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August 22, 2011

Agritourism Offering an Economic Boost

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

Are you an agritourist? AFBF’s Johnna Miller found out from Community Development Specialist Sabrina Matteson that a lot of people are and probably don’t even know it. 
Miller:A lot of people may have never heard the term “agritourism,” even though it’s becoming more and more likely they’ve participated in it. Agritourism is basically any activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. According to 2006 figures from the U.S. Department of Interior more than 87 million people spent about $122 billion to participate in outdoor recreation of one type or another and the lion’s share of that happens on farms and ranches.
Matteson:The growth of agritourism is really important for both the consumer and farmers and ranchers because it’s an opportunity for the consumer to see how food, fuel and fiber are created and it gives an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to share their story. 
Miller:American Farm Bureau Community Development Specialist Sabrina Matteson says agricultural tourism has become an important alternative for improving the incomes and potential economic viability of small farms and rural communities. 
Matteson:There are farmers that are doing it because of the seasonal characteristic of farming. They may be doing a spring crop and a fall crop, but don’t have activities on their farm that they are busy with in the summer time. So they may decide they’re going to do trail rides. There are lots of pick-your-own opportunities and sometimes the farmer will cr eate more of a festival atmosphere so that there will be educational opportunities and hay rides. There are corn mazes and with the return of school there are lots of opportunities for school groups to go and visit a farm and to pick apples or pumpkins. 
Miller:Matteson says agritourism offers opportunities that keep farms and ranches in the family.
Matteson:More and more we are seeing that next generation of a family that wants stay active on the farm will initiate a new business on the farm. So a cattle or hog operation, for example, that might have been wholesaling meat for generations will suddenly have a new person in their family that wants to doretail meats and they can sell their meats through farmers’ markets. 
Miller:And cut out the middle man, keeping more income on the farm. Matteson says agritourism also creates jobs, but perhaps most importantly, a better understanding of what agriculture is all about.
Matteson:I think that t he consumer trusts somebody that they can look in the eye that says “I feed these strawberries to my own children. This is the way I raise my food. And I think that through the opportunity to visit a farm consumers are reassured. 
Miller:To find out more about agritourism you can check out Matteson’s blog at www.ruralcommunitybuilding.fb.org. Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller:We have two extra actualities with AFBF Community Development Specialist Sabrina Matteson. In the first extra actuality she describes agritourism. The cut runs 31 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Matteson:Agritourism is the opportunity for the general consumer to visit a farm and experience some of the things that are available on a farm. A lot of people are very interested in finding out where their food comes from and what the processes are for raising livestock and raising crops and visiting a farm offers them that opportunity to see farmers and ranchers in their neighborhoods, in action, in the way that they take on some of these challenges. 
Miller:In the second extra actuality Matteson talks about why she thinks agritourism is growing in the United States. The cut runs 26 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Matteson:For many, many generations there were always people in someone’s family that were from a farm and now, with only two percent of the U.S. population involved in agriculture, there are so many fewer opportunities for people to get out on the land. That consumer demand has created an opportunity for farmers who are willing to invite the consumer to their farms to show them what happens on a farm. 
Miller:Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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