OSU agritourism efforts bolster farms and ranches

Agritourism can boost farm revenue and provide education and entertainment for v
Agritourism can boost farm revenue and provide education and entertainment for visitors. Photo by Lynn Ketchum

Agricultural entrepreneurs have always had roadside farm stands, “you-pick” orchards, and pumpkin patches. Could these attractions be taken a step further and keep farms afloat? The USDA estimates that in 1985, a farm could support a family with gross sales of about $80,000. By 2005, that minimum increased to $250,000.

OSU Extension agents Melissa Fery, Mary Stewart, and Miles Phillips, with state partners such as Travel Oregon, are exploring agritourism as an economic driver. They are helping farmers plan for B&B-type overnight stays, “farm-to-table” dinners, developing nature trails, historical farm and forest tours, boutique wine tasting rooms, and “work-cations” for guests who want to help brand cattle or weed vegetable beds. Fery notes agritourism benefits the farming family with year-round income, activity during the off-season, and “a way to utilize a [non-farming] skill set that someone on their team might have.”

Stewart has worked for the last two years with 95 farms and/or value-added producers in Marion and Polk counties. She says that, while the data are preliminary, “the vision is that this collaboration will increase [farmers’] individual operation sales, while it brings increased economic impact to local communities through increased tourism revenue.” Phillips agrees, pointing to a new attraction in Coos County, the Wild Rivers Coast Farm Trail. “We don't yet have a measured impact,” says Phillips. “But comments from [2016] participants indicated maybe 50 percent of sales from the Farm Trail Visitors.”

Sources: Melissa Fery, Mary Stewart. and Miles Phillips, OSU Extension