Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Growing agri-tourism and local-food industry boosts income for farmers and other landowners

Locavore Farm in Grant Park, Ill. has found success
through agri-tourism (Journal photo by Tiffany Blanchette)
Agri-tourism is booming. The U.S. Census of Agriculture reports that in 2012, the last year covered by the census, 13,334 farms grossed $674 million from agri-tourism, up from 3,000 farms grossing $128 million four years earlier, Mary Hall reports for the Daily Journal in Kankakee, Ill. Of those farms, one-quarter were in the Midwest.

Only 8 percent of Illinois farms "have some kind of recreational side business and most make less than $5,000 per year on it," Hall writes. But most of the participants are "small, family-owned farms that are opening their doors to tourists who want to pick their own apples, see where their beef is raised or simply wake up to a sunrise over a corn field. The biggest growth areas are those just outside of metropolitan areas. And it's often tied to the local food movement. While city populations get more dense, there's also a push to experience the natural—through local food, urban gardening or taking a short drive south to the country for the weekend."

For example, Locavore Farm in Grant Park, Ill. (Best Places map) puts together an Oktoberfest event that features food and music and draws 500 visitors, Hall writes. Dinners for the year, which sold out on July 1, will serve 2,400 people from June to November. The success of places like Locavore Farm, which has been featured in national magazines, "lets tourist get a taste of the rural life" and lets "farms take advantage of their unique nostalgic and family appeal."

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