One to Grow On

Understanding how food production impacts us and our world

35: Agritourism Transcript

2020-05-05

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Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad, and I don’t know anything about it. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to focus on and this week we’re talking about agritourism.

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Hallie: Yes, agritourism. What do you know about agritourism, dad?

Chris: [Singing]. Let’s go visit a farm. Let’s go visit a farm. Let’s go visit a farm today.

Hallie: Is this a song you made up or one that exists outside in the global cannon?

Chris: Right off the cuff baby.

Hallie: Wow. Great work dad.

Chris: Thank you. It’s all those years of improv training paying off finally.

Hallie: TM. Nobody take dad’s cool farm song.

Chris: There you go. It’s just like going to a farm as a tourist. I think once your mom and I visited a dairy farm in the Netherlands and bought a lot of really good cheese and it was delicious.

Hallie: Did you? I did not know that.

Chris: We did. They made some really good Gouda there and we got some plain Gouda and some Gouda made with nettles and some Gouda made with garlic I think. They had a bunch of other stuff too.

Hallie: That sounds amazing. The definition for agritourism or an agritourism farm is a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generate supplemental income for the owner. That last piece is often where the impetus really comes from, which we’ll talk about here in a little bit, but this can include things like hunting, fishing, riding, festivals, classes, tastings. U-Pick is a really common one. We did that when I was a kid. You can stay on a farm. A lot of farms will do an Airbnb or something like that. There’s farms here in town that do like birthday parties or weddings and stuff like that.

Chris: But to your earlier point, this is not necessarily a primary source of income, but it’s something they can do for a little extra money.

Hallie: This is a functioning farm that is growing food of some kind or some other product.

 Then is also doing these tourism activities as a side hustle basically.

Chris: The great Corn Maze Craze.

Hallie: Exactly. This has actually been going on for a long time. Back in the 1890s, there started being guest ranches where people could come and stay on a ranch and feel like a cowboy.

Chris: It says here they gave people all the West feeling. In the 1890s, how far back do you have to go to actually be in the old West?

Hallie: Right. I think in the 1890s it was just like a West feeling and eventually that became old, but we still have that today. You can go and stay on a dude ranch in Wyoming and it’s pretty modern. It’s not like you’re dressing up in old timey clothes. You’re just getting that West feeling. That feeling of being out on a large ranch in a mountainous state.

Chris: It’s true. I stayed on a dude ranch as a kid in Colorado. It was a lot of fun. I think for them being the dude ranch was their primary source of income, but it was still a cool place to be.

Hallie: This became a lot more popular after World War I. People started having cars, we got highways. People could drive a lot easier out to rural places. It became a really big thing in Italy and it still is a really big thing in Italy as Italian farmers kind of left the countryside as it became harder to farm and make that viable. The idea of the idyllic Italian countryside grew and the tourism grew alongside that.

That tourism part is a really significant part in Italy and other parts of the world. It’s very geographically dependent based a lot around the narrative and the cultural idea of an area. Napa is another good example of an area where that tourism part is a really huge part sometimes more so than the agro part of the portmanteau.

Chris: Who wouldn’t want to spend a few nights in the Italian countryside? That sounds pretty great.

Hallie: Totally. There is an estimate that there are between 9 and 20,000 agritourism farms and ranches in Italy. The US current estimates only put it at 10,000. Italy is a much smaller country than the US and they have a lot of these agritourism farms and ranches.

Chris: Let’s see. Am I going to stay on a farm in the Italian countryside or on a farm in West Texas? That’s pretty beautiful right there.

Hallie: I stayed on a farm. It wasn’t really a farm. I stayed on someone’s land one time in West Texas and I got it wasn’t really attacked. We got herded by some javelinas. Did I tell you that?

Chris: Oh boy. No, that sounds terrifying.

Hallie: It was weird. We were inside of a tent, but they just started running around our tent in the nighttime. It was extremely strange.

Chris: You didn’t have 30 to 50 of them on your front lawn that you had to shoot?

Hallie: No.

Chris: Does anyone remember that reference by this point? I don’t know, anyway.

Hallie: I remember that meme. I love the javelina meme. There should be more javelina memes.

Chris: Indeed. Javelina don’t get enough love.

Hallie: Agreed. We’ve mentioned corn mazes, we’ve mentioned ranch stays and farm stays. You also have U-Picks, which is basically where you travel out to a farm and you hand harvest your own food. I’ve done this with strawberries and peaches in the past. Would 100% recommend doing it for peaches. Those were some of the best peaches I’ve ever had in my life. Incredible.

Chris: That does sound pretty delicious. Where did you do the peaches? Was that out in Fredericksburg?

Hallie: That was in California actually.

Chris: Oh, nice.

Hallie: Real California peaches. We talked about wine tasting.

