As more and more people feel the accordion squeeze from cramped urban living, increasingly they are looking to the land for diversionary rest and recreation, for breathing room; and to expand their focused lives through a combination of education and entertainment. It’s about the country and open spaces. It’s about going back to the basics, about enjoying simple pleasures: it’s all about agritourism.
Whether it is the outdoors, food and fiber, festivals and fairs, or nature-based experiences, this type of travel is becoming a popular choice for people choosing how best to spend their travel dollars. Sometimes referred to as “slow travel,” the focus is on a rural experience, evoking the nostalgia of simpler times, a slower pace, and welcoming places with warms smiling aces. It’s about establishing a connection with the land, the sea; with the flora and fauna of the landscape. And most definitely it’s about the food chain and the circle of life.
The United States first embraced agritourism as a way to supplement farm and ranch incomes. By marketing the nostalgia of rural America and the ingenuity of the country entrepreneur to the public in unique and innovative ways, many hope that the family land-owner can be sustained.
For example, festivals that celebrate the crops of the land, fruit of the vine, and the bounty of the sea abound in every small town. From artichokes, rhubarbs, mushrooms and garlic to vintage wine, artisan cheese, and seafood – these all encompass agritourism.
Now, agritourism has blossomed into something more to include commercial enterprise activities such as wine-tastings at vineyards, cattle drives on the range, milking cows at dairies, gathering farm-fresh eggs on family farms, horseback riding at dude ranches, llama-trekking on wilderness preserves, or even touring the likes of shrimp farms or organic food operations.
Other forms of agritourism can be seasonal such as pumpkin patches and haunted houses for Halloween and sleigh rides and Christmas tree farms for the winter holidays. For the summer, farm-animal petting zoos, U-pick operations, and farmer’s markets tend to be very popular. And let’s not forget simple pleasures like camping, picnicking, wildlife watching, garden tours, or even mastering one’s way through horticultural mazes of corn, hedges, and shrubs. Accommodations can range from bed & breakfast operations that offer locally grown food as part of their offer “board” to accommodations such as farms, ranches, youth exchanges and elder hostels.
Already a growth industry in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, and other parts of Europe, it is finally catching on in the United States as a way to reconnect with the land. As a result, the United States is starting to see definable growth in this area. What better way is there to see America and discover your food source than to plan a vacation where you slow down and re-discover the simple joys in life and nature.