Growing agritourism: Farmers look to attract tourists

  • Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion A group of farm operators, local food enthusiasts and restaurateurs attend a presentation and workshop on agritourism by Alaska Farm Tours owner Margaret Adsit at the Donald E. Gilman Kenai River Center on Thursday in Soldotna.
  • Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion A white board displays ideas for attracting tourists to farms brainstormed by a group of farm operators, local food enthusiasts and restauranteurs at a presentation and workshop on agritourism by Alaska Farm Tours owner Margaret Adsit at the Donald E. Gilman Kenai River Center on Thursday, April 19 in Soldotna.

Farmers in Alaska are looking to tourists to help round out their profit margins.

Agritourism, or farm-based tourism, is already a staple for many farmers in the Lower 48 but is relatively new in Alaska. But with a growing number of farms across Southcentral Alaska, including on the Kenai Peninsula, some are capitalizing on public curiosity about what it’s like to milk a goat or harvest peonies.

That comes with a range of benefits and costs, said Margaret Adsit, the owner of Alaska Farm Tours, a tour company based in Palmer. In a presentation hosted by the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District on Thursday, she explained that setting up a farm for regular tours can take a variety of forms and levels of complexity. Some farms host events like weddings, while others are as simple as having people walk through and pick their own produce.

“It’s any time you’re trying to bring visitors onto your farm for any reason,” she said. “It doesn’t actually have to have an educational or informational component to it. I always say that you should because you are your own best advocates and marketers, but anybody holding a wedding, that’s not education or information about agriculture but it’s a secondary use and falls within agritourism.”

Farm tourism and interest in local food is a big market, especially among millennials and baby boomers, she said. A November 2017 AARP study analyzing 2018 travel trends among retirees found that the average retiree plans to take five trips this year, with about half interested in eating and touring with locals. Adsit said many of the baby boomers interested in farm tours also have a personal connection to farms.

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