Explore agritourism opportunities

Agritourism is by no means a new concept, but it is perhaps a business opportunity that too few South African farmers have seriously considered.

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One does not need to own an historic Cape wine farm or a ‘Big Five’ game farm to present an attractive breakaway option for visitors.

Location does matter, and being situated within about 200km of an urban area will count in your favour. However, keep in mind that when weary city folk want to spend some time away from the busy metropolis, it might just be that an isolated location is what they’re looking for.

In this week’s issue of Farmer’s Weekly, we offer a special focus on agritourism, which features three success stories. In addition, we are launching a new monthly column that will offer valuable guidelines for any farmer considering diversifying his or her farm income by tapping into the hospitality trade.

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Any farmer will tell you that the business of farming is growing tougher by the year. The cost-price squeeze, climate change, policy uncertainty and the mounting administrative burden of the various types of compliance all conspire to make farming a very challenging industry.

Add to these a crisis like the drought, and the odds start to stack up frighteningly against farmers. There is no easy money to be made from an agritourism business, but it is at least a business in which the returns are not as affected by outside forces as farming.

The businesses that we profile in our Agritourism Focus demonstrate that setting up any hospitality or adventure-type business on a farm takes hard work, considerable investment and some creativity. But by targeting the right market with the right offering and by providing consistent quality service, tourism can become one of the most profitable ventures on any farm.

Perhaps the most insightful comment from the business owners Farmer’s Weekly interviewed came from Celestè Leonard, who runs a diverse agritourism business with her husband, Maurice, on their farm Rietfontein Boerdery near Heidelberg in Gauteng. During her interview, Celestè said that she had never thought about starting this type of business on their farm until someone commented on the beauty of the area in which they farm.

What might seem ordinary to those who have been lucky enough to spend most of their lives living on farms, will almost certainly seem extraordinary to people who spend their days in traffic and staring at computer screens or at the inside walls of grey office buildings.

As a farmer, try to see the beauty of your farm through their eyes, and then consider sharing it with others. The hospitality trade is definitely not for everyone, but it is certainly worth considering.