The scope of agritourism varies drastically depending on the type of farm, available land and how much of the business is aimed at the agritourism market. However, the varying forms can be broken down into three basic groups:
- Direct-market agritourism: If you've ever seen a roadside produce stand, you've seen direct-market agritourism in action. Farmers sell goods like produce, canned items and other organic products directly to consumers either at markets and fairs or on the farm itself, often alongside other agritourism offerings. Farmers may be selling an organic product similar to what consumers could find at a grocery store, but their product has the added appeal of coming directly from a local farm. To appeal to some consumers, the goods may be marketed as organic, all-natural, or the product of "old-fashioned" methods.
- Education and experience agritourism: This form of agritourism includes pick-your-own apple groves, farm tours, bed-and-breakfasts and packages aimed at giving guests a hands-on education in farm life. The farm itself is marketed as a tourist destination. Whether agritourists pay to pick their own produce, attend wine tastings at a vineyard or simply enjoy the farm atmosphere, the draw is first-hand experience. Once visitors are acquainted with the farm more closely, they may also be more inclined to buy its agricultural products.
- Recreation and event agritourism: While still considered agritourism, these offerings tend to involve using farm land for other marketable uses. Harvest festivals, corn mazes, haunted hay rides and country weddings held on farm land may draw heavily on the farm's atmosphere. Other activities like camping, archery and horseback riding are often less dependent on the farm itself. However, such forms of agritourism still draw in guests who may be tempted to buy goods.
Once a connection has been made between the consumer and the farm, long-term relationships can be forged. This customer loyalty and repeat business is key to the success of many agritourism businesses. In some cases, it takes the form of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). With a CSA, families and individuals interested in supporting local agriculture make a commitment to a farm in exchange for a regular subscription of produce or other goods. Some CSAs require payment while others actually require that subscribers partake in the care and harvesting of produce.
Agritourism and CSAs come down to the basic idea that food is worth more to some consumers if they have an emotional connection to where it came from.
But who are the agritourists? In the next section, we'll look at why agritourism holds such an appeal to many travelers.