiences vary depending on the season and the event, but we draw in many customers who are interested in escaping the city and living as a farmer for a day.”
By supporting the agritourism industry, the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign purposefully encourages a closer relationship between the farmer and the consumer. “Our business has been running for over 100 years and we have always been open to the public. Our Pick Your Own operation has been around for 30 or 40 years. We enjoy when anyone comes out to support us. It’s one of the best things about this job, knowing that we have faithful customers. It’s a joy to provide a quality product to them,” says Emma Lower. Catherine Kramb adds, “We loved the area, we love wine, and we wanted to maintain the operation of the winery and be able to share what we loved with others. We added more activities and events as part of the business so more people would be attracted to this operation and so a broader spectrum of people could come to appreciate this business and help support local producers.”
The activities included in agritourism vary widely. “At Boyer Nursery and Orchards, we allow the public to pick their own fruit, we offer tours of our grounds, we are part of the wine and fruit trail, we do tours for school children, and we have a farmers market in the summer, spring, and fall,” says Emma Lower. “One of our main goals is to help our customers enjoy the nature around them and appreciate the quality of foods sourced from local farmers and wines made on site,” says Catherine Kramb. She continues, “That is why we provide a number of activities, such as free tours of our operation, wine dinners, paring cheeses and meals with wines, horseback rides through the vineyards, all of it is meant to draw in as many people as possible to learn about the operation and connect with us, the farmers.”
“By developing our local and regional food systems, through agritourism, we can spur job growth in our rural communities and ultimately strengthen American agriculture,” says Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. Agritourism operations often provide farmers with a higher share of the food dollar, and money spent at a local business often continues to circulate within the community, creating a multiplier effect and providing greater economic benefits to the area. He continues, “The objectives of agritourism parallel the objectives of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign, which fundamentally aims to strengthen the link between local production and local consumption in order to benefit producers of all sizes.” Agritourism also offers new sources of income for farmers, diversification in their enterprises, and seasonal employment opportunities. In the end, agritourism is all about generating farm profitability in innovative ways. It is a method aimed to help ensure the maintenance and prosperity of farming operations for the future.
Amelia Jarvinen is an Ag Innovations Program Assistant at Penn State Extension serving Adams County. Penn State is committed to Affirmative Action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workplace. Penn State Extension in Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg, PA 17325, phone 717-334-6271 or 1-888-427-0261, e-mail AdamsExt@psu.edu .