Ask most people what they think of when they hear the word “farm”, and reasonably the word “experience” would not be top of the list*.
And yet, increasingly that is what is being sought as the essential value from a fast-growing segment of the farm sector.
The many positive impacts of agritourism struck me during a recent holiday in Spain when touring the facilities of a leading olive oil producer.
There I saw a farm collaboration that rolled art, architecture, and the history and processing of olive oil into a fascinating and informative farm-based tourist experience.**
In our increasingly urbanised and digitally constructed world, more people are wanting to experience real things and engage with authentic people and places, especially in the way the essentials of life are sourced and made.
‘Provenance’ and ‘terroir’ maybe words not commonly used, but today they can deliver premium prices for farm products.
A generation ago, the wine industry led the way, and its lessons are being seen now in agritourism ventures as diverse as craft beverages, heritage breeds, dairy, and horticulture and all the delicious products they make.
Farm stay tours and farm gate and cellar door businesses dot the map from the Atherton Tableland in north Queensland, south to the Huon Valley in Tasmania and all the way west to the Margaret River in Western Australia.
The future looks bright for this engaging and resourceful part of rural Australia whose appeal to city audiences was further boosted during pandemic lockdowns by television shows like Gourmet Farmer and River Cottage Australia.
CSIRO estimates agritourism to be worth $10 billion now with projected annual growth of 5% to almost double by 2030, framed by a federally funded National Agritourism Strategy jointly supported by peak tourism and farming groups.
Lead edge agritourism is serious business, integrating a farm production vision with visitor and consumer engagement, enabling people to “experience” the realities of food and fibre production, landscape management, sustainability in practice, and regional provenance.
Besides the reputational benefits that come from better understanding by consumers, the farm dividend is seen also in income diversification and smoothing, job creation, and new business skills.
The agritourism experience and its message overwhelmingly emphasises sustainability, authenticity, direct connection, and community – presenting an appealing alternative to negative preconceptions about farming.
More generally, it means social and economic upside for those regions able to exploit the opportunity in blending two great industries.
*This article appeared in Queensland Country Life’s “View from the Paddock” under the title “Travel highlights many agritourism benefits”, Thursday 8 June 2023 page 19.
** The photo at top of this article featuring a sculpture set among olive trees was taken at LA Organics, near Ronda in Spain in May 2023.