Posted: May 21, 2017

Agritourism is more than entertainment, it provides visitors a unique experience they can only get on a farm!
Farm visitors enjoying a hayride through the farm at Flinchbaugh's Orchard & Farm Market. (Photo Credit: Julie Keene)

Farm visitors enjoying a hayride through the farm at Flinchbaugh's Orchard & Farm Market. (Photo Credit: Julie Keene)

Are you familiar with agritourism? Many people may not know what agritourism is, but if you live in Pennsylvania, you most likely have participated in an agritourism activity. Some familiar opportunities include picking strawberries, corn mazes, hunting, winery tours and cut your own Christmas tree. With just these in mind you can probably find agritourism occurring year round on farms nearby to where you live. Agritourism is appealing to a farmer because it helps increase income from the farm and reduces the need for off-farm jobs. Farms across the United States farms have already seen an economic boom from tourism.

So what is agritourism?

If you go searching on the internet you will find many similar definitions. You will also find agritainment used synonymously as agritourism. I believe the best definition can be found on USDA’s Alternate Farming Systems Information Center from the National Agricultural Law Center which states: Agritourism is "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." I also spent some time conducting an informal survey of some of my farmer friends and they prefer using the term agritourism because they are providing the visitor a unique experience that cannot be offered anywhere else but on a farm. Farmers feel that visitors believe calling activities agritainment is just entertainment, which doesn’t provide an everlasting experience or create a long term relationship with the farmer. What activity is occurring on a farm may cause some confusion when working with a municipality. When sharing plans with a municipality it may be best to use the term agritainment for activities since this is what is defined in the Pennsylvania Code relating to activities allowed under the Clean and Green Act.

Agritourism is classified in four different categories.
(in Pennsylvania)

  1. Farm retail and dining: roadside stands, farm markets, Christmas tree farm/cut your own, U-pick operations, gift shops/agricultural crafts, restaurant and food concessions, ice cream and bakery, corporate events and company picnics, weddings and special events, breweries and wineries.
  2. Agri-education: school tours, farm related museum, garden and nursery tours, winery and brewery tours, agricultural exhibits and tours, crop identification programs.
  3. Agri-entertainment: rodeo, agricultural fairs (festivals and shows), children’s activities, petting zoo, horseback riding, corn maze, haunted houses and hayrides, wagon rides, sleigh rides, outdoor recreation such as fishing and hunting.
  4. Agri-lodging: accommodations provided on a currently operating or historic farm including bed and breakfast, dude and guest ranch, country inn, hostel, camping and campgrounds.

Even through it's not specifically listed above my favorite agritourism opportunity has to be guest worker programs. This is when people are willing to pay to come and work on a farm. Everyone recognizes there is a shortage of farmers today. What better way to provide this experience than to allow someone to be a guest worker! This experience can help those individuals determine if farming is a worthwhile interest and pursuit for them.

Deciding to include an agritourism venue on a farm may have other legal concerns to be aware of. Are pesticides being used on the farm? Any areas of the farm designated as a biosecurity area? Farms may need to have liability insurance for agritourism activities and follow risk management and government regulations for zoning, health, food service and more. Facilities will need to have adequate restroom and public areas will need to be ADA compliant for handicapped and disabled visitors. Some municipalities also collect an amusement tax.

Looking for more information about agritourism?

Please check out these links:

USDA NRCS Alternative Enterprises and Agritourism - Farming for Profit and Sustainability Resource Manual

Getting Started in Agritourism by Cornell Cooperative Extension

Your Agritourism in Pennsylvania: A Resource Handbook by The Center For Rural Pennsylvania

Penn State Ag Alternatives - Agritainment

I am certain that most will agree that it can be difficult for a farm operation to be financially viable today. Agritourism can be the component that makes a difference for a farm to be sustainable business and attract year round customers. Agritourism activities may also be a component of a farm's advertising and marketing. This then provides farms more opportunities to engage with the local community, share why they are valuable and the opportunities they provide. Have you made plans for next weekend? Consider visiting a local farm for an agritourism experience near you!

Contact Information

Thomas Smith
  • West Nile Virus Program Administrator
Phone: 717-840-2375