​Economic impact of state's agritourism operations more than doubles over last six years

2009 Agritourism Tour

​Participants in a 2009 educational tour of successful agritourism operations enjoy the spider slide attraction at Honeysuckle Hill Farm in Springfield, Tenn. The Center for Profitable Agriculture conducted the tour and annually presents numerous educational events designed to assist farmers with value-added opportunities for their operations.
Photo by P. McDaniels, UTIA.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Just as farmers begin to prepare for the the upcoming fall agritourism season, complete with corn mazes, hay rides and pick-your-own pumpkin patches, a recently released study of the state’s agritourism industry by researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture estimates that the economic impact of agritourism in the state has more than doubled between 2006 and 2012. Visitors to Tennessee agritourism operations in 2012 were estimated to have spent more than $34.4 million directly and more than $54.2 million total when multiplier effects are included in the sum.
Researchers with the UT Agri-Industry and Modeling Group of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the Center for Profitable Agriculture have created a new profile of the Tennessee agritourism industry based on survey responses from 171 Tennessee agritourism farms. Results of the study are now available in a report, called A Snapshot of Tennessee Agritourism: 2013 Update, which can be accessed online at http://tiny.utk.edu/ATStudy.
“The results of this study are incredibly exciting and insightful and will be of great use to existing agritourism operators, farmers interested in agritourism and industry partners,” said Megan Bruch, marketing specialist with the Center for Profitable Agriculture.
Because the numbers are based on 2007 Census of Agriculture estimates of 510 agritourism enterprises, Bruch says the study will be re-estimated when 2012 Census data are available. She added, “We expect to see an increase in the number of agritourism operations in the state represented in the 2012 Census, so the economic impact of agritourism in Tennessee very well could be higher than these figures.”
The 110 agritourism operators who reported visitor numbers on the survey estimated they hosted more than 1.75 million people on their farms in 2012. The most common types of activities and attractions at agritourism enterprises who participated in the study were on-farm retail markets, school field trips and tours, event hosting, pick-your-own product operations, wagon rides and other farm tours.
Agritourism operations seem to be part of diversified farming operations. The average number of acres per operation responding was 250 with about 42 of those acres used for agritourism. The average percent of acres owned used for agritourism was 16.8 percent.
Investments by industry partners have garnered results for these enterprises. Nearly 80 percent of operators surveyed used promotional services associated with Pick Tennessee Products, the Tennessee Vacation Guide or Tennessee Farm Fresh.  On average, operations reported a 9.3 percent increase in sales in 2012 due to these services. The estimated sales impact for 2012 from these programs for agritourism operators is an increase of more than $5.4 million.
Nearly 63 percent of operators had attended an agritourism educational program offered by the Center for Profitable Agriculture, Tennessee Department of Agriculture and/or Tennessee Farm Fresh in the last three years. On average, operators estimated that these programs influenced their sales in 2012 with an increase of 19.9 percent. The total estimated impact for the industry of educational programs in the last three years is nearly $7.6 million.
Success does not come easy, however, as not all farms that try agritourism are successful. Several survey respondents indicated they had operated an agritourism operation but were no longer in business. The most commonly given reason for not staying in business was the inability to attract enough customers or make enough sales. While marketing and attracting customers are big challenges, other obstacles include working with family, securing capital, meeting regulatory requirements, zoning issues and more.
The study would not have been possible without funding and support from the Tennessee Agritourism Association, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Farm Credit Mid-America, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, USDA Rural Development and the University of Tennessee.
To learn more about the study and educational resources available for agritourism operators and farmers interested in agriculture, visit the CPA website http://ag.tennessee.edu/cpa or contact Megan Bruch at mlbruch@utk.edu.
The UT Center for Profitable Agriculture is a joint effort of UT Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

Megan L. Bruch, UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777, mlbruch@utk.edu