One of the best things about Agritourism is the opportunity to provide your guests with a one-of-a-kind experience. There are some things that can only be done at an Agritourism venue and that is why people travel long distances to visit. There are certain experiences that we need to create that will not happen otherwise. We’ll call them hands on. They are the things that you provide which allow your guests to get involved at a greater level and are often educational at the same time. Let’s take a few minutes and list some of them. Chances are you are already doing some of these things, but maybe this will help you to take the next step.
Hands on events can be scheduled throughout the day so that your guests know when to show up. Because they involve instruction and interaction, they will also involve someone who is skilled and able to communicate to host the event. They can be something that you do every weekend, or every weekend can feature a new experience. Some things are a natural part of your venue, so they would more naturally be a regular event. The events that require a special guest, may be best scheduled on a certain weekend during your season. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Cider Making: If you are an orchard and already making cider, this is always a great option for your guests. If you are making cider regularly, it can be simple to create a way for guests to enter and exit your cider press area and simply observe while you are doing a regular chore. I have seen this done right off the market so that shoppers can watch while they are inside shopping. It is a great marketing tool as your guests like to know where their cider is coming from. Of course, the person working the press should be willing and able to interact with guests. There are always lots of questions about process, types of apples, pasteurization etc. Many of the things will be an added amount of work, but these types of experiences will set you apart.
Cow or Goat Milking: What says farm more than milking a cow? Again, this can be a normal part of your operation or one that requires a bit of organization. But, if you have the animals, there are more and more people who have never experienced the simple process of milking a cow. We are a society that is detached from where our food comes from and children rarely ever see it happen. Like anything else in your venue, safety is an issue. Create a stanchion, create a safe viewing space and make sure it lends itself to instruction. These hands-on experiences are usually staged in an area where many guests already congregate, but there also must be a degree of separation.
Milk or Cheese Production: This can be a natural next step for your milking to be able to show what we use milk for. A simple churn can be an awesome way for people to see how simple it is to create butter from the cream that comes from the milk. This can be part of the same demo and the host can explain the milking and then naturally move into the churning process. Again, a good marketing tool if you are selling some of your farm products on site.
Horseshoeing: What do you think the percentage of people is that has never witnessed the work of a farrier? I would say it is high. For many your guests, they have probably never even been up close to a horse. This is a special event kind of thing, but there are farriers that may be more than willing to volunteer some time to work on a horse or two over a weekend. Maybe you can provide the horses, or he can bring them with him, but to watch someone trim, fit and shoe a horse is an awesome experience. Even better if he has an anvil and can demonstrate how to fit and form the shoes to match the foot. This should be done with the same safety measures in place and a quiet horse who is used to being shod is a must.
Chickens and Egg Laying: This is an event that can also be part of a hayride. Some of your guests already go to another area via hayride to enjoy a part of your farm that must remain separate from the whole. For instance, one of our venues had an orchard. It was removed from the activities and maze because of its size and the layout of the farm. Certain livestock also benefit from being distant from the crowds so that there isn’t an added amount of noise and stress to the animals. Egg production is one of those things that your guests will love to learn about. Maybe a hayride to a large area where your chickens are ranging and an opportunity to visit the hen house to see how they lay their eggs. Most of these will probably be larger production areas. Our farmer had a hen house that was fashioned from a mobile home. Of course, this will need to be supervised in some form or fashion. Perhaps it’s just part of the hayride tour as well?
Beekeeping: A specialty and probably not a guest option, but a great idea either way.
Here is a general list of other possibilities. There are many, and some may be more conducive for your area than others. Be creative, but make sure it fits the feel and the purpose for why we exist. Agritourism provides a unique experience so make sure it the hands-on opportunities you provide do the same. For instance, a demonstration on basketball dribbling may best be left for another venue! Find something you like and give it a shot!