Agritourism in Illinois
What is Agritourism?
You probably already have visited one or more of the places considered to be agritourism businesses without even realizing it. It is any business that brings customers to a farm or rural area in an effort to market a good or service. Agritourism is a business niche that is gaining in popularity. Farms and rural towns offer a unique country experience that you cannot get from large city tourism areas. They successfully entice people to travel greater distances.
This can include places like:
- U-pick farms
- Bed and Breakfasts
- Horse Riding Lessons
- Nature Tourism (i.e. state parks)
- Hunting Clubs
- Pumpkin Farms
- Petting Zoos
- Rural Main Street businesses like antique shops and hand-made items
- Haunted Farms (Halloween activities)
For rural areas, these products and services offer an economic boost and opportunities for farmers to supplement their income. For others, it is a way to make a business out of a hobby.
Reasons People Visit Agritourism Sites
For many who regularly visit country areas, they take a vested interest in learning how their food is produced. This is a great learning experience for both adults and children because of the ability to chat with farmers about the methods they use on their farms and actually view the process on which the food or service is produced.
Aside from the farm to table aspect of these visits, many farms offer family entertainment. Pumpkin farms are a large crowd pleaser in my area during the month of October. They offer tons of activities, including corn mazes, hay rides, pick-your-own pumpkins and farmer's markets that sell plants, produce and homemade items such as pies. Being able to pet farm animals is another reason people bring their children to these farms. They are one part fun and one part learning experience.
For the adult who is interested in wine tasting or wine making, rural vineyards offer the agritourism experience as well and are wildly popular. Aside from wine tastings, many have branched out to include Bed and Breakfasts and wedding venues on their properties.
Others who are interested in a nature hikes, canoeing or fishing can visit a state park which often times has cabins or a lodge available for overnight or weekend stays.
In my personal opinion, because of the recession and lackluster economy, these types of excursions are gaining in popularity because they are less expensive and you can usually drive to them in a few hours time. Despite the economy, people still feel the need to go on some type of vacation to unwind from work stress or spend time with family during the kid's summer vacation. Agritourism sites fit the bill.
Siegel's Cottonwood Farm
Do you visit an Agritourism site at least once per year?
Agritourism Census Information
Interestingly enough, the 2012 census data provided by the USDA shows that agritourism is a booming business:
(List courtesy of AGMRC: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center)
There are now 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agriculture census presents more than 6 million pieces of information, which provide a detailed look at the U.S. farm sector at the national, state and county levels.
- 144,530 farm operators reported selling products directly to consumers. In 2012, these sales totaled more than $1.3 billion (up 8.1 percent from 2007).
- 57,299 farms produced on-farm renewable energy, more than double the 23,451 in 2007.
- Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased 11.3 percent from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012.
- Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals.
- Organic sales were growing, but accounted for just 0.8 percent of the total value of U.S. agricultural production. Organic farmers reported $3.12 billion in sales in 2012, up from $1.7 billion in 2007.
A few Great Agritourism Sites Within 50 Miles of Chicago
Illinois may have a long list of economic problems that need fixing, but one thing we do well here is Agritourism! Here are a few links to some great places to visit on your next trip to the Chicago area:
Dollinger's Family Farm: 7420 E. Hansel Road, Channahon, Illinois 60410 http://www.dollingerfarms.com/
Siegel's Cottonwood Farm: 17250 S. Weber Road, Crest Hill, IL 60441 http://www.ourpumpkinfarm.com/
Bengston's Pumpkin Farm: 13341 W. 151st in Homer Glen, IL, 60491 http://www.pumpkinfarm.com/
Keller's Corn Maze and Farmstand: 2500 Johnson Rd Oswego, IL 60543 http://www.kellersfarmstand.com/fall.aspx
See a list of Illinois wineries in my other article here: http://lisaroppolo.hubpages.com/hub/Vintage-Illinois-A-Journey-Through-Illinois-Wine-Making
Agritourism: The Wave of the Future
With the increase awareness of sustainability within our energy usage and the increase demand for eating local, fresh and organic foods, I believe there will be more of an opportunity for farmers and rural business owners to cash in on this ever-expanding market. The availability of internet resources, like social media, provide cheap and easy ways to market their products and services and reach a greater customer base. Plus, the interest in new technologies i.e. wind farms can expand opportunities for new tourism sites that aren't currently available.
Keller's Corn Maze and Farmstand
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