Agritourism: An Alternative Homestead Income

Agritourism is an alternative source of income for farmers providing goods to tourists, ranging from selling pumpkins, maple sugaring, home cooked farm meals and taking photos of tourists visiting the farm.

| June/July 2002

Homesteads gain a secondary income by using agritourism during their off seasons.

From Maine to Illinois, buses filled with schoolchildren and conventioneers visit farms to pick a bunch of lavender, go maple sugaring, harvest a personalized pumpkin, pet baby animals or take a picture of grandchildren running through a corn maze. It's called agritourism, and it is providing an alternative source of income for many families. The work is often seasonal and varies depending on what the farm or ranch has to offer tourists.

New York State provides advertising and promotion of agritourism along the 500-mile St. Lawrence Seaway Trail. Some Northeast farmers offer bed and breakfast accommodations for skiers or hikers. The western

United States with its vast mountain ranges and rugged natural scenery specializes in ranching, camping, trail rides, hunting and fishing, large animals and the chuckwagon.

After surveying Texas farm entertainment opportunities, Texas A&M University converted pan of its 2,700-acre ranch near Alice, Texas. Dubbed LaCopita Ranch, it's the first university-connected facility for training landowners and managers for agritourism. According to Miles Phillips, the program includes economic training and preparation for jobs on ranches where the owners may want to develop an ecotourism enterprise, but not manage it themselves.

LaCopita Ranch started offering tours this spring. Hiking through native "South Texas mixed brush," tourists see white-tailed deer, javelina, bobwhite quail, doves and numerous non-game species. LaCopita plans half-day guided tours of the ranch for groups, as well as overnight stays for groups and individuals, with bunkhouse accommodations, a short guided program and free time to explore the ranch by bicycle or on foot, and a chance to hear country music nearby.

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