Promoting Our Industry One Tourist at a Time

February 17, 2015

This is as good a time as ever to start thinking about summer. And thoughts of summer always turn to vacations, when we load up the clan in the family truckster and head out for adventure. The economics of tourism are impressive, and the opportunities for agriculture and agribusiness to be a part of those numbers is essential from both a public relations and an economic standpoint.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, direct spending on leisure travel by domestic and international travelers totaled $621.4 billion in 2013. And yet, agritourism is a small, albeit growing, part of the U.S. tourism industry. At a time when many elements of agriculture are under fire from various fronts, there must be greater opportunities to bring consumers to the farm to learn where their food comes from and, equally important, connect with the people who make it possible.

While agriculture is a 50-state industry in the U.S., there are only 35 states that actively promote agritourism. The ways they do that are as numerous as agriculture itself, from farm tours and overnight stays on farms and rural bed and breakfasts that even can include hands-on experiences helping with chores, to corn mazes and petting and feeding zoos, on-farm farmer’s markets, garden tours and living history farms.

Consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from. That interest has often been spurred by groups that are not acting on agriculture’s behalf, but on other agendas. Agritourism allows consumers to see the source of their food, whether it’s dairy cows and beef cattle, corn growing in a field or an apple orchard or grape arbor. Agri-marketers have the task of making sure those opportunities are organized and promoted in ways that let tourists know they’ll have a unique and enriching experience for their entire family. The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center is a national information resource for value-added agriculture that can provide information and insight.

Spring is about planting seeds; summer is about nurturing growth. This spring, agri-marketers and agribusinesses in all 50 states need to plant ideas and programs that can be nurtured into rich experiences for the people planning their summer adventures and avenues for economic enhancement and image enrichment for agriculture.