Friday, February 27

Agritourism: Another Vision for Iowa

According to Purdue University research, nature-/agricultural-based tourism is the fastest growing sector of the U.S. tourism industry, averaging a 30 percent increase since 1997. From farmhouse bed-and-breakfast operations to winery tours, specialized product sales and Halloween attractions, farmers are taking a chance on tourism and it is paying off.

According to the Iowa State Extension, "agritourism is a growing segment of the rural economy in many areas of Iowa." Iowa agritourism includes farm-based bed and breakfasts, Christmas tree farms, markets, fruit and vegetable u-picks, hiking for a fee, hunting/fishing for a fee, mazes for a fee, wineries and more. An issue is as this type of tourism increases, will more farms go organic in part for the safety of their visitors and for the growing demand for organic, locally-grown products?

Ethical Shopper provides some clues:

The growing interest in organic foods, local farms, and farmers’ markets has led a growing number of people to these functioning farms. "It’s grown because more farmers are finding out it’s an important avenue to bring in revenue and stay on the farm" said Rich Pirog, associate director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. " Secondarily, it’s increasing because we’ve moved to an experience economy. People want to have a farm experience.”

As I reported in an earlier blog, small farms are growing rapidly in Iowa and agritourism may be a way for the small, family farm to stay a small, family farm.

Iowa State is sponsoring a conference on the subject on March 7th called "Visit Iowa Farms - Becoming a Destination!" the 2009 Visit Iowa Farms Conference at Honey Creek Resort at Lake Rathbun, Iowa.

Blog for Iowa has more archived from last year's event.

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