Agritourism is growing in more ways than one
FLORENCE — The largest industry in South Carolina is agriculture, followed by tourism. So combining the two makes sense — and cents.
The next time you wind your way through a corn maze or enjoy a hayride, keep in mind that you are also supporting the farmers who feed you.
“Agritourism is growing faster than a lot of other segments in the agribusiness arena,” said Buddy Jennings of the Farm Bureau Federation at the Jan. 14-15 SC AgriBiz & Farm Expo. “And it’s going to continue to grow. It is about a lot more than pumpkin patches. It is huge.”
The concept of agritourism, which is defined as any agriculturally based activity that attracts visitors to farms and ranches, has been around for a long time. But in recent years, its definition has expanded. Corn mazes, hayrides and pumpkin patches have been joined by disc golf, mud runs, paintball, ziplines, pig racing and even human foosball.
And it’s all for the financial benefit of farmers and their surrounding communities.
“You’ve got to figure out what you want to do, who you want to do it for, and how much you’re going to charge,” said Martha Glass, the executive director of the N.C. Agritourism Networking Association. “Always be proud. Always know that you will be respected in your community because you are adding value. You are attracting people who spend money at local restaurants, motels, gas stations.”
With recent legislative funding fueling its momentum, agritourism is taking off throughout South Carolina.
“The (S.C.) General Assembly took interest in agritourism two sessions back and realized it was an opportunity,” said Martin Eubanks, S.C. assistant commissioner of agriculture. “We asked for and received funding to try to invigorate this opportunity. Everybody wants to get back on the farm, looking for the farm experience. That’s exciting to me.”
One example of agritourism in the Clemson area is Denver Downs Farm in Sandy Springs, which offers more than 30 “farmtastic” activities, including a 10-acre corn maze.
“A few generations ago, most everyone in South Carolina had grandparents or relatives who lived on a farm that they would visit,” said Catherine Garrison Davis, co-owner of Denver Downs Farm. “Times have changed, but agritourism ensures that families can visit a farm and learn about where their food comes from. We as farmers want to provide a fun experience and make family memories that our visitors will want to tell everyone about.”
Jackie Moore, the recently appointed agritourism director for the S.C. Department of Agriculture, has spearheaded a growing emphasis on teaching farmers to share ideas through networking. They are also being shown how to use social media as a tool to spread the word that in addition to producing food many farms offer daylong, family-oriented entertainment.
“We want to get these farmers communicating with each other,” said Moore. “We want to help them do better — and do more. And we want to help the public find the farm.”
After that, let the fun begin. You might even discover that pigs really can fly.
For a list of S.C. Agritourism farms, visit www.scfarmfun.org.
For additional information, go to www.agriculture.sc.gov/divisions/agency-services/agritourism/.