You can find that in the US in a lot of different regions. That particularly is becoming a really attractive way to differentiate your market. There’s the development of the Vermont wine scene and the Texas wine scene is becoming a thing. Wine tasting is becoming a much bigger thing in agritourism in the US. You also have things like hayrides, corn mazes. I one time worked on an agritourism farm and we had a petting zoo and we had hayrides and a corn maze or a hay maze technically and I was in charge of the pony rides. Let me tell you, I did not enjoy that.

Chris: Did you ever get lost in the hay maze?

Hallie: I didn’t. We did have to sometimes go in and find people who had a hard time getting out.

Chris: Right.

Hallie: But I just can never assert my dominance over this pony, so she would step on my feet all the time. It was a real pain.

Chris: Pony didn’t like you.

Hallie: Ponies don’t like anyone. Ponies are not nice.

Chris: You know when you were growing up, we had a neighbor that had a pony and it seemed perfectly affable.

Hallie: We had a neighbor who had a pony? What? We had a pony.

Chris: No, they were out walking down the street one day.

Hallie: Down the street?

Chris: Yeah, I think we didn’t know him real well. I think they were like rich jerks, but they had a pony. Pony seemed fine.

Hallie: What? Dad, we lived in the city. What are you telling?

Chris: Correct.

Hallie: There was a pony down the street. In the suburban neighborhood in which we lived, we had a neighbor down the street who had a pony at their house?

Chris: You’re understanding me fully. That is what I said.

Hallie: I do not think I am. I don’t think I’m understanding anything fully.

Chris: That is that.

Hallie: There was a pony out at the ranch that your mum had and that was not a nice pony.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: Yes, she was a bit of a jerk.

Chris: Snuffy?

Hallie: No, Snuffy was the horse. Melody was the pony. I’m taking my stance. I’m saying ponies as jokes. If you have a great pony, please send us cute pony pictures.

Chris: There you go. Animals got animal. Can’t control the animals.

Hallie: Animals aren’t got animal. The other big agritourism thing that we haven’t really talked about is WWOOFing. Do you know about WWOOFing?

Chris: I’m almost afraid to ask. Obviously, it’s a thing that dogs do. They go woof, but I’m guessing that’s not what this is.

Hallie: Take a stab in the dark.

Chris: WWOOFing, is it going outside at night and howling at the moon or is it like cow tipping?

Hallie: I wish. That would be great. What was the second thing you said?

Chris: Or is it like cow tipping?

Hallie: It’s not cow tipping. Cow tipping is not a thing.

Chris: Is it throwing cow pats at each other?

Hallie: That’s another great guess. Now, WWOOFing is WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. That is the WWOOF. Basically, it’s a community where you can get connected to go volunteer on a farm somewhere in the world. I have met so many people who that’s how they got into the agriculture sector, particularly in like the regenerative, sustainable agriculture area in which I live. That’s how a lot of people find their way into ag is by WWOOFing. It’s a weird word.

Chris: Do you get to whitewash their fence for them too?

Hallie: Yeah, go ahead.

Chris: I guess if that’s what you really want to do, then go for it. I hear that and I think, oh boy, it’s a way for farms to get free labor, but if somebody really wants to go do that, go make yourself happy.

Hallie: It is definitely a way for farms to get free labor, no beans about it. You can WWOOF anywhere in the world. I know people who’ve WWOOFed here in the US. I know people who’ve WWOOFed in South America, in Africa, in Europe. You can WWOOF on urban farms. Oftentimes you’re WWOOFing on rural farms. Part of the appeal for folks doing it with WWOOFing sometimes it’s like, oh, I wonder about farming. Maybe you’re down the homesteading path or the hippie path and you’re like, I wonder what it would be like to run a small farm or to grow my own food so you can go and voyage into someone’s life and get a little bit of experience of what it actually is like to do that work. Sometimes people just want to get away from it all and go connect with the land.

Chris: Absolutely.

Hallie: A lot of people do it right out of college. It’s a really inexpensive way to travel because if you’re staying on a farm, then you could take the weekend off or take a couple days off and then just go travel around and you’re not usually paying any money back to the farm. You’re providing a little bit of labor. If you’re young, dumb, and full of great ambitions to see the big wide world having meals and room and board in exchange for labor, can be appealing to some folks. That’s the WWOOFing situation.

Chris: All right. Cool.

Hallie: I mentioned there like 10,000ish farms that are doing this.

It’s kind of a weird number to calculate because in most States you don’t really have to register your agritourism business. Some places you do, but not all. The number one reason that’s listed by people going to these agritourism spots is to see the rural scenery. Number two is learning more about where their food comes from. We love to see that.

Chris: That’s got to be a great education for some people as we know.

Hallie: For sure. Currently, agritourism is valued at $7.45 billion globally.

