This time of year, pumpkin patches and apple orchards are the prime location for families, friends, and couples to spend a Saturday. While you’re out finding the perfect pumpkin and sipping cider, you are also contributing to the rural economic development for the area of your favorite orchard. Choosing to buy your seasonal products locally, rather than at a super center, allows economic growth for that rural area. The latest study by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that the nationwide income of agritourism was $566 million. That might not seem like a lot, but agritourism is a fairly new entity, and growing quickly!
Pumpkin patches and apple orchards are agritourism locations. What is agritourism? There is no set definition, but many recognize agritourism as a cross between agriculture production and tourism. These farms and orchards are a great outlet for providing agriculture education to the public, while providing an enjoyable experience for all who visit! All of the petting zoos, homemade pies, and freshly canned jams are products of the farmer or land owner.
The fall season, and the demand for such products, gives these producers the advantage to market their brand to consumers. When you think of autumn, you immediately want to carve a pumpkin, run through a corn maze, and pick apples. Agritourism allows people to do all of these fall activities, and then some! Many do not understand that the producer’s livelihood depends on our participation. They must successfully market their orchard or patch, as it is competitive. This is very important, especially for our state. Diane Handley, Illinois representative for the National Agritourism Professionals Association, understands the importance of improving Illinois agritourism. She says, “Illinois needs stronger agritourism representation, and it is my hope that by affiliating with NAPA, the resources and networking available will assist me in being an informative resource for our growers.” The main goal then, must be not to sell products like gourds, apples, or homemade salsa. The main goal is to sell an amazing experience. Superstores, like Walmart, may sell you a pumpkin and other products for a cheaper price, but consumers are missing the experience. There becomes a disconnect between the farmer and the customer.
Think about the last time you went to an agritourism destination. What made you want to go there? How did the producer/owner have things positioned? What was so fun about it? Why would you go back? These types of questions hopefully have positive answers that would prompt you to return next year… and with more friends!
If you haven’t been out to an orchard yet this season, what are you waiting for?? There is still time to go and EXPERIENCE agriculture! To find your nearest agritourism location, visit the Illinois Orchard Directory.
Hello! My name is Nada Stonebraker and I am a junior at Western Illinois University where I major in Ag Business with a minor in Marketing. I grew up showing beef cattle in the rural town of Avon, Illinois. I have developed a passion for advocating for the agricultural industry, and I hope that it only continues to grow stronger.