Transforming Rural Farmland into Agritourism Destinations: A Closer Look at Innovative Land Use

April 04, 2024
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Unlock the potential of rural farmland with agritourism, boosting land value and community engagement.

All signs indicate farmland to be one of the best real estate ventures, given current markets. Significant investment funds are hedging their bets against rising inflation by purchasing U.S. farm real estate in massive volumes.


Given that the average value of all land and buildings on farms was around $4,080 per acre in 2023 (a 7.4% increase over 2022), it makes sense that these properties are looking more attractive to buyers. People want the peace of the small town, but also the possibility of building wealth.


While investment firms and small families may be browsing rural real estate for future ventures, an often-overlooked industry is equally on the rise – agritourism. The ability to create multi-faceted businesses using farmland is appealing to a broad range of owners and entrepreneurs and could mark a renaissance in U.S. farming.


What is Agritourism?


A farm, by any other name, is still a farm. However, when you add diversified pursuits like wineries, hayrides, hunting vacations, or even a locally grown farm stand, you enter the realm of agritourism. This is where tourism and agriculture combine into a commercial enterprise designed to attract people to your farm without sacrificing the ability to grow or cultivate crops, cattle, or other commodities.


Landowners love agritourism because it adds a lot of extra funding to property values. In 2022 alone, the national agritourism industry was valued at $58.8 billion and is expected to reach $100 billion by 2028.


Unique Ways to Integrate Agritourism into Farm Real Estate


As you can imagine, there are endless ways to bring agritourism into a community. This style of rural real estate cultivation and investing follows the same basic premise as the famous line from Field of Dreams – “if you build it, they will come.” 


Let’s look closer at some of the trends in agritourism already taking hold in the industry.


Eco-Friendly Farming Experiences


Agritourism already focuses on the safe, effective, and natural processes of food production. Many in the sustainable and regenerative tourism field want to learn more about lowering their carbon footprint through promoting such eco-friendly activities.


An excellent example is having rental properties or land available for RV/Campers to board overnight for free as long as the tourist completes some essential farmwork. You are trading time for services, lowering your labor requirement.


Another way to incorporate regenerative tourism is setting aside parts of your rural farmland for community gardens. You can charge a small amount per segment to earn income while helping your community foster greater food independence and an appreciation for the land.


Wellness & Health Tourism


Here is probably where you’ll find the most agritourism happening right now. Imagine an extraordinarily long table under a canopy weighed down by farm-to-table food, drinks, and centerpieces. Hosting these dinners is a wonderful way for farms to increase income, utilize grown assets, and connect with more people through viral social media posts.


The goal of wellness and health tourism is to focus on relaxation while boosting sensory pleasure and natural environment integration. That is why you see so many farms with Goat Yoga, Wine & Art nights, or retreat spaces for meditation experiences. These allow people living in fast-paced urban environments to reconnect with the land while filling the pockets of landowners.


Leisure & Recreation


The broadest category of agritourism falls into all those engaging activities that “make sense” for the farm real estate. This could be anything from horseback sled rides in the winter to corn mazes in the fall.


The goal here is to infuse your farmland with tours, restaurants, stays, markets, and attractions that bring in more tourism and infuse the agricultural purist with much-needed funds. Popular options often include:


  • Pick your own harvest
  • Petting farms
  • Education programs for local schools
  • Glamping experiences and day camps
  • Wine and brewery tours
  • Agricultural festivals and fairs
  • Cooking and food preservation classes
  • Workshops (beekeeping, organic gardening, etc.)
  • Fishing, hunting, and aquaculture tours
  • And so much more


There is even a call for some farms to incorporate environmental protection activities. Given that the current Farm Bill offers voluntary incentive programs for landowners to preserve and restore wildlife habitat, there could be a move toward preservation as part of agritourism.


Event Spaces


If you are already investing in farm real estate, it may be beneficial to proactively set aside certain areas and buildings for event spaces. Wedding venues, community dances, and even pop-up concerts are all popular opportunities for farm owners.


There was even a farm in Vermont that hosts a massive sunflower maze during the summer months. This brought in $15 a head across 2 ½ manicured acres. The farm went a step further and created special booking sessions for photoshoots (engagement, wedding, graduation, family, etc.) that charged hundreds of dollars.


Run the numbers for a moment. Let’s say 200 people a day visit the maze or about $3,000 in revenue. Then, the average farm stand purchase is $10 per family of four, which would be about another $250 (and that is on the low side). Then, you have two scheduled photoshoots at $50 each for a single day. In total, that is $3,350 on an average day for that farm.


If only half of the 121 days from June 1st to September 30th are sunny, that is over $200,000 in additional revenue to a farm. That is life changing income for a rural community.  


When you combine this attraction with event spaces, a farm stand, and land set aside for camping/glamping, that small town farm suddenly becomes a lucrative agritourism business with high potential revenue.


Wrapping Up


Agritourism is a useful method of increasing the potential value of a given rural real estate property. It expands the ability of landowners and operators to reach the community, engage with more consumers, and double or triple annual profits.


The industry is growing so rapidly that even the USDA has included a resource page on its website to help those interested in agritourism achieve greater success. Considering the growing number of younger generations wanting to get out of the city and reconnect with the land, agritourism is a viable way to breathe new life into rural communities.


You never know when that 5-acre piece of land in Montana, Idaho, or Ohio could suddenly become a community mainstay filled with fresh foods, welcome housing, and annual activities that fuel economic growth.