Agritourism: Selling the farm experience

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo.–Agriculture and tourism are big industries in Missouri. Some of Missouri’s rural entrepreneurs are finding ways to contribute to both industries, making a profitable mixture of food production, hospitality and recreation on their farms.

“Agritourism is a business venture located on a working farm, ranch or other agricultural enterprise that provides an experience for visitors while generating supplemental income for the owner,” said Whitney Wiegel, University of Missouri Extension agriculture business specialist.

“Examples of agritourism include corn mazes, horseback riding, U-pick produce, fee hunting, school tours, wagon rides and on-farm sales,” he said.

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.

“Anyone planning to start an agritourism venture should look at the venture as a business,” Wiegel said. “First, ask yourself what type of agritourism business you want to operate. Will its purpose be to supplement cash flow, earn a profit or provide educational fun and enjoyment without making a profit? Identifying your goals is foundational in operating any type of farm enterprise, whether it’s agritourism or commodity production.”

The next two steps go hand-in-hand—market research and resource assessment.

“Your market research and resource assessment should answer the following questions: ‘Who will come to my farm?’ and ‘Why will they come?’” he said.

Your marketing efforts should be based on whom you intend to attract to your business. Will you try to attract families, retired people, schoolchildren or some other class of people? Will you try to attract local people, people from a nearby city, travelers along a major highway or others? 

“Also, consider what characteristics of your farm will attract your target population,” he said. “This is where your farm resources come into the picture. Do you offer a peaceful place in the country where couples can come to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, an educational venue for elementary schools, a paradise for hunters or recreational opportunities for horse owners/riders?”

The next step is to write a business plan that clearly explains the nature of your business.

“Your business plan will help you determine whether or not your business will accomplish your goals and it will help you communicate your idea with people who may be able to help you succeed,” Wiegel said.

For more information about business planning and resources to help you get started in agritourism, contact your local MU Extension office. Many online resources are through MU Extension at http://extension.missouri.edu/main/DisplayCategory.aspx?C=9.

University of Missouri Extension