“Is anyone going to show up?”
“Do we have enough insurance?”
“Will we lose the farm?”
At 9:01 p.m., the night before an opening, these and similar questions creep into my mind. These are the “What if’s” that can kill a beautiful dream. Of course at 9:01 a.m. the process repeats.
–BUILD IT RIGHT, THEY WILL COME–
This self-inflicted drama of inviting people to the Farm started over a decade ago at a family gathering. I think agri- anything is a love-hate relationship and agritourism is no different.
–PASSION WILL PULL YOU THROUGH–
My wife and I (before kids) moved back to my hometown. I started working more and more on the Family Farm. At one of the bigger family get-together’s on the Farm, I believe it was Easter, Mom asked if I could take the kids for a trailer ride.
At the time we didn’t even have any suitable square bales to sit on. The farm had been slowing down for a few years, which was one reason for us to move closer, to bring it back into production. The easiest trailer to grab was a 10’ faded red two-wheeler that was still attached to the farm Jeep.
–USE WHAT YOU HAVE TO GET STARTED–
In place of bales, we covered the trailer with blankets and quilts. Depending on your specific situation, blankets and quilts might be a better fit than bales. I know a Jeep is not the traditional hay ride mode of movement but it was handy.
This is part of our back store. Today we try not to make it up as we go but can fly by the seat of our overalls if needed. Now, we plan the events and as many angles as possible. Some days the plan goes well. Some days the plan turns to a thunderstorm and dumps 2” of rain.
–TAKE TIME TO PLAN–
In those days we stayed small by only doing private groups. This slow growth allowed my wife and I to transition our income streams.
We were also able to study other successfully running agritourism operations from the inside by working for them. There were only a couple of successful Pumpkin Patches and Christmas tree farms in the area.
When signing on to work for these farms, I was upfront with the owners and told them I was learning the business. I think this changed the working relationship. These owners were very helpful with insider/owner type information. As a matter of fact, I still work with one farm because we work together and not as competition.
–SLOW & HONEST–
As with some traditional farming models, we gained employees from the inside, we had kids. Our work model for our children was/is less of, “Go plow the field. It will build character.” It’s more, “What are your strengths and interest and how can they plug into our farm operations.” For us, this builds less resentment of the farm life and more empowering to the labor force.
–WORK WITH EMPLOYEES–
These are some of my core takeaways in developing an agritourism income.