The University of Illinois Extension defines Agritourism as “any business activity that brings the public to a farm or rural setting in an effort to market farm raised or produced products or for the enjoyment of related outdoor activities”. Oftentimes you will find agritourism as small, local businesses on the main streets of local communities or locations just outside of rural communities. Popular examples of agritourism in Illinois include pumpkin patches, berry farms, orchards, wineries, corn mazes, farmers markets, bed and breakfasts, and more! The diversity of these businesses offers a wide variety of products and services to their visitors, who are typically consumers who enjoy the experience of visiting the location as much as what they may purchase from there.
Agritourism helps rural communities grow economically. The United States Travel Association states that travel and tourism is an over one-billion-dollar industry for the U.S. and generates more than 9 million jobs. The last Census of Agriculture was taken in 2017 and said that 28,575 farms offered agritourism and recreational services that year. Those 28,575 farms generated 949 million dollars in sales. The next Census of Agriculture is to be performed this year, where the number of farms that offer agritourism is expected to increase. Between 2007 and 2017 alone, agritourism grew by 67% and the growth has not been on the decline since then. Some reasons why agritourism is a developing business is because of the opportunity to increase revenue through diversification and the opportunity to make use of underutilized farm resources. In addition, adding agritourism to your operation can offset the costs of rural property ownership and possibly allow for early retirement. It is also a chance to make a business out of a hobby. This may be for wine making, baking, crafting, gardening, hunting, and more.
Agritourism is not only beneficial for business and enjoyment purposes, but it is great for providing agricultural knowledge to community members and visitors. Many agritourism locations in our area offer field trips for schools to take and learn more about their operation. In addition, often part of the experience at an agritourism location is intended to educate visitors about what the operation does and sometimes even about that area of agriculture in general. The knowledge provided draws attraction to the location and helps to maintain agricultural land. Agritourism provides the opportunity to increase support for the agriculture community.
In Illinois, there are many places to see Agritourism in action. Specifically in our Central Illinois area, there are plenty of places to go explore! Specifically in our Central Illinois area, there are plenty of places to go explore! Heyworth, IL has Wild Harvest Honey Farm which is a family run boutique and farm. They work with the purpose of educating people on the importance of bees to the environment. In Shirley, Illinois, you can find Funks Grove Pure Maple Syrup. Their agritourism business began in 1824, where they offer guided tours of the grounds during syrup-making season with the intention to showcase the Funk family process. Roth Pumpkin Patch is located in Morton, IL. Here, they offer lots of fun fall activities that mostly are focused on fun and pumpkins, showcasing one pumpkin patch in the Pumpkin Capital of the World. In Normal, IL, Radar Family Farms offers an agritourism scene for the whole family. They have activities for both fun and education and offer their visitors with knowledge from multiple areas of agriculture. There are even more options to explore than just the places listed. Exploring agritourism in our area benefits our community and allows you to learn more about our local agritourism businesses!