This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 20, 2009

Agri-tourism on the Rise

Prompted by the lack of money to spend on vacations, people around the world will turn to agri-entertainment and -tourism—new, highly consumer-focused types of agriculture. These areas may offer additional options for diversification and add stability to farm incomes. To attract these tourists, farmers have invented a wide variety of "entertainment farming" options.

Many of us who live in the United States visited Amish farms as children. These working farms featured animals that those of us who lived in cities had never seen in person. Other types of working farms open to the public include those displaying historical re-creations, crop art (including mazes), pick-your-own (u-pick), and herb farms.

One unique installation is the "little village" in Stanhope, Iowa. Run by the Carlsons, the tiny community includes a school, general store, church, livery stable, and blacksmith shop. All of the buildings are constructed one-half to two-third scale.

Darren Schmall, a California farmer, originated the concept of the "Pizza Farm". A subset of crop art, one field is devoted to a circular arrangement of crops and animals that all represent ingredients. The circle features pie-shaped wedges of pepper plants, wheat, and tomatoes. Other sections house hogs and cattle (representing sausage and cheese). Reportedly, this kind of agri-entertainment is the one of the fastest-growing types of crop art.

For example, a Viking farm and archeological theme park in Lerje, Denmark draws locals and tourists who spend as much as a week living on site to take part in the activities.

Some farms have additional forms of entertainment onsite, including wagon- or hay-rides, horseback riding, vineyard tours, wildlife watching, skeet shooting, and even the opportunity to personally participate in farm activities.

Still another category of agri-tourism is "farm schools/workshops/educational activities". Offering everything from afternoon courses to short-term workshops and full-scale, accredited courses of study, farm schools accommodate interns or apprentices, and some charge tuition for the learning opportunity. Some farm schools are geared toward residential living for people with developmental disabilities. Many small herb or vegetable farms offer classes in cooking, arranging flowers, or making herbal medicines.

Our forecast: agri-tourism and -entertainment will increase substantially this spring and summer and stay popular into the fall. Some unemployed individuals will choose to be agri-entrepreneurs to take advantage of this growing trend. Long-term, college and university agricultural programs will also benefit.

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