Agritourism Overview - National Agricultural Law Center (2024)


Agritourism is a field that is growing in popularity as producers try to diversify and increase profits. By combining agriculture and tourism, agritourism offers new sources of revenue but also presents potential problems and legal complications to agritourism operators.

“Agritourism” Defined

Simply stated, agritourism could be thought of as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture. Stated more technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors while generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.

Regardless of the exact definition or terminology, any definition of agritourism should include the following four factors:

  • combines the essential elements of the tourism and agriculture industries;
  • attracts members of the public to visit agricultural operations;
  • is designed to increase farm income; and
  • provides recreation, entertainment, and/or educational experiences to visitors.

The term “agritourism” is often used interchangeably with “agri-tourism,” “agrotourism,” “farm tourism,” “agricultural tourism,” or “agritainment.”

Examples of Agritourism

Agritourism operations exist throughout the United States and the world. They range from small operations that function on a seasonal basis and offer limited consumer services to large operations that operate throughout the year and provide numerous consumer services.Common examples of agritourism include:

  • pumpkin picking patches;
  • corn mazes;
  • U-Pick operations;
  • petting and feeding zoos;
  • hay rides;
  • cut-your-own Christmas tree farms;
  • dude ranches;
  • demonstration farms;
  • agricultural museums;
  • living history farms;
  • on-farm farmers’ markets;
  • winery tours and wine tasting;
  • rural bed & breakfasts; and
  • garden tours.

Examples of actual agritourism operations can be easily located through routine internet searches and through web sites, such,that provide comprehensive databases of agritourism operations throughout the country.

Importance of Agritourism

Agritourism presents a unique opportunity to combine aspects of the tourism and agriculture industries to provide a number of financial, educational, and social benefits to tourists, producers, and communities.Agritourism gives producers an opportunity to generate additional income and an avenue for direct marketing to consumers. It enhances the tourism industry by increasing the volume of visitors to an area and the length of their stay. Agritourism also provides communities with the potential to increase their local tax bases and new employment opportunities. Additionally, agritourism provides educational opportunities to the public, helps to preserve agricultural lands, and allows states to develop business enterprises. While agritourism may create new potential revenue streams, it also presents new legal issues for farmers and landowners.

Legal Issues

Landowner/Operator Liability

Liability is a significant concern for farmers, ranchers, and others who operate agritourism enterprises. Simply stated, a landowner who opens his or her land to the public faces the risk that he or she could be considered liable if an entrant is injured while on the property.

The duty of care owed to someone who is on a landowner’s property has traditionally depended on whether the entrant is classified as a trespasser, a licensee, or an invitee. The classification of invitee is the most relevant to agritourism operators, though either of the other two categories could apply under certain circ*mstances.

Trespassers are persons who are on the land without the landowner’s permission. As a general rule, landowners owe trespassers no duty of care except to avoid intentionally injuring them. However, children who are trespassers may be owed a higher duty of care depending on the situation and jurisdiction.

A licensee is someone who is on the property with permission but does not provide any economic benefit to the landowner, such as a hunter or fisherman who does not compensate the landowner for access to the land. Generally, licensees must be told of hidden dangers and the landowner owes a duty of care to not act in a way that would harm the licensee.

Invitees are persons who enter upon the premises with the permission of the landowner or operator. Invitees provide an economic benefit to the landowner or operator and are owed the highest duty of care. The landowner must warn invitees of potential dangers and must keep the premises relatively safe for them. The term “invitees” not only includes paying customers at the agritourism operation but may also include employees that are staffing the event. This heightened standard for invitees necessitates the creation of a risk management plan to address issues before they become a problem.

For more information regarding landowner liability issues, visit theLandowner Liability Reading Room.

Agritourism Statutes

Many states have passed agritourism statutes that may create an affirmative defense to lawsuits brought by injured customers. Generally, these statutes protect against “inherent risks” associated with running an agritourism operation, such as the condition of the land and building. Many have an exception disallowing their use if the operator is negligent or grossly negligent in the running of the agritourism business. It is important to read the state statute carefullybecause many require certain steps before an agritourism operator may use the statute in defense. Many states require that agritourism operators post warning signs with specific language that is included in the statute. Failure to comply with the agritourism statute may limit its usefulness as a defense.

For more information regarding these laws, visit theAgritourism State Laws Compilation Map.

Animal Welfare Act

Animals used strictly for agricultural purposes are exempt from regulation under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). However, the AWA is applicable when animals are exhibited, even if the animals are farm animals. According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the USDA agency that administers the AWA, the exhibition of animals includes petting zoos, roadside zoos, trained animal shows, and educational displays. An agritourism operator who uses animals for exhibition purposes should be aware of the potential application of the AWA. For more information regarding animal welfare, please visit theAnimal Welfare Reading Room.

