Agritourism Offers New Cash Crop For Farms, Ranches – Yankton Daily Press


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Lots of sunshine. High 31F. Winds light and variable..
Partly cloudy skies. Low 18F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: January 8, 2023 @ 12:28 pm
The annual Dakota Farm Show, held in the comfort of the DakotaDome in Vermillion, proves to be a place where friends and acquaintances in the agricultural business can enjoy some relaxing farm talk. The three-day show, which wraps up Friday, attracts thousands of agricultural producers from South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

The annual Dakota Farm Show, held in the comfort of the DakotaDome in Vermillion, proves to be a place where friends and acquaintances in the agricultural business can enjoy some relaxing farm talk. The three-day show, which wraps up Friday, attracts thousands of agricultural producers from South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

VERMILLION — Step aside, beaches and theme parks — a growing number of visitors are finding the ideal vacation down on the farm or ranch.
Peggy Schlechter offered that outlook Thursday during the Dakota Farm Show in Vermillion. The SDSU Extension community vitality specialist labeled agritourism as the hot new opportunity for rural areas.
Many American and foreign travelers are seeking what South Dakota offers, she said. Those attributes include clean air, wide-open spaces and the ability to experience chores and see livestock that most rural residents take for granted.
“We have people asking about us, who want to come here. And we have farmers and ranchers who are looking at agritourism,” she said. “It’s all happening at the same time, which provides great opportunities.”
Agritourism revenue for South Dakota tripled between 2002 and 2017, even with the removal of wineries from the list, she added.
Bringing others to rural areas also provides an important connection for those who are generations removed from the farm, she said. Agritourism combines elements such as outdoor, recreation and hospitality, she added.
Those attractions could include local food, restaurants and stores, ethnic festivals, rodeos and bull riding, wacipis, a bed and breakfast, arts and heritage, bird watching or hunting and fishing lodges.
In response to a Press & Dakotan question, Schlechter commended the efforts under way in the Yankton region. “The southeast part of the state has been a real leader in promoting agritourism, the festivals and other attractions,” she said.
South Dakota has seen intensified interest in agritourism, Schlechter said.
“We already had farm and ranch visitors planning to come to South Dakota,” she said. “Now, they want to come back. It’s been a real boost to the tourism industry, and I don’t see change anytime in the near future.”
Agritourism, formerly seen as a niche market, now has reached the mainstream by offering unique experiences for visitors, Schlechter said.
“When it comes to types of destinations, 36% want to visit small towns, villages and rural areas,” she said. “Another 21% want to visit state, county and regional parks, while 19% want to visit a U.S. national park.”
Those findings reflect the desire of urban Americans to seek the great outdoors, she said. “You need to remember, 97% of people in the United States have never experienced what we experience in everyday life,” she said.
In response to a state tourism website, 85% of respondents said they consider an agritourism experience or activity as part of a future vacation, Schlechter said.
Agritourism can bring a consistent stream of dollars to balance the ups and downs of farm and ranch income, Schlechter said.
South Dakotans often don’t realize the special nature of what they offer in terms of food, shopping, entertainment, recreation and lifestyle, Schlechter said. Those experiences could include Native American culture, grasslands, buffalo and even chores such as riding a combine and feeding livestock. Other offerings include horseback riding, traveling a gravel road and riding a flatbed.
Schlechter told of children fascinated with feeding chickens and watching pigs.
“One of them said, ‘Your stars are so bright!’” she said. “They have stars back home, too, but two-thirds of America can’t see the stars and sky like we do because they have so many lights in the cities.”
Families treasure the bonding time, Schlechter said. “You ask the kids, and their favorite vacations were in South Dakota, where they spent time with Mom and Dad,” she said.
In addition, visitors want to experience local food and drink. That list includes wineries, breweries, farmers markets and ethnic foods, as well as farm to table.
Foreign visitors are also fascinated with the prairie, rivers and the flora and fauna, Schlechter said.
For example, the Japanese are intrigued to see sunflowers. However, they need reminding that the flowers only grow during certain times of the year.
Agritourism can provide a major boost to rural towns and businesses, Schlechter said. Many visitors already travel roads besides the interstate highways, she said. If small towns let those travelers know more of what the community offers, those visitors would likely stay longer and spend more, she added.
South Dakota’s best asset is its people and their warmth, Schlechter said.
“People remark that we’re so friendly, but that’s how we are,” she said. “It’s all a matter of promoting hospitality.”
She encouraged communities and events to work together on group marketing and promotions.
When it comes to agritourism’s future, Schlechter believes the sky is the limit.
“People say they came to South Dakota and should have stayed longer,” she said. “They didn’t know there was so much to do, and they’ll be back for another visit.”
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