Chris: That’s a bigger pie than I would have thought.

Hallie: I know. Honestly, me too. It is expected to continue to grow. Catherine, our producer found this really interesting case study that was for the Carlsbad Flower Fields in San Diego County, Southern California. Do you know about these Flower Fields?

Chris: No, I’ve heard of Carlsbad Caverns, but I don’t think those are in California, are they?

Hallie: No, this is different. It’s similar to if you’ve seen the landscapes of tulips in the Netherlands where it’s just these fields of flowers that are just endless.

Chris: I’ve been there and they are beautiful.

Hallie: To the Netherlands, not to Carlsbad. To clarify.

Chris: Correct. I’ve seen the tulips and the tulips were amazing.

Hallie: Well, if you liked that, you can head to Southern California see some more. Catherine found this case study from UC Davis that found that these flower fields brought in $600,000 in additional revenue and because of that, over $2 million in direct spending in the Carlsbad area was also generated. It’s great for capitalism bringing in dollars to the local economy and all that.

Chris: That sounds amazing. It’s great business for the farm that needs more money and it’s a great benefit to the local economy in total.

Hallie: For sure yeah. For farms, sometimes you can have more of an issue with liability, especially depending on what services you’re offering. If it’s just like a U-Pick and people are coming out for like two hours, then it’s less than if they book the whole farm out for a wedding or a birthday party or they’re Airbnbing somewhere where you have a little bit more of a duty of care, so you can have some liability issues. But there are no national laws regulating agritourism or anything like that. Some States do have laws like having people register. I think there are some States where you have to be a little bit more diligent. In Texas, you just have to put a sign up saying you are acknowledging risk because this is a working farm and the farmer is exempt from all liability resulting from being here. It can complicate zoning codes and stuff like that, but generally, legally there’s not a lot of regulation.

Chris: There’s no accounting for being herded by javelinas.

Hallie: Exactly.

Chris: I would imagine this has an impact on local traffic as well.

Hallie: It can, but if you’re in a rural area, there’s not a lot of traffic to begin with. I think parking is more often the question, but maybe if you have a big wedding party or something like that. You’ve got people coming out. Well, speaking of parties, should we go to a party in the break?

Chris: Yeah, let’s go party in the break.

[Background music].

Chris: Welcome to the break.

Hallie: Dad, did you know that we had two fabulous groups that light up my life?

Chris: Two amazing, wonderful Wildflower sharing groups.

Hallie: If you want to get in on this great flower/food/friendship action, you can go to onetogrowonpod.com/discord or onetogrowonpod.com/group. Or for the Facebook group, you can search One to Grow On on the Facebook searcher and you can find our group that way.

Chris: Which is One to Grow On Pod, friends for flowers, food and friendship. I don’t know. There’s lots of good chatter on the Discord and the group.

Hallie: Excellent chatter, Primo chatter. The Discord group is my favorite push notification to ever get on my phone.

Chris: That is a lot of fun.

Hallie: You can go to onetogrowonpod.com/discord or onetogrowonpod.com/group to join us there.

Chris: Thank you so much to our starfruit patrons, Vikram, Lindsay, Mama Casey, Patrick and Shianne.

Hallie: Thank you guys so much for your wonderfulness generally.

Chris: For helping us keep our lights on.

Hallie: You guys are amazing and we really appreciate all the support. Should we get back to the episode?

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad, you got a nature fact for us?

Chris: I do. You’re talking about corn mazes earlier. Corn mazes are of course made of fields of corn.

Hallie: True.

Chris: A field of corn was featured in the movie, Children of the Corn by Stephen King. In the original theatrical trailer, Stephen King’s name is spelled Stephen with a PH, but in the original theatrical trailer, it is spelled as Steven with a V and I just thought that was funny.

Hallie: It’s PH. Is that right?

Chris: It’s PH, not V.

Hallie: I have never, I think read or seen any Stephen King thing, like media item.

Chris: I saw Stand by Me and I thought it was a pretty good movie.

Hallie: That’s Stephen King?

Chris: Yeah, it’s a Stephen King.

Hallie: But I thought Stephen King did horror movies. Wasn’t that a children’s movie?

Chris: It’s definitely not a children’s movie, but it’s also not a horror movie. It’s a pretty good. I would say coming of age movie that has some dark elements, nothing horror like, but it’s based on a book he wrote called The Body and it was a breakout movie for Wil Wheaton who later ruined his career by joining Star Trek: The Next Generation. But it’s a good movie. You should check it out. I’ve seen some other of his movies. Like I saw Maximum Overdrive and I don’t really remember it. I guess it was dumb or whatever. I think I saw some scenes from Cujo which terrified me. That’s everything I remember.

Hallie: Interesting stuff.

Chris: Not really, but we had fun with it.

