Agritourism Poised for Year-Round Growth
How Farms are Expanding their Seasons and Profits
From “pick-your-own fruits or vegetables” to pony rides, corn mazes, and more, farms across the country are embracing the revenue-generating potential of agritourism. This market has emerged from a once seasonal opportunity of a few weeks to year-round possibilities. The Census of Agriculture shows farm agritourism revenue more than tripled between 2002 and 2017. And it was one of the rare industries to experience growth in 2020. Expansion of the season is leading to further innovation and investment in their concession food offerings.
How 2020 Prompted Change
Agritourism experienced a record year in 2020. Due to closures of movie theaters, amusement parks, stadiums, and other venues, there was less competition for the family entertainment dollar. People longed for outdoor activities that were fun and safe. Farms also offered the benefits of being affordable and gave customers the chance to support a local business within their community. This unique combination of events made farm operators realize there was a demand beyond the traditional seasonal activities.
Making to Move to Year-Round
Farms traditionally tie their business to either spring/summer activities like picking strawberries or planting gardens or fall happenings like visiting pumpkin patches or apple picking. Thinking beyond those times has opened doors of opportunity. Now, rather than just 4-8 weeks a year, they are moving to 6 or more months per year.
Here are examples of how farms are expanding their calendar year-round:
- Easter egg hunts in spring (In addition to a children’s event, Clinton Sease Farm in North Carolina worked with a local brewery to host an adult Easter egg hunt to expand the farm’s appeal to the adult crowd. The event sold out.)
- Pick-your-own fruits and vegetables for spring/summer
- Pony rides and horseback riding
- Pumpkins and corn mazes in fall
- Light shows and holiday markets for Christmas/winter
- Opening a Farmers Market
- Focusing on events and becoming destinations for weddings, concerts, and corporate or other group functions
- Partnering with local wineries or breweries to host wine or craft beer tasting events
- Creating other types of family-friendly activities like amusement rides, petting zoos, or campfire and marshmallow roasting parties with storybook readers (Lark Ranch in Indiana expanded its open season from September-October to July-November. They added rides from Poor Jack Amusements and brought in a petting zoo.)
- Making signature food items available for order online
Recognizing the Impact of Food
Concession food is an increasingly important ingredient for the overall success of agritourism. Not only does it provide guests with a fulfilling experience and items they can take home, but it also offers operators a stream of attractive profits.
Farms can embrace signature seasonal treats, providing customers with unique items they can’t find anywhere else. In spring, offer slush flavors paired with the different berry harvests. During summer, sell freshly squeezed lemon shake-ups. Or scoop ice cream into your own freshly made waffle cones. For fall, serve up pumpkin-flavored items like fudge and funnel cakes. A popular winter item can be hot cider or peppermint hot chocolate. There are lots of possibilities. And many concession supply items can be used in multiple ways across seasonality. (Learn more by downloading our guide, 5 Secrets to Getting More Out of Your Concessions!)
Lots of concession items are year-round including:
- Fresh popcorn
- Gourmet popcorn flavors like caramel corn or kettle corn
- Caramel and candy apples
- Funnel cakes
- Fried foods, such as corn dogs
- Cotton candy
What’s great for farms is that they have the option to either produce freshly made concessions or opt for prepackaged varieties. Gold Medal offers a variety of setups to meet a business’ specific needs.
If you’re eager to learn more about bringing concession foods to your farm year-round, start by exploring Gold Medal’s product lines here. And be sure to connect with a concession specialist near your area.