What is AgriTourism?
AgriTourism is the practice of inviting guests to visit and/or participate in normal farm or ranch activities. Farms and ranches participating in agritourism activities are most often working farms and ranches with tourism activity as a secondary income for the family. Generally viewed as small-scale, low-impact and education-focused, agritourism activities are not usually designed for large groups of guests, with the exception of pumpkin patches, orchards, farm festivals and corn mazes.
AgriTourism includes camping, biking, hiking, bed and breakfasts, fresh pick-your-own (U-pick) vegetables and fruits, rental cabins, fee hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities such as nature photography and bird-watching. The list is limited only by the operator's imagination.
Where does an agritourism business fit into a farm plan? You already are fully engaged in your farming operation, so how do you create a space and time for an additional business? As a supplementary enterprise, agritourism can be a minor activity that also supports your current operation. For example, if your primary business is livestock production, you could invite school groups to your ranch a couple of days a month or at a specific time of year to talk about ranching.
If you are considering something more, perhaps a pick-your-own enterprise or a corn maze would be the way to go. For example, if you already sell pumpkins to a wholesaler or retailer, you may want to grow a few more and create a pumpkin patch with children's activities. And if you grow corn, add a corn maze. These would be complementary businesses to your current operations. They are just an expansion of what you already do. Wineries, bed and breakfasts and other overnight lodging can and probably would become primary enterprises as they grow in scope with the number of related activities and the time involved.
Whether the agri-enterprise supplements, complements or becomes the primary enterprise depends entirely on what the farm or ranch family wants to do. It is critical to well-plan whatever enterprise is envisioned. The first thing you need to consider if you are thinking about starting an agritourism business is whether this is an appropriate option for you. You then will need to set goals, assess your resources and develop a business plan.
The expanding appetite for experiencing the rural way of life has put North Dakota as a must-see destination for urban consumers and residents. This desire to learn where food comes from and how it is produced has resulted in an increase in agritourism.
North Dakota HB 1142 limits the liability of agritourism providers for injuries that result from conditions that are considered beyond the control of the agritourism professional. The liability protection found in this legislation does not exclude the need for liability insurance. Rather, it may make agritourism insurance more affordable and available, two obstacles that have prevented potential operators from offering agritourism.
To be eligible for this protection, agritourism operators must be registered with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Tourism Division. There is no cost to register and the registration is valid for five years.
For questions on the registration process or becoming an agritourism operator, contact Holly Miller, Tourism Development Manager at 701-328-5396.