Mention the phrase ‘agritourism’ to the average person looking for a holiday and you’ll probably get a wide range of reactions. Some might imagine waking up before dawn to help the farmer in milking his herd; others might picture themselves picking fruit or crushing grapes or olives. Yet as an increasing number of travellers are seeking to find a holiday that provides an escape from their daily routine, this new ‘-ism’ is likely to be one that we hear mentioned with increased regularity in the coming years.
What is Agritourism?
In the broadest sense, agritourism is defined as any agricultural activity that attracts tourists to visit or stay at a farm. Dude ranch stays in the American west, visits to estancias in Argentina and Australian outback adventures are perhaps the most exotic examples of agritourism that first spring to mind.
For most however, the chance to experience this form of ‘back to nature’ type of holiday can be found much closer to home. Many southern European destinations are leading the way in agritourism, with farms in Portugal and southern Italy in particular looking to tourism to boost their revenues.
Supply and demand
Several factors have led the farmers of southern Europe to concentrate their efforts on attracting tourists to their properties. On the one hand the ability to run a farm as a profitably enterprise through traditional farming activities has declined in recent years, due to global oversupply and lower market prices. On the other hand there is an increasing demand from many sections of our society to learn more about how our food is produced. Countless TV programmes have shown the dangers of processed food and the virtues of organically sourced ingredients. At the same time there is a growing interest in holidays that leave a smaller environmental footprint.
Typically agritourism breaks will involve staying in a farmhouse where the whole or a part of the property has been converted for the purpose of welcoming guests. Many properties boast a pool, and by virtue of the location (usually far from their nearest neighbours) this is not a holiday for those who are planning to party. A car is normally essential to get around, but many properties aim to provide a lot more than just a posh B&B in a remote location.
Most will provide at least some meals (at least breakfast) and focus on home produce (as you would expect). Many offer hiking trails on their properties, while in those farms with animals there are nearly always special activities for families with children.
I have to admit that I didn’t think I was familiar with agritourism, but having read about it while researching this article I now realise that I’ve been an agritourist in the past on farm and ranch stays both in Europe and North America. At a time when farmers are finding it harder than ever to make ends meet, it makes perfect sense to welcome visitors onto their properties. While the farmer enjoys a much needed income by embracing agritourism, the visitors unwind a stay in a healthy, peaceful environment while gaining an insight into the origins of the food we eat.
by Andy Jarosz