The Role of Agritourism in Farmland Preservation

By Amy DeCamp on June 24, 2017.

Have you ever been pumpkin picking? Wine tasting? Corn-mazing? Then you have participated in agritourism! As the word implies, agritourism is the intersection of tourism and agriculture.  A more technical definition from the National Agricultural Law Center defines agritourism as “a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner”.  On June 24th, Polk County’s Office of Agricultural Economic Development (AED) and local nonprofit, Growing Rural Opportunities, teamed up to implement the ultimate agritourism activity: the PolkFresh Farm Tour.  
For the past seven years, the AED office has piggybacked on the efforts of the ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) regional farm tour to offer an event exclusively featuring Polk County’s working farms.  On this year’s PolkFresh Farm Tour, eight local farms and three wineries opened their gates to offer tours, product samples, and family-friendly activities to the public.
At Go Garlic, a small-scale farm located in the Green Creek area of Polk, farm tour patrons had the opportunity to learn about the eleven different varieties of heirloom garlic grown by the farm’s producers.  Farm owners, Amy Feldman and Theresa Granito, offered tasting samples and shared their methods for preparing different garlic varieties.

TK Family Farm, who was recently awarded top environmental and animal welfare certification, were also on this year’s farm tour. Owners Jon and Brittany Klimstra showcased their pasture raised pigs and chickens, Nubian goats, and vegetables. TK Family Farm also boasts Polk’s first high density apple orchard, with over 1,000 trees in production. 

And the highlight of this year’s PolkFresh Farm Tour was found at Nelon Knoll Farm, where patrons got an up-close look at Jerry and Robin Nelon’s herd of 100 American bison.  The Nelon’s opened up their impressive restored barn for tours and had bison jerky and ground bison for sale (while supplies lasted!).

In short, agritourism plays a critical role in educating the public about agriculture and the importance of preserving farmland.  It is my hope that these types of activities help to raise consumer consciousness and inspire investment in our local food system.