Late summer and fall are the prime seasons for one of agriculture's fastest-growing segments, agritourism. Rural Missouri is full of opportunities for agritourism, which is generally defined as an agriculturally-based operation that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. People from all walks of life can experience agriculture for an afternoon or a weekend, no matter if they have young children or are seeking relaxation in retirement.
The seventh-annual Missouri Agritourism Conference was held at the end of July in Warrensburg. The three-day event was sponsored by Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and University of Central Missouri (UCM).
Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe has been an incredible supporter of Missouri agritourism during his first year in office. He spoke to the conference and encouraged attendees to continue to grow this blossoming industry. As he noted, agritourism brings together Missouri’s number-one and number-two industries – agriculture and tourism – to make them both stronger.
Agritourism comes in innumerable forms, many of which were on display at this year’s conference. Attendees toured venues as varied as UCM’s Mitchell Street Research Farm in Warrensburg; Buckeye Acres pumpkin patch, u-pick orchard, and community supported agriculture (CSA) near Warrensburg; Green Meadows Alpaca Ranch near Holden; Fahrmeier Farms and Winery, an orchard and winery near Lexington; Hemme Brothers Creamery near Sweet Springs; Spring Branch Acres Christmas Tree Farm near Knob Noster; and Simple Blessings Farm, a wedding barn and venue near Knob Noster.
All of these businesses fall under the umbrella of the wonderfully diverse world of Missouri agritourism. As the summer heat dissipates and fall nears, the golden weekends of agritourism will arrive in September and October. Pumpkin patches, fall festivals, hay bales, corn mazes, apple cider, hayrides and more have become common all around the state during that time of year.
Missouri Farm Bureau maintains a database of over 500 agritourism venues at mofb.org. Every part of the state has something for all ages. You can plan out your fall weekends now by going there and finding the best venues near you.
If you are interested in starting or improving your own agritourism venue, MOFB can help connect you with others who can help and guide you as you grow. Next year's Missouri Agritourism Conference is tentatively planned for late July in Rolla. Be sure to sign up and attend to learn how to create amazing memories for Missourians by connecting them to local agriculture.
Eric Bohl of Columbia is director of public affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.