An Overview of Agritourism in the United States, Virginia and Surrounding States: An Ag Census Analysis

Gustavo Ferreira, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

In the last decade agritourism in theUnited States and Virginia has become a more viable option as a revenue stream for an existing farms or for new farmers looking to carve out a niche to support their families. This study of the last three Agricultural Census (2002, 2007, 2012) reveals some national and regional trends in the agritourism industry.

United States

The total number of farms that generated income from agritourism went from 28,016 in 2002 to 33,161 in 2012. This represents a 16 percent increase in that 10-years period. It is important to note that the number of farms with agritourism venues in the United States decreased in 2007 (Figure 1).

In terms of agritourism-based income, there was a more noticeable and continuous growth from 2002 to 2012 – an impressive 248 percent increase. Agritourism-related income was $202M in 2002, $567M in 2007, and $704M in the last census (Figure 2).

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Figures 3 and 4 illustrate similar agritourism factors reported in 2002, 2007, and 2012 Agricultural Census for the three states surrounding Virginia.

North Carolina

North Carolina has been the leading state for agritourism in the states surrounding Virginia. North Carolina agritourism activities have experienced faster growth with 1,135 farms in 2012, 602 in 2007, and 622 in 2002. In terms of agritourism-based farm income, there was a noticeable increase from only $1.8M in 2002 to $17.6M in 2012. In summary, from 2002 to 2012, North Carolina agritourism experienced an increase of 82 percent in the number of farms and an impressive 843 percent growth in terms of agritourism-related income.

Virginia

According to the Ag Census, there has been a recent increase in the numbers of agritourism operations in Virginia from 2007 (476 farms) to 2012 (814 farms) – a 70 percent increase.Farm income from agritourism also increased significantly in Virginia, from $2.8M in 2002 to $15.2M in 2012 – a 468 percent increase. Despite these upward trends, the gap between Virginia and North Carolina has widened in recent years.

Maryland

For Maryland, Ag Census show more modest agritourism adoption. In 2007 there were 231 farms generating income from agritourism activities – a slight decrease from 238 farms in 2002.  In 2012, that number increased to 307 farms. On the other hand, farm income from agritourism experienced an actual decrease (1 percent) from $7.3M in 2007 to slightly less than $7.3M.

West Virginia

West Virginia lagged behind the other three states in terms of number of agritourism farms and income. More specifically, in 2012, West Virginia had only 174 farms generating income from agritourism and down one farm from 2002. This indicates less willingness of West Virginia farmers to adopt agritourism activities. Nevertheless, farm income from agritourism has increased, but at decreasing pace – a 116 percent increase from 2002 to 2012, and a 25 percent increase from 2007 to 2012. In summary, West Virginia agritourism industry continues to rank last in the region.

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