These days more and more farmers are expanding their operations through agritourism. SC Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers defines agritourism as a ny agriculturally based operation that bring people to the farm or other ag related setting and help them connect with agriculture. I can be anything from a corn maze or pumpkin patch to a you-pick operation or an on farm vacation.
Recently, Commissioner Weathers had his own experience in Oconee County at the Chattooga Belle Farms for a Farm to Table Dinner where 200 people enjoyed a great meal prepared with grass-fed beef and fruits from Chattooga Belle.
The commissioner says that South Carolina's General Assembly has made some provisions for agritourism destinations, and there's more information available at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture's website.
“Agritourism is in fact new with the emphasis being brought on it. It’s about folks paying for the experience to come to a new cultural environment. It’s a way beyond school and formal learning that families can go out and have a good experience and learn something about agriculture. It’s also a revenue source for farmers. It’s something that a lot of our smaller operations are taking advantage of.
It’s not just food products, a lot of times its corn mazes and pumpkins. You are selling an experience. The corn mazes have become competitive in the way they are designed and how they attract customers. Fall is a great time of the year for agritourism.
Recently I participated in a farm to table dinner. It’s a great forum give people a nice event. We were up in Long Creek at Chattooga Belle Farms near the Georgia border. There is a great facility for people to come out and enjoy the farm, including some great u-pick products. They do weddings and tours.
You are teaching people about farming but you are also helping farmers make ends meet. Going back 5-10 years ago, the agritourism revenues tripled. We have tried to make doing this easier. The General legislation has passed some legislation to have better signage to identify who they are and how to find them. We are working with the department of transportation on that.”