Thursday, November 4, 2010

Agritourism a Growing Trend for Rural Landowners; Offers a New Type of Farm Income

Southwest Missouri farms are in a unique position to add value through agritourism according to Tim Schnakenberg, an agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Small farms typical of the Ozarks can recreate an experience of a simpler time. That brings back memories for tourists who long for a simpler way of life or just create memorable farm activities for the non-farm public," said Schnakenberg.

AgriMissouri, a program within the Missouri Department of Agriculture, partnered with the University of Missouri’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism program in 2010 to conduct a survey of agritourism operators to determine the impact agritourism has on farms and communities.

The study showed that over 1.2 million people visit agritourism destinations each year. Sixty-four percent of respondents indicated adding an agritourism destination to their farm increased their farm revenues significantly and 66 percent plan to continue increasing their agritourism offerings on their farm.


Schnakenberg says in order to be successful with agritourism there are three things you need: something for visitors to see, something unique for them to do, and, something for them to buy.

"The things to see and do are often free-of-charge and attract visitors to the site. Once there, research has found that tourists mainly buy food, beverages and souvenirs," said Schnakenberg.

A few examples of agritourism enterprises include direct marketing of farm products through farm or roadside stands, corn mazes, apple picking, hay rides, horseback riding, bed and breakfast operations, farm and ranch recreations, farm tours for school children, u-pick produce, fee hunting and on-farm sales.

Agritourism can diversify revenue sources, establish an alternative marketing outlet, generate price premiums for farm products, create an opportunity to capitalize on the aesthetic value of agricultural land and allow farm owners to share their passion for agriculture with others.

Schnakenberg says it is a good idea to develop a business plan for a new agritourism venture to guide decisions on goals, profit and focus of the business.

“Part of the business plan will be determining what to charge and what your expenses will be. An expense many small operations overlook is insurance cost. When you invite visitors to your farm, you will need higher levels of liability insurance,” said Schnakenberg.

Owners also need to invest time in market research and resource assessment.


“Most rural citizens have made a trip to the city to visit a zoo, museum or to buy special meals,” said Schnakenberg. “Rural residents should think about how they can get city residents out to the farm to get some of that cash back.”

While some methods are obvious, other experiences may require a little dreaming and some trial and error. Some experiences like fee hunting, bed and breakfast, rural lodging, and dude ranches have been around for a while. Others such as corn maize, farm museums and work experiences on the farm are new.

“While some of these ventures may not provide a large return, many of them offer the opportunity to supplement the traditional farm income,” said Schnakenberg.

Agritourism experiences like corn mazes are showing up all over the state now.

"In the last 10 years, I'd say the number of agritourism experiences in southwest Missouri have grown exponentially. We've seen a tremendous number of them," said Schnakenberg. "It's a lucrative deal for farmers to be involved, and also there's just a lot of interest in it.”

The trend of agritourism may still be in its infancy but Schnakenberg believes it represents a promising venture for family farms.

"Agritourism, I think, is something that's not going away," said Schnakenberg.

For more information contact the nearest MU Extension center or go online to or

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