A friend recently asked me, or rather begged me, to offer her suggestions on sustainable tourism options for families with toddlers. It didn’t take me long to uncover, in my opinion, the perfect form of sustainable tourism that has the ability to entertain all ages: AGRITOURISM.
As defined by the UC Small Farm Program, agritourism is “a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment or education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner.”
Good for the kids: For children, participating in agritourism is a great way to have fun while experiencing what Irene Lane describes as “teachable moments.” By visiting a farm or ranch, children are given the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from, how plants and animals live and grow, and about the value of natural resources. An example of some popular agritourism activities include: farm tours, pick-your-own-fruit opportunities, animal farm visits, craft fairs, and other family oriented agricultural events.
Why is agritourism becoming so popular? I was thumbing through some old Ode magazines the other day and came across an article on agritourism in the April/May 2010 issue. Ode describes this new wave of agritourism as farms “opening their doors to a public hungry for a up-close look at how their food is grown or raised.” Similar to the attraction tourists have towards the unknown and authentic when they travel, the production of food has become an unknown entity to us. This has made agritourism a thriving niche market around the world, particularly for the American market, whereby they seek authentic food and farm experiences for personal education and fulfillment.
Agritourism around the world: Agritourism opportunities can be found worldwide. In Italy, agritourism has become a huge niche market due to the country’s visitor attraction being strongly associated with food and wine. Italy has even created a new form of accommodation called, agriturismo. Agriturismo are farm holiday accommodations often manifesting themselves as historic country farm houses. Staying at an agriturismo allows the visitor to learn about the family who run the farm, take part in farm activities, participate in cooking classes, etc. This is a unique opportunity to get to know both the history and culture of Italy, while supporting the local economy. You also get to enjoy your vacation surrounded by a beautiful rural setting and delicious local cuisine.
My most memorable agritourism experience? Visiting the Surrey Hills Llama farm in Surrey, England. In addition to offering treks with the llamas, the farm owns The Merry Harriers, a pub praised for their use of fresh and local produce. My teachable moment from the experience was learning that llama’s have big personalities. Louis, pictured on the left, likes to be at the end of the pack while on a trek. To make sure he is the last llama, he hangs around waiting and eating while the rest of the llamas and trekkers move along down the trail. However, once he can no longer see his brethren, panic sets in and Louis goes running to catch up to them! My friends couldn’t help but laugh hysterically every time Louis and I would disappear from the pack, and then re-emerge at lightening speed.
Resources to plan your own agritourism holiday:
California: Check out the California Agricultural Tourism Directory. They have a list of farms and ranches you can visit, upcoming events, and farm trails you can follow if you are up for a multi-agritourism adventure.
UK: Go to Farm Stay UK for more information on booking a Farm focused holiday in the UK.
Canada: Trail Canada offers a great comprehensive guide to different agritourism ideas throughout the country.
Everywhere Else: Agritourism World provides a worldwide search engine to find the best farm stays and ranch visits at your next holiday destination.