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Agritourism keeping Arkansas farms alive | Business

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Agritourism keeping Arkansas farms alive
Business, News
Agritourism keeping Arkansas farms alive


MAYFLOWER, Ark. (KTHV) - Have you picked out the perfect pumpkin yet? Or have you thought about going on a hayride? Fall activities like these are fun for you, but did you know they provide a secondary source of income for many Arkansas farmers?

As the name suggests, Agritourism combines agriculture and tourism by traveling to the farm to spend money on seasonal activities like pick-your-own and corn mazes. Agriculture experts predict Arkansas will have a stronger Agritourism year than ever before.

"This one," said Brady Grice.

With all his might, 5-year-old Brady Grice goes for the biggest one.

"Whoa," said Grice.

His family sets aside more than just a day for Fall fun.

"The Fall is by far my favorite time of the year," said Lisa Schaefers.

This is the 17th year for the Schaefers and Collins Pumpkin Patch in Mayflower. Lisa Schaefers says they started out with about 50 kids, now they get between 3500-4000 school kids a year coming out to the farm.

"It pulls in lots of money for us," said Schaefers.

Schaefers says it makes up about half of her family's income.

"A lot of farmers with prices the way they are on a lot of crops nowadays have to have something extra to kick in to pay off the bills," said Schaefers.

"It is a good niche for us for extra income," said Pat Schaefers.

Schaefers runs the Corn Maze at Lollie. She says the fall activities got them through some rough times.

"Anything we could do to stay in the farming game we have done it and this has definitely helped us," said Schaefers.

And each Fall, farms add more activities to keep people coming back.

"There is more and more reasons for people to come out maybe not just one time a year, but two or three or four times a year," said University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Public Policy Center Director Stacey McCullough.

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts a Census of Agriculture. The last one done in 2012, found 389 farms in Arkansas engaged in some form of Agritourism. That is nearly a 50 percent increase from 2007. And experts expect that number to grow.

"It obviously is a big piece of revenue for a lot of farms in our state especially the smaller farms that are really trying to figure out how I can diversify this is one good way that they found to do that," said

McCullough.

Agritourism also teaches kids like Brady, about the simple life and the importance of supporting Arkansas farmers.

"Everything doesn't come out of Walmart, Kroger or any of the stores," said Lisa Schaefers. "It is actually grown in the ground on the farm and a lot of kids don't understand that."

At least, until they see it with their own eyes.

Of the Arkansas Farms engaged in Agritourism, 9 out of 10 are operated by a family or individual. So the money generated from Agritourism stays in Arkansas.


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