How big is the agritourism industry? [graphic]

Jul 27, 2012

Fully understanding the potential of agritourism in the Midwest and the country as a whole is hampered by two factors: the lack of an official definition of agritourism and the limited amount of economic data available.

The only comprehensive source on the economic impact of agritourism available in the United States comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Every agriculture producer in the country is required to fill out the agriculture census questionnaire, which comes out every five years. However, the questionnaire leaves the definition of agritourism open to interpretation, describing it as “farm or winery tours, hay rides, hunting, fishing, etc.” It depends on the individual producer what they report, and it is possible, for example, that winery owners only reported the amount they received directly from wine tours and omitted money from overnight stays, restaurants and selling the wine itself. According to the Wine Institute, an organization that represents the interests of the California wine industry, California wine contributed $2.1 billion to the tourist industry in 2006. That’s $2.07 billion less than what the entire California agritourism industry made in 2007 according to the agriculture census. The Census questionnaire also has a separate section for reporting income received from selling products directly to the customer. That means income from u-pick and country stores may not be included in the agritourism numbers. Still, here's what the USDA numbers show: