For more information...
Agritourism as an alternative ag enterprise.
Doing agritourism requires careful consideration
of logistical and regulatory issues like parking,
restrooms, and liability insurances. The following
resources can help you get started.
the First Step: Farm and Ranch Alternative Enterprise
and Agritourism Resource Evaluation Guide
Published in January 2004 by the Southern Maryland
Resource Conservation & Development Board,
this 27-page booklet includes a series of worksheets
designed to help farmers assess their goals and
potentials with regard to agritourism ventures.
Available from Southern Maryland RC & D,
303 Post Office Rd, Suite B4A, Waldorf, MD 20602,
from the NRCS Resource Economics and Social Sciences
Division at 202-720-2307.
Tourism Project, Small Farm Center, University
of California at Davis
The Small Farm Center website features a wealth
of agritourism resources, including a searchable
database of Californian agritourism destinations
and a series of fact sheets for those interested
in getting started in agritourism.
For more information write to Small Farm Center,
Univ. of California, One Shields Ave., Davis,
CA 95616-8699; call 530-752-8136.
Farms! Open to the Public
A number of states have leveraged USDA Rural
Development grants to launch online and/or print
directories of farms open to the public.
March 4, 2004: To get to the Cedar House Bed
& Breakfast and Coffee Farm on Hawaii's Big Island, you
turn east uphill from the main road in the town of Captain Cook
(in 1778 the great navigator met his tragic end in Kealakekua
Bay, just below) and follow a single-lane track as it climbs
sharply up the mountain, walled in on both sides by eight-foot-high
This is the heart of the Kona coffee belt, less than 50 square
miles of steep, rocky terrain yielding 2.5 million pounds
of beans a year, and the land is too valuable to waste on
grassy road margins. Short pullouts allow you to pass workers'
cars and farm trucks coming from the other direction. After
a series of twists and turns, a small sign points you to your
destination, and the view opens up down to the sea.
Here you will be greeted by Cindy and Tim Brady, farm and
B & B managers since the Cedar House's owners, Diana and
Nik Von der Lühe, returned to their native Germany last
year. Cindy works four days a week at Adaptations, a local
organic vegetable farm and small-scale distributor, Tim works
the 3 acres of coffee, and together they manage the B &
B and vacation rental.
"It balances out well," explains Cindy, "because
the slow period for the B & B is October, November, and
the early part of December, and that's the busiest time [harvest
season] for the coffee."
Although small coffee acreages like this one are the norm
in Kona--and have been since the crop was first developed
here by Japanese immigrants in the late 19th century--the
Bradys say that Cedar House's income from accommodation now
exceeds its coffee income, greatly boosting the farm's overall
Having guests at the farm also enables them to increase the
amount of coffee they sell directly to the consumer, since
nearly every visitor to the farm buys at least a pound or
two, and many also visit the farm's website for subsequent
Cedar House is one of many small farms on the Big Island
that have gotten into the hospitality business in the past
decade. So-called 'farm-stay' accommodation is well established
in many European countries, with websites, publications, and
quality-rating systems to help travelers find the experience
and the amenities they're looking for.
Guests at such establishments will tell you that farms make
great B & Bs because they tend to be quiet, interesting,
off the beaten path, and run by generous, friendly people
who serve up terrific breakfasts made from fresh, locally-grown
ingredients. (At Cedar House you get not only the farm's own
just-roasted coffee but an array of delicious tropical fruits
like apple bananas, starfruit, and cherimoyas--all grown on
the farm or very nearby.)
In Hawaii, however, farm-stays are just one part of a burgeoning
agritourism movement. Among American states, Hawaii may not
have the greatest number of farms participating in agritourism
ventures--Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont are leaders
in terms of absolute numbers and percentage of farms involved--but
it may very well be doing the most to explore the full range
of what agritourism can mean. A survey conducted by the Hawaii
Agricultural Statistics Service (HASS) in 2000 found 126 farms
(out of a total of around 5500) engaged in agritourism statewide,
with another 84 farms planning to start agritourism activities
in the near future. But the total value of agritourism in
the state of Hawaii at that time was pegged at $26 million.
And, everyone agrees, all those figures are on the rise.
The key word is diversity
Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service defines agritourism
as "a commercial enterprise on a working farm conducted
for the enjoyment, education, and/or active involvement of
the visitor, generating supplemental income for the farm."
As such, it may not even capture some elements of the trend,
such as private farm visits organized by professional tour
guides. Any guidebook you pick up—including the freebie
magazines prominently displayed at the airports—will
feature at least one, if not dozens of farmers' markets, sensory
smorgasbords where locals and mainlanders alike can stock
up on jackfruit, rambutan, tree tomatoes, Asian greens, giant
avocadoes, and much, much more.
||. . . the total value of agritourism
in the state of Hawaii [in 2000] was pegged at $26 million.
Rob Pacheco, who with his wife Cindy owns and operates an
eco-tourism company called Hawaii Forest & Trail (www.hawaii-forest.com),
believes that "the number of people doing ag-tours is
almost certainly underestimated," especially in the Kona
area, where many tourists just drive the belt road, taking
in the sights. A free "Kona Coffee Country Driving Tour"
map encourages such behavior, as does the Kona Coffee Cultural
Festival. Held each November since 1970, the latter features
coffee picking contests, coffee 'cupping' competitions to
determine the farm producing the best brew, and the crowning
of a Miss Kona Coffee.
But that's all budget-agritourism compared to the private
tours and high-end 'culinary weekends' also on offer, usually
through one of the luxury hotels. In 2002, the Pachecos began
working with the Hilton Waikoloa Village—one of the
Big Island's largest and ritziest resorts—to develop
farm-based culinary tours, including stops at vegetable farms,
grass-based livestock ranches, and the Kona Coffee Living
History Farm (run by the Kona Historical Society and representing
a Japanese-American coffee farm in the 1920s). Hosted by Waikoloa
Village executive chef Wilhelm Pirngruber and executive pastry
chef David Brown, the all-day farm tours are followed by a
second day in which participants watch the chefs work with
the local farm products in the kitchen and then get to enjoy
|. . . their underlying goal with all
of their tours is to educate visitors about "the
biogeography of the place."
Pacheco says that working with private tour operators enables
farmers to access some of the benefits of agritourism—or
to try it out—without making a big investment of time
and other resources. As eco-tour operators, the Pachecos have
long been using private ranches as locations for their natural
history tours, and they say that their underlying goal with
all of their tours is to educate visitors about "the
biogeography of the place."
Hawaii's vast potential for agritourism is grounded in at
least three factors. First, of course, there is the enormous
stream of tourists coming to Hawaii—from all over the
world—in search of sun, fun, and relaxation. Second,
Hawaii's tropical climate and rich natural and cultural history
present dozens, if not hundreds of farm types and products
to the touring public. On the northern arm of the island,
vast cattle operations like the Parker Ranch run tours; in
the south, the Big Island Flower Company does a roaring trade
in orchids and other exotic tropical plants. In between, there's
coffee, macadamia nuts, citrus, pineapples, exotic fruits,
vegetables—almost anything can be grown here, if you
just find the right microclimate for it. As Charlene Cowan,
owner and operator of Macadamia Meadows Farm B & B in
Ka'u and head of the Hawaii Agricultural Tourism Association,
explains, "we're not just trying to market one or two
crops. Something new comes into fruit every day of the year."
Sugar boom, and bust
Surprisingly, however, it was not always so. Hawaii's agricultural
economy has been going through a period of enforced diversification
since the collapse of the sugar industry over the last three
decades, as protective tariffs have been withdrawn and cheaper
sugar from overseas has entered the US market. There were
once 24 sugar plantations in Hawaii; today there are just
One of these, Gay & Robinson on the island of Kauai,
offers visitors a view into the past and present of Hawaiian
sugar production. For $30 per person, you get a fascinating
two-hour tour of the plantation fields and factory from Wilfred
Ibara, a mechanical engineer with more than 20 years of experience
in the sugar industry. Ibara is also a third-generation sugar
plantation employee, so his perspective on the industry goes
way back. Pricier tours go up into the mountains for views
of sites used in the movie "Jurassic Park."
Chris Faye, Gay & Robinson's tour supervisor, says that
although the small-scale tour operation makes no significant
contribution to the plantation's $25 million annual budget,
she feels it's a valuable program. "We get engineers,
farmers, food processors, and people who like sugar—sometimes
it's kids, dragging their parents along," Faye explains.
Those not involved in food production tend to be "shocked
at how much work it all is," but everyone finds it interesting.
"As little as two generations ago, most Americans worked
on farms," she observes, "so lots of people still
feel a natural connection to agricultural life."
Future opportunities—and challenges
The many faces of Hawaiian agritourism serve as a reminder
that although agritourism ventures are frequently presented
to farmers as an 'alternative' enterprise, they are not necessarily
synonymous with sustainable or small-scale farming. Just down
the road from the Gay & Robinson sugar plantation, the
Kauai Coffee Company has a gift shop and visitors' center
with a continuous loop video describing their large-scale
mechanized processing methods. On the north side of Kauai,
the 450-acre Guava Kai Plantation receives 75,000 visitors
a year, selling fresh fruit and value-added products direct
to the public as well as to mainland processors. Outside of
Honolulu on Oahu, the Dole pineapple plantation, open to the
public since 1989, attracts nearly a million visitors a year.
Back on the Big Island, residents are bracing themselves
for a proposed expansion of cruise ship traffic, from one
a week to as many as five a week. Debbie Ward, an extension
agent based at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, says her
office would like to see more agritourism development, particularly
on the Hilo side of the island, to meet this coming tide of
daytrippers. Hopefully, she says, it will include many small
operations as well as a few large ones.
The by-laws of the Hawaii Agricultural Tourism Association
state that activities must take place on a 'working farm'—without
attempting to specify precisely what that means. Macadamia
nut grower Charlene Cowan says that her rule of thumb is,
"Does it help people stay on the land? If so, I'm all
for it." Another measure of integrity in agritourism
might be the quality of the educational experience that farms
offer the public. In Hawaii, such opportunities are there
for tourists willing to seek them out.