A new agritourism education group is helping South Dakota ag producers think through new lines of revenue for their farms and ranches at the perfect time for attracting people to rural areas.

Class 1 of AgritourismSD kicked off its two-year class in May, providing an "intensive educational program designed to provide farmers and ranchers with the opportunity to create an enterprise that utilizes resources in different ways to generate new income streams," according to South Dakota State University Extension.

What is agritourism? Agritourism melds an attraction that people want to visit and take part in alongside agriculture. According to SDSU Extension, agritourism is at the crossroads of tourism and agriculture, linking agricultural production and processing with tourism to attract visitors to a farm or ranch for the purpose of entertaining and educating visitors while generating additional income for the farm or ranch. Here are a few examples of agritourism:

  • Accommodations and lodging, like farm stays, guest ranches, bed-and-breakfasts and camping.
  • Educational activities, like farm-ranch work experiences, tours and demonstrations.
  • Entertainment and events, like corn mazes, farm dinners, weddings, campfires and stargazing.
  • On-farm direct sales, like U-pick, farm stands, farm products, outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing, photography, horseback riding and hiking.

In mid-July, Class 1 of AgritourismSD toured North Dakota, making short visits to agritourism stops to learn about the businesses.

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Agritourism SD coordinator Stacy Hadrick of Faulkton, S.D., asked me to join the class during their visit to North Dakota to discuss branding and marketing rural and agriculture businesses. Working as the publisher of Agweek, I interact with numerous rural and agriculture businesses, hold a deep passion to grow rural businesses that enhance rural families and the economy, and have more than 15 years of marketing experience before joining Agweek. My colleague, Alec Winmill, of Agweek’s sales and marketing team, joined me in presenting to the group, sharing ag business case studies from Agweek clients he works with in digital, broadcast and print to accomplish their business goals.

Agritourism SD Class 1 visited Black Leg Ranch, rural McKenzie, N.D. to learn about operating multiple businesses on a working family cattle ranch. (Submitted photo)
Agritourism SD Class 1 visited Black Leg Ranch, rural McKenzie, N.D. to learn about operating multiple businesses on a working family cattle ranch. (Submitted photo)
Before our meeting in Fargo, the group had spent one night in Bismarck, North Dakota, and had toured Papa’s Pumpkin Patch and Black Leg Ranch before heading to Carrington, North Dakota, to tour Ostlie Sunnyside Acres, Pipestem Creek and Dakota Sun Gardens and Winery. After the stop in Fargo, the group finished their tour by visiting Coteau des Prairies Lodge near Havana, North Dakota.

“Each North Dakota location was amazing how people want to share and help others be successful. Hearing from people about what worked and what didn't can help our participants have a reality check on how to approach their business ideas,” Hadrick said.

Moving forward in the class, members will focus on four case studies in five different areas of the program including tours, accommodations, education, events and local foods. Class members learn through travel study trips like the North Dakota visits, plus interactive workshops, case studies, web-based interaction and networking. Case studies will include agritourism enterprises sharing the “the good, bad and ugly of starting a business,” Hadrick said.

To read more of Katie Pinke's The Pinke Post columns, click here.

AgritourismSD is funded by a USDA National Institute Food and Agriculture Beginner Farmer grant through South Dakota State University Extension. The program was modeled after the beefSD program where “beginning producers to increase knowledge and understanding of all aspects of the beef industry and develop the skills needed to be successful.” The program was Hadrick's idea.

“I think people learn best from other people and not just being told something,” she said.

"Our (South Dakota) Department of Tourism is an amazing partner and supporting us in so many ways. They want to see these agritourism businesses develop as badly as the participants do and that is really helpful. South Dakota State University Extension Service is a key partner and the host of the program.”

AgritourismSD Class 1 participated in a travel study trip to North Dakota July 19-22, touring agritourism businesses. The class will participate in interactive workshops, web-based workshops, networking activities, and dive into case studies of agritourism business owners in addition to the travel study for two years. The program is USDA grant-funded and hosted by South Dakota State Extension. (Submitted photo)
AgritourismSD Class 1 participated in a travel study trip to North Dakota July 19-22, touring agritourism businesses. The class will participate in interactive workshops, web-based workshops, networking activities, and dive into case studies of agritourism business owners in addition to the travel study for two years. The program is USDA grant-funded and hosted by South Dakota State Extension. (Submitted photo)
Now is the time to set up your business plan and push ahead in your agritourism idea on your farm, ranch, or rural area. Our families and communities need diversified income and ways to bring in new business owners and attract visitors to rural areas. The pandemic highlighted people's interest in exploring areas they’ve never ventured to before, seeking travel and experiences closer to home and finding new places to visit in rural America.

AgritourismSD provides a model for all states to follow to build up rural business owners while driving economic growth in our rural corners of America rooted in agriculture. You may take the everyday rural and ag experiences for granted as everyday life. But to 80% of urban Americans, experiencing agritourism is new to them, a connection they often seek.

South Dakotans with less than 10 years of agritourism experience can contact Hadrick if you’re interested in applying for Class 2 which will begin in 2023 if additional funding is secured. Visit the AgritourismSD Facebook page for more information.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.