|Agri-tourism is becoming an important
revenue stream to farms.
STURBRIDGE, MA -
“Agri-tourism” and “agri-tainment” are
the buzz terms in the future of agriculture, judging from the success
stories of a panel of farmers addressing the Harvest New England
agricultural conference in Sturbridge, Mass., in February.
Holmberg Orchards said interest in visiting his farmstand,
pick-you-own fields and farm winery in Gales Ferry has been
the kinds of crowds we
were going to get
during the harvest season,” he told the audience at the opening session
on agriculture trends in New England. “What
had been a couple hundred people a day grew to 5,000
day Columbus Day weekend.”
The good thing was Holmberg Farms is
proving to be a powerful magnet for people looking for something to do.
The bad news, Holmberg said, was that some people waited
for 90 minutes to pay for their produce.
He’ll be more prepared this year.
The other farmers on the panel echoed
Holmberg’s experience, saying they were welcoming more and more people
eager to share an agriculture-related experience with their families.
Creating more opportunities for visitors is a way to grow a farm’s
business, panelists said.
Agritourism and visitor activities
“extend the life of the farm,” is how Meg Wilson, of DeMeritt Hill Farm
in Lee, New Hampshire, put it.
Alongside its Orchard business, Meg
has built a solid following among teachers for her educational school
tours and has established her farm’s trail system as the home turf or a
local school track team. Her farm now takes advantage of its 120 acres
by offering hiking in summer and cross-country skiing in winter. She’s
planning on flooding a parking lot for ice skating this season, she
And people can’t get enough of Meg’s
cider donuts. She calls talking her husband into buying her a donut
machine the best idea she ever had.
But, Aaron Delsignore of Tide Mill Farm in Edmunds, Maine, had the
bright idea that grabbed the most attention among the audience.
Delsignore said he and his wife, Carly, are always looking for ways to
advance business on their farm and dairy, which dates back nine
generations. “We discovered we could dehydrate chicken feet in
our greenhouse,” Aaron said to groans from the audience. “We paint them
as Christmas tree ornaments, and they come in package with a little
story about how the chicken roamed the fields and fertilized them.
“We charge extra if you want the matching pair.”