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Agritourism, Culinary Tourism, Farm and Food Tourism

Farm and food tourism encompasses elements of both agritourism and culinary tourism. While each of these terms is explored in more detail, the differentiation provided by Green and Daugherty (2008) is useful to help situate the concepts: culinary tourism is a subset of cultural tourism and posits that food is an expression of culture. Agritourism is typically viewed as a subset of rural tourism and the focus is on-farm activities. Culinary tourism refers to activities both on and off the farm (p. 150). Farm and food tourism thus include elements of rural and cultural tourism and can take place in either rural or urban settings.


While there is no standardized definition of agritourism (Phillip et al., 2010), for the purposes of this chapter agritourism will be defined as in

Rich et al. (2012): activities on working farms or other agricultural settings for entertainment or educational purposes. A long list of activities is encompassed by this definition, including farm or winery tours, farm-based lodging, entertainment such as corn mazes or pumpkin patches, pick- your-own operations, farm markets, choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms and other outdoor recreation including horseback riding, birdwatching or hiking.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, between 2007 and 2012 the number of farms reporting income from agritourism and recreational services in the USA jumped 42% (USDA, 2014). While the largest number of farms engaging in agritourism tends to be the states with significant agricultural identities, such as Texas and California, the top five states that lead the way in agritourism sales per farm, Hawaii, New Jersey, Alaska, Utah and Massachusetts, are not states that typically come to mind when one thinks of agriculture (USDA, 2014). This suggests that it is possible for small farms, operations that typically struggle with profitability, to leverage their unique agricultural assets to enhance revenue with agritourism.

On the supply side of the agritourism market, most research has focused on the motivations of farmers to engage in agritourism enterprises (Nickerson et al., 2001; Barbieri, 2013). These include a desire to increase farm income from existing resources and to diversify and smooth seasonal fluctuations in revenue (Nickerson et al., 2001). In addition to economic motivations, for some operations it is a family or entrepreneurial goal, or social objective, that drives the farm to adopt agritourism strategies (Nickerson et al., 2001).

Despite the abundance of research on farmers’ economic motivations to engage in agritourism, there are surprisingly few studies that have examined whether farms that engage in agritourism actually realize economic benefits. Agritourism was reported to increase farm income by an average of US$46,000 annually in a 2006 national study of agritourism enterprises (Bondoc, 2009). Green and Dougherty (2008) find that in Door County, Wisconsin, culinary tourism has helped to diversify farm income but has not raised prices that farmers receive for their goods. In a more detailed economic study, Schilling et al. (2014) studied farms in New Jersey and found that operations with agritourism enterprises realized positive effects on farm profitability; in addition, the impacts on profits were differentiated by both farm size and type. Smaller farms with a primary focus on farming had larger impacts from agritourism than small ‘lifestyle’ farms, while larger farms did not realize any statistically significant impacts from engaging in agritourism. While these results are not representative of all agritourism operations in the USA, they suggest that small, dedicated operations may improve their bottom line with agritourism diversification.

On the demand side, there has been shockingly little research on agritourism demand at the national level. Using the 2000 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, Barry and Hellerstein (2004) estimated that 62 million Americans, almost 30% of the population, visited farms one or more times in 2000. Carpio et al. (2008) use the same national survey data to report that the average number of trips demanded by visitors is 10.3 trips per year, and significant factors affecting farm trip decisions include location of residence, race and gender. They speculate that public support for farm preservation programmes may be due in part to the scenic attractiveness of working farms to tourists. A 2006 study designed to inventory agritourism enterprises in the USA indicates a wide divergence of visitation levels, with farm responses ranging from 0 to 767,101 visitors. The aggregation of these responses suggests an estimated total of 3 million visitors in 2006, a fraction of the visitation that was estimated in previous studies (Bondoc, 2009).

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