It’s well established that working farms serve the public good as they are: beneficial to human health & well-being; an important component of sustainable communities; integral to conservation of natural resources & habitat; and factors in economic development & prosperity. Agritourism is a tool useful in the preservation of working farms and farmers.
Agritourism Benefits Farmers
Farming is a risky business due to uncontrollable factors such as weather, pests, disease, and global market conditions. To buffer against risk and expand income opportunities, farmers often seek to diversify their products and market outlets. Agritourism is an expanding facet of agricultural diversification. Agritourism creates employment opportunities for farm family members, particularly younger family members representing the next generation of farmers. The income agritourism generates for some farms is significant.
Agritourism Benefits Communities
In addition, agritourism provides unique opportunities for community cohesiveness and economic development. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase fresh, local farm products forming relationships with growers; reconnect to an agrarian heritage from which most of us are now removed – both in time and space; experience farm-based recreation and educational activities; and enjoy rural amenities. Farm visitors commonly patronize surrounding attractions, local restaurants, and gas stations resulting in growth in community businesses. A 2007 assessment of agritourism in NJ found that each dollar spent by an agritourism visitor at a farm also spurs $0.58 of economic activity in other businesses and associated increases in tax revenues.
A Classic Case Study: The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA
The Flower Fields is a working farm where flowers are grown for bulb production. Urbanization, water costs, market competition, and other issues present at the agricultural-urban interface changed local agriculture over time.The decreasing profit margins led the farm owners to add a visitor services enterprise to capture revenues from visitors attracted to a “by-product” of the farm
– the stunning bloom of their flowers.Research showed that visitors to the Flower Fields had a positive impact on the farm operation as well as the surrounding community.
Agritourism is Size Neutral and Frees Entrepreneurial Spirit
New Jersey policy-makers have instituted laws and policies to stem the loss of farmers and farmland from our “Garden State.” Allowing farmers to utilize Agritourism, broadly defined, is a powerful addition to the Right to Farm, Farmland Tax Assessment, and Farmland Preservation tool box. Agritourism addresses the human component of preserving our farms by freeing entrepreneurial spirit, engaging younger generations, and allowing intergenerational transfer of viable enterprises while preserving scenic vistas and maintaining farming traditions for communities. Community members sharing a common vision to preserve and encourage agriculture along the entire continuum of farming, with focus on the nurturing of new farmers and mid-sized farms, can use Agritourism as additional tool in their efforts to sustain farming in New Jersey.