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The Importance of Local Agritourism for MN Communities

John Wiederhoeft of Stone Hearth Farm & Garden

Farmers who grow food in smaller communities in rural Minnesota frequently truck their products 50-100 miles to larger urban areas to access customers. These long drives are expensive in fuel costs and time but are often the only option for farmers to reach larger markets and sell products at viable prices. Farmers consistently report that they are looking for markets closer to home, but in small rural communities –where many farmers operate– the populations are low, and drumming up enough business is challenging. Many local residents have a habit of shopping at grocery stores, dollar stores, or big box stores, gravitating to them for the low prices or because they are simply unaware of the abundance of local, healthy, and fresh food in their communities. Whatever the reason, local farmers and food producers need innovative ways to increase visibility and sales in their communities. If farmers could increase sales in their immediate vicinity, they could eliminate some longer trips, reduce their carbon footprint, and reduce their costs while buying back some time and increasing their investment in the local and social economic fabric of their communities.

We are seeing a clear need to connect farmers with each other and other like-minded, collaborative community members and small business owners, such as food trucks and breweries. Despite various avenues for buying directly from farmers (farmers' markets, CSAs, etc), a need still exists to bolster local communities’ commitment to buying from local farmers and food businesses. This could be done by encouraging rural customers, including individual, retail and institutional buyers, to buy products closer to home. On-farm events have the ability to do just that!

Agritourism events can attract many local customers, as well as those from further afield, opening new sales markets, broadening customer bases, enhancing product interest and loyalty, and increasing knowledge of direct-from-farmer buying options. They can generate day-of sales as well as help build relationships that lead to purchases throughout the year. All of the benefits of agritourism lead to long-term sustainability in our local food production and distribution with the perks of providing wonderfully fun and educational family outings!

Don’t miss the many opportunities to support your local food shed this summer!

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