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Publication #RM008

Agritainment: A Viable Option for Florida Producers1

Nora McKenzie and Allen Wysocki2

Introduction

In a time when most people have never set foot on a farm and assume that food originates from a grocery store, many farmers are incorporating "agritainment" (agricultural entertainment) into their operations as a means to educate the public and generate additional farm income.

Agritainment (an industry comprised of agritourism and farm entertainment) has been described by some as a new cash crop for urbanites looking for hands-on rural experiences (Lazarus, 1998). Agritourism generally refers to out-of-towners (a.k.a. urbanites) visiting farms. While the term “agritourism” is a recently contrived term, it is not a new concept. In the United States, it can be dated back to the late 1800s, when city dwellers would visit friends and family in the county in an attempt to escape the heat and stress of the city. Similarly, agriculturally-based entertainment is nothing new. After World War II, many people visited rural areas for a change of scenery and recreation. It was during this time that horseback riding for recreational purposes became popular with urbanites (Holland and Wolfe, 2001).

Before a farmer begins a venture in agritainment, he should first identify specific agritainment opportunities, what it will cost to be successful, and the pros and cons of this type of business venture.

Agritainment Opportunities

Although agritainment ventures have traditionally included horseback riding, U-pick fields, and bed-and-breakfast operations, many farmers in today's agritainment industry are becoming much more resourceful and creative. Perhaps one of the more creative and elaborate agritainment endeavors is corn mazes.

Corn mazes can be constructed by individuals or with the assistance of experts. The Maize® (http://www.themaize.com/) is a company that not only aids in corn maze design and construction, but also provides knowledgeable advice and promotional aid for corn mazes. In addition to the value of the corn crop, mazes can generate $5.50 per person from individuals using the maze. In addition, corn mazes can be marketed as potential field trips for schools and as ideal places to hold special events (birthdays, corporate picnics, etc.).

Other ideas (Holland and Wolfe, 2001) that have been utilized for agritainment purposes are as follows:

• farm tours

  • playgrounds

  • hay tunnels

  • hay mazes

  • Halloween festivals

  • haunted hay rides

  • nature trails

  • fee hunting

  • fee fishing

  • farm museums

  • pumpkin hunts

  • craft shops

  • pumpkin painting

  • camping

  • corporate picnics

  • farm zoos

Agritainment Success Requirements

Producing a distinctive overall product is fundamental to the success of an agritainment business. In this case, an overall product is defined as the product itself plus special services and the atmosphere provided. Special services are not necessarily fee-generating services (e.g., picnic facilities, educational signs, recipes, parking, newsletters, calendars of events, t-shirts, and travel directions). This, coupled with a pleasant atmosphere provided by friendly staff and clean, pleasant surroundings, add to a customer's agritainment experience (Holland and Wolfe, 2001).

Pros and Cons of an Agritainment Business Venture

As with any business venture there are pros and cons to evaluate before committing resources. There are four main “pros” for operating an agritainment business from an already established farm: promoting products of the farm, increasing sales, promoting the industry, and creating employment opportunities. The biggest “cons” identified by current owners of agritainment businesses are dealing with visitors and the problems associated with liability insurance, labor, marketing, theft and poor location (Hilchey, 1993).

There are also other agritainment issues to consider that have their own pros and cons (e.g., risk management and government regulations for zoning, health, food service, zoo permits, and farm animal exhibit registration). It is suggested that “hold harmless agreements” (signed by on-site vendors to release farmers from liability in the event of an accident) and “participant waivers” (usually signed by parents of minors to release farmers from any responsibility for injury to their children) be implemented to reduce some of the farmer's risk from lawsuits.

Finally, perhaps the most important consideration is acquiring enough liability insurance in the event something occurs and a visitor sues the farm. The literature suggests that a minimum policy of $1 million dollars should be purchased on any visitor operation (Holland and Wolfe, 2001a). However, the decisions do not end once an agritainment business is up and running.

Marketing Tips

Once the agritainment business has been established, a marketing strategy will need to be developed for the purpose of eliciting enough visitors to (at minimum) cover the fixed expenses. Because there are already a variety of available materials on how to develop a marketing strategy, our focus will be placed on marketing issues specific to agritainment.

In 1992, Cornell University conducted an informal telephone survey of operations identifying themselves as "farm tours." Of the farms surveyed, half of the operations hosted less than 1,500 visitors a year, 28 percent had 1,500 to 5,000 visitors a year, and 22 percent had more than 7,000 visitors a year. Of these total visitors, 61 percent were school children on field trips, with the remainder being individuals or families (Hilchey, 1993). This study would suggest that it would be beneficial for an agritainment business to target surrounding schools, promoting their business as a potential field trip.

To market an agritainment opportunity as a field trip, the target market logically becomes teachers. An Extension specialist at the University of Tennessee conducted a one-time mail survey of school teachers of kindergarten through fifth grade. The results of the survey are worth keeping in mind when initially evaluating the potential success of an agritainment business. On average, most elementary classes take between three to four field trips each year. When asked how likely teachers would be to take a farm field trip, 63 percent responded very likely and 28 percent somewhat likely. Of course there are many factors that teachers consider when choosing field trips. Teachers in this study usually planned field trips before or at the beginning of the school year. Therefore marketing needs to occur before this occurs. On average, teachers in the study were only willing to travel a maximum of 35 miles, or 45 minutes, to a field trip destination. This means if your farm is an hour's drive away from the nearest school, it is unlikely that your services will be considered for a field trip. The survey also found that the maximum field trip cost per student was $6.80. Teachers also valued interactive or hands-on experiences that relate to a teaching curriculum. When developing a marketing strategy toward teachers, keep in mind that the teachers surveyed were unaware of the many agritainment opportunities available to them. This study suggests that this was due in part to the lack of word-of-mouth marketing, which happens to be the number-one way teachers learn of possible field trips (Holland and Wolfe, 2001b).

Conclusion

This paper focused on agritainment as a means of supplementing traditional farm income. Several types of agritainment operations were outlined as well as common characteristics among successful operations. The pros and cons identified coupled with the marketing tips provide farmers with a foundation to determine if agritainment is a viable option for their farm.

References

Hilchey, D. “Agritourism in New York State: Opportunities and Challenges in Farm-Based Recreation and Hospitality.” Farming Alternatives Program, Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. November 1993.

Holland, R. and K. Wolfe (a). “Considering an Agritainment Enterprise in Tennessee?” University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service Publication PB-1648 found at http://www.utextension.utk.edu/publications/pbfiles/pb1648.pdf. Website accessed October 2001.

Holland, R. and K. Wolfe (b). “Targeting School Groups for Agritainment Enterprises.” University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service Publication PB-1669 found at http://www.clemson.edu/ (+). Website accessed October 2001.

Lazarus, Eve. “Harvesting the city slickers: B.C. farmers go beyond word of mouth in promoting agri-tourism.” Marketing Magazine 103 (1998): 12.

Footnotes

1.

This document is RM008, one of a series of the Food and Resource Economics Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date April 2002. Revised October 2008. Reviewed February 2012. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Nora McKenzie, graduate student, Agricultural Education and Communications masters program, Department of Agricultural and Communications, and Allen Wysocki, assistant professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication does not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.