Hallie: I feel like there’s a lot of corn in movies. I feel like more than any other crop, it really captures the imagination. I don’t know why.

Chris: It’s the American landscape, right? You see it in Children of the Corn, Field of Dreams, all kinds of other stuff. You’re driving down the highway in some open flat land and there are these rows of corn and you sort of look out the window and you see the rows going by really fast and you can kind of see the row of corn and you see down between the rows of corn and you see the corn in between the rows of corn really fast. It’s just this iconic ubiquitous thing for anyone that’s ever driven through any agricultural part of America, I think.

Hallie: I guess that’s true. I never really thought about that because of course, you have fields of alfalfa and fields of hay and fields of soybeans, but I think you’re right. It’s that weird whipping visual of the corn just speeding by that you don’t get with those other crops. It’s tall enough that you can’t really see what’s in there, but you can also see enough. With a hay field, you can’t really see in there at all. It’s just dense, but with the corn, you can kind of see enough but not see everything. Maybe that’s why you really think about it.

Chris: I think it whips up these sort of romantic ideas of this world that most people have no idea about.

Hallie: Bringing that back to agritourism, that’s a lot of what agritourism is about. It’s about that nostalgia and romanticism and for good reasons, I could definitely see myself after being in my house for two months and being a little bit afraid and having these existential feelings being I just want to go sit on a farm, go get a rocking chair and not think about anything and pretend that I’m just out in the wilderness surveying my fields, even though I don’t actually want to become a farmer because that’s immensely challenging and I’m not interested in that, but I could totally see myself just going to sit on a farm and not do work.

Chris: Oh man, that would be so nice right now.

Hallie: Doesn’t that sound great?

Chris: It sounds great. Get a hammock under a shade tree. Hear the wind blowing through the fields. Perfect.

Hallie: You watch the chickens walk by or whatever.

Chris: I don’t need chickens in my peaceful [inaudible].

Hallie: This is one area where I feel a little bit less connected to the general perspective. I like living in small towns. I like being in rural places and I know that there are a lot of people who don’t like that at all. I’m in the city because this is where my job is and this is where my family is not because it is where I would choose. If I could choose anywhere in the world, I would probably be in the wilds of some back country somewhere just sitting on a farm with the little chickens and chilling out. I kind of wonder what that experience is like for people who have this idea of it and then they actually go and experience it and I think that that’s so dependent on how able farms are to get into the heads of these city people. Actually, I went to a conference in January and there was a whole thing on agritourism and that’s what they talked to the farmers a lot about is you have to be able to think an urban person to anticipate what they will be expecting and what they will need to make themselves feel comfortable, which is so interesting.

Chris: That is interesting. That makes me think of European hotels and stuff trying to build out fixtures and accommodations to accommodate American tourists because they have different expectations and I guess different environment but sort of similar way of thinking.

Hallie: An ice machine.

Chris: Or private bathrooms.

Hallie: Right. No, very true. I guess just wrapping it up. Currently, more than half of all farm households in the US have a negative farm income, so that comes back to why do farms do this? It’s not always because they want pedestrians underfoot getting in their way, but it’s often because it can really bring in a lot of money that can help support the real work that they’re doing. Sometimes it’s a very seasonal job, so having something in an off season can be helpful, particularly if you have like an orchard where you still have some scenery for people to look at, but there’s nothing really to do for a month or two, then that’s a really easy sell for a lot of farmers. A lot of people also like to do it to promote the sector. I think that there’s a pretty clear line you can draw between the rise in agritourism and the rise in people caring about things like local food and regenerative food, food that’s been sustainably grown. Having that connection and having this romantical idea of what a farm is and needing to preserve that farmland and something being pure or clean, I think that you can draw that connection from this new thought of, hey, we can market directly to people so much that they will want to come and stay on my dirty old farm to you getting these premiums from organic and local and stuff like that.

Chris: Indeed. That boggles my mind when you say that more than half of all farm households have a negative income. Wow. I guess you got to find a way to innovate and stay afloat.

Hallie: We’ve talked a lot about the economics of farming on this show.

It doesn’t really make a lot of sense. A lot of farmers have off farm jobs. This one I don’t know if it’s counted as an off farm job. I think it would still be counted as an off farm job. But you have a lot of people who do part time work in the city or have an online job that they can do in the evenings after they’re done. You have a lot of people who need assistance from the government. It is not great paying work to do farming for the most part. Agritourism is a big part of that.

Chris: Okay. Well, dang. I’ve never actually done a corn or hay maze. At least not that I remember. If I go do one sometime you come help me not get lost, all right?

Hallie: I would love that. I love a good maze. I love a good visit out to a farm. Let’s go get some cider or other hot beverage next fall when the world is safe again and we can explore a hay maze.

Chris: Or at least the illusion of safety, right? Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

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