It always seems we are in a constant struggle to make ends meet. In the world today, prices and the cost of living creep up on a daily basis, similar to the way Kudzu and Pigweed grow – if you stay still for just a moment, you can actually see the movement as these weeds get bigger, longer and stronger. However, the income levels seem to stay as stagnant as the pond in summer. It can be very frustrating.
In order to try and balance the financial scales a bit, the Country Boy and I are always looking for ways to strengthen our cash flow. When handed a brochure on Agritourism by my friend Lorea, I jumped at the chance to learn more. This workshop was offered in a combined effort by Mississippi State University and the LSU AgCenter. Delightfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Instead, I came home with a wealth of ideas, and chattered about them so much I think I made the Country Boy dizzy.
Agritourism, by definition is “…a business venture located on a working farm, ranch, or agricultural enterprise that provides an “experience” for visitors while generating supplemental income for the owner” (as defined by LSU AgCenter). When we consider this, we often think corn mazes, pumpkin patches or petting zoos. But it can truly be so much more.
The workshop was held at Keachi Acres, owned by Mary Nesbitt. A perfect example of Agritourism at work, Keachi Acres is a 200 acre campground/bed and breakfast/venue setting and so much more. Without a doubt, Mary has the fine art of ‘Welcome’ down to a Southern science. The setting draws you in and makes you want to sit back on the porch and just breathe in the fresh air, maybe grab a fishing pole and take your chances in the lake, or take a stroll through the wooded area, armed with a camera and a sketch pad.
But there is more than B and B’s, petting zoos and getting lost in a corn maze where Agritourism is concerned. It can be as simple as a farm stand and as complicated as opening up your farm for hunting dog training and flea markets. It is an income option that is limited only by your imagination. Where I am concerned, I want to keep things ‘simple’ and oriented to what we already do on Paradise – maybe a farm stand that offers seasonal produce from the garden, value added products and a few handmade crafts. My friend Patti joined me at the workshop, and her goals are leaning more towards a Venue business. Her 35 acres would be perfect for a wedding, seminars, workshops and other types of gatherings. The best part about it is, you don’t have to own multiple acres to participate. Many people simply sell vegetables and value added products grown in their own backyard.
There are a few details that have to be considered – such as insurance, legal issues and financial concerns in opening any business. But I have always believed that, if you love something as much as we love our farming lifestyle, it is well worth the effort to work through all the obstacles.
I am not sure where we’ll land with all of this, but you can be sure it has opened our eyes to the almost unlimited possibilities. And we are more than ready to see where it all takes us. Maybe it’s time that more of us give Agritourism a second look and a bit of serious consideration. Who knows where it will lead, and the idea of having a few extra dollars in our pockets just can’t be a bad thing. And if you need a great place to sit quietly and contemplate your options, call Mary and schedule a stay at the ‘open air’ bed and breakfast, Keachi Acres. At the very least, you’ll come back fully refreshed and ready to tackle some of those great ideas for your own version of Agritourism!
*Note: For more information on Keachi Acres, contact Mary Nesbitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at https://keachiacres.com/ .
For more information on Agritourism or upcoming workshops, contact Dora Ann Hatch, Agritourism Coordinator at LSU AgCenter at 318-927-9654, ext. 229 or at email@example.com, or visit their website at LSUAgCenter.com/agritourism .