The United States has a big literacy problem, but I don’t mean the reading and writing kind of literacy. What I’m referring to is agricultural literacy: an understanding of where food comes from, how it is produced, and how it affects our quality of life. The gap between the public and agriculture seems to grow wider every year as family farms become fewer in number. A 2011 study revealed that 72% of Americans have little to no knowledge about farming or ranching. This is highly concerning because it means that the majority of Americans are consuming agricultural products on a daily basis without the ability to make informed decisions about what they’re consuming. Further, many people are voting on government regulations without understanding their effects on the food system, something that we all depend upon.
The consequences of continuing down this path are quite serious, as agriculture is of great environmental, economic, and cultural significance. So, how do we go about increasing agricultural literacy? The obvious solution is to make food system topics a mandatory part of every school’s curriculum. This would be a step in the right direction, but it wouldn’t do much to help the adults of today, who will still be consumers in the decades to come. This is where agritourism comes in as a solution.
What is agritourism? To put it in general terms, agritourism is an offering by a farm, ranch, or other agricultural enterprise to the public to visit and pursue any form of recreational, educational, and/or entertainment activity. Farmstands, apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and vineyards are all examples of common agritourism destinations. Typically, agritourism activities can be enjoyed by people of all ages, which is what makes agritourism such a powerful tool in combatting agricultural illiteracy across generations. Another great thing about agritourism is that people get to learn about agriculture from the experts: the farmers!
We are trying to do our part to educate the public about agriculture by offering several different agritourism opportunities on our farm. We host farm tours for small groups, celebrate seasonal ingredients through breakfast on the farm events, and we have a farmstand where people can shop a selection of local products. In 2023, we will begin offering immersive farm experiences, allowing people to have a hands-on learning experience with our plants and animals. We will also be opening a u-pick sunflower patch in late summer. We are firm believers that agritourism has the ability to reconnect people with their food, and we are so pleased that we’ve been able to bring it to our little town in the northern Adirondacks.