Eco-Travel Business Model For Success in Tough Times – Agritourism Works in Good Times and Bad

Farm owners and local citizens involved in boosting the success of their own local and regional economy and local farms may want to take agritourism very seriously.Agritourism is a branch of eco-tourism. Interestingly, when done right, it flourishes when funds for travel are up, as well as when funds for travel are very low (explained more below).It’s obvious why local farms would want to attract world travelers to their farms. Why not allow the revenue that would have gone to a petro-guzzling chain resort instead be offered for a stay in an extra farmhouse bedroom? Why not take some of the otherwise cruise ship tourist trap-destined travel bucks by hosting a regionally branded harvest festival or garden tour for the travelers who harbor nearby and want to come onto land for authentic attractions?But in tough times for travelers, the new agritourism is a form of responsible or eco-travel that still works.Agritourism is growing quickly around the world, and one exceptional model is in Skagit Valley, Washington State as well as on the valley’s nearby San Juan Islands. In the book, The New Agritourism (available at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op, bookstores, and Amazon among other sources), I included a sampler of exemplary agritourism systems and destinations from around the world. But it wasn’t merely coincidence that my home region was strongly represented. And here it serves as just one concrete example for those seeking ways to support local food independence while helping to reverse global warming and traveling to sights yet unseen closer to home.As the renaissance for local small farms grows, and the cost of food and travel heightens, folks have hit the jackpot if they can combine local entertainment with a sense of connection to abundant local food sources. And in the Skagit Valley and nearby islands, there are so many choices year-round for agritourism day trips, workshops, tours, tastings, festivals or overnight stays, one could live a lifetime here, and never see them all. The diverse natural surroundings from stunning alp-like mountains to fertile valleys to old-growth forests and emerald islands boast a huge array of agritourism events that other locations – whether desert or rolling hills or flat plains — can model after. Here, locals can join CSA (community supported agriculture), stop off at micro grass-fed raw goat dairies to get their own milk, pull over to a variety of tiny flower carts for a bouquet, milk dairy animals and enjoy u-pick autumn flower, pumpkin, ornamental gourd and apple harvests, tour organic vineyards, ranches and free-range laying hen farms, view artisan cheese-making, take courses on making your own cheese, gather your own filberts, pick your own holly and Christmas from small eco-responsible evergreen farms, take classes for cooking with lavender in the midst of lavender fields bursting with purple aroma, and of course, enjoy the stunning fields and fun events during the world-famous tulip festival.The new agritourism, for many, is a potential gem rising from the ashes.