Other Considerations

Agritourism enterprises may involve a variety of other legal issues, depending largely on the activities involved and the laws of the state where the business is located. Producers who provide food stands or restaurants must consider local food safety and public health laws that may apply and laws governing liquor licenses if alcohol is served on the premises. For more information on food safety, please visit theFood Safety Reading Room. In addition, agritourism operators should be aware that many of their activities may not be covered by standard farm insurance policies and that additional liability coverage may be needed to cover injuries arising from agritourism activities.

Agritourism operations may also face issues with zoning restrictions, building codes, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, taxation, and business permits. Zoning restrictions are an issue that many new agritourism operators do not think about, but disputes with neighbors caused by increased traffic, noise, etc. have led to costly litigation. TheAgritourism Reading Room contains resources addressing these topics and many others; however, it is important to note that agritourism operations face many unique challenges because of location and the type of services that they offer.

Agritourism Overview - National Agricultural Law Center (2024)


Agritourism Overview - National Agricultural Law Center? ›

Stated more technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism to attract visitors to a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ...

What is the USDA definition of agritourism? ›

An agritourism operation was defined as one that allowed the general public onto the operation and the general public had access to areas or facilities on the farm that housed or contained animals, feed, manure, or farm equipment.

What is considered agritourism? ›

Agritourism – Any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, ranching, historic, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions.

Will agritourism be the next cash crop? ›

When someone says agri-tourism, often the first thing that comes to mind are hay bail rides, corn mazes, and fresh produce. Those, of course, are fun agri-tourism activities but they are not the only activity encompassed by the growing phenomena of agri-toursim.

How much money does agritourism make? ›

Revenue generated by agritourism in the US more than tripled from 2002-2017, generating an estimated $949 million in sales in 2017. This growth is not expected to stop any time soon and goes beyond the US.

What are some examples of agritourism? ›

Examples of agritourism vary by municipality, but may include: farmers markets, farm-stays, farm visits, roadside markets or stands, U-Pick operations, community supported agriculture, farm museums, corn mazes, cider mills, pumpkin patches, petting farms, on-farm retail such as dairies, creameries, woolen goods, ...

What are the trends in agritourism? ›

Agritourism serves as a bridge between urban and rural lifestyles, offering educational, recreational, and cultural experiences. Key Market Trends: Key trends include integration of agtech solutions, farm diversification to offer a broader range of experiences, and the rise of agro-entertainment.

What is another name for agritourism? ›

The term “agritourism” is often used interchangeably with “agri-tourism,” “agrotourism,” “farm tourism,” “agricultural tourism,” or “agritainment.”

What's the difference between primary and complementary agritourism? ›

Complementary Enterprise Agritourism activities share equal footing with other enterprises in the farm's product mix. Primary Enterprise Agritourism as the dominant/primary activity on the farm.

Why is agritourism important to farmers? ›

Agritourism helps U.S. farmers generate revenue from recreational or educational activities, such as tours of a working farm or “pick-your-own fruits and vegetables” programs.

What are the problems with agritourism? ›

To identify the pitfalls that have made life difficult for agritourism operators as they have developed their product/programming, consider the following three major categories of challenges: Liability and regulation. Business planning. Community collaboration.

How to make money from agritourism? ›

Take full advantage of your real estate with agritourism. Try direct-to-consumer marketing and sales tactics like PYOs, CSAs, co-ops, local restaurant sales or farmers markets. Sell your byproducts, “ugly food” or flowers. Tap into the demand for farm education.

Do farmers get paid not to grow crops? ›

Who ever heard of paying someone NOT to do something? The U.S. farm program pays subsidies to farmers not to grow crops in environmentally sensitive areas and makes payments to farmers based on what they have grown historically, even though they may no longer grow that crop.

What pays the most in agriculture? ›

What are the highest paying jobs in agriculture?
  • Agricultural Engineer. Agricultural engineers design machines and equipment to be used on farms. ...
  • Agronomist. ...
  • Agricultural Food Scientist. ...
  • Veterinarian. ...
  • Winemaker. ...
  • Farm Manager. ...
  • Agricultural Sales Representative.

Why is agritourism becoming increasingly popular? ›

Agritourism is becoming increasingly popular as people seek authentic and immersive travel experiences, and as interest in local food and sustainable agriculture grows. It is an excellent way to connect with nature, learn about different cultures, and support local farmers and rural communities.

How does the USDA define? ›

USDA stands for U.S. Department of Agriculture and is a federal agency that Abraham Lincoln founded in 1862. The USDA is responsible for overseeing farming, ranching, and forestry industries, as well as regulating aspects of food quality and safety and nutrition labeling.

What is the USDA definition of commercial agriculture? ›

Commercial farms - farms with gross value of sales of $50,000 or more during the year. Commercial farms are often divided into five sales classes. See also sales class.

What is the definition of organic agriculture as defined by the USDA? ›

Organic Farming Defined

Certified organic farming practices exclude the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, and biotechnology (also known as genetic engineering).

What is the USDA definition of a small farm? ›

Farming and Ranching

More than 90 percent of farms in the U.S. are classified as small, with a gross cash farm income of $250,000, or less.


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