Learn how agritourism and agritainment are creating fun and educational opportunities for Texans
Cities are full of things to do, and urban residents are never more than moments away from some form of entertainment, such as shopping, theaters, restaurants, and even parks to name a few. However, just beyond the city limits, a whole world of recreation is waiting in the sprawling fields and farms of rural Texas.
Agritourism and agritainment are industries with roots in farm tours and demonstrations, but have since grown to include a wide variety of fun and educational ways to get the family out of the house - and out of the city. Read on today as we explore how farmers and ranchers are innovating new and exciting ways to put their land to work!
What is agritourism?
Running a farm or ranch
as a business isn't easy. Among the many challenges are inclimate weather, temperamental growing seasons, and even economic forces. But farming is more than a business; it's a way of life. For many Texas farmers, both farming practices and the farms themselves have been passed down through the generations.
As such, many land owners have found creative ways to utilize their land for revenue in addition to their farming and ranching pursuits. By opening their land to the public, they transform it into a valuable venue for outdoor entertainment and agricultural education to supplement their income, or in some cases, create entirely new businesses.
Collectively, these practices are known as "agritourism." Although the idea of opening a farm to the public isn't new, the growing trend created a need for a more specific definition. In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed the Texas Agritourism Act in order to offer certain protections to land owners who want to open their land to the public.
As defined by the Texas Agritourism Act
, agritourism is “agricultural land used for either recreational or educational purposes.” The land "must be suitable for the production of crops and fruit for human and animal consumption, or for production of fibers, floriculture, viticulture, horticulture, seed planting or suitable for farm/ranch animals that are kept and raised for profit.” The definition of "recreational purpose" includes "activities associated with enjoying nature or outdoors."
As you can see, the definition of what is considered agritourism is quite broad. Let's take a look at a few examples of agritourism activities you might find!
The popularity of agritourism and other related trends coincides with a growing public interest in food production. There are simultaneous movements in popular culture surrounding organic food, ethically sourced produce and animal products, small-batch artisan products, farm-to-table practices, and sustainable food production. All of these trends require a deeper understanding of the food supply chain; it is important for people to understand where their food comes from and what it takes to make it.
Unfortunately, that can be a difficult thing to experience within the confines of a city, or an urban environment. The internet is certainly a wealth of information, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience.
That's why education is an important component of agritourism. It is an opportunity for farmers to share their hard-won wisdom and give the public, young and old, insight into the processes behind creating the food on their tables and the work it takes to get it there.
But beyond agricultural education, agritourism can encompass education around the natural world in general. Those with the land to do so might find it beneficial to host classes that teach people about the environment, conservation, and the many wonders of nature.
Some of the more common educational agritourism programs may include the following:
Nothing is quite as eye-opening or educational as first-hand experience. This might include a demonstration of how crops are grown, from sewing seeds to harvesting and the machinery used to do it all. It may also involve seminars in the production of animal products, like diary, eggs, meat, and poultry. Visitors can get a glimpse of what it takes to raise livestock, but also learn how animals are butchered, cleaned, and prepared for grocery stores. Of course, this can certainly be shocking to the inexperienced, but it is an essential part of understanding where food comes from.
Wildlife and conservation education.
Although it is important to learn about common farm animals and livestock, it is equally important to learn about the local environment and wildlife that contributes to the balance of the rural ecosystem. Participants can learn about animals outside the farm that contribute to that balance, but also learn about invasive species, such as wild pigs
, that upset it. Naturally, this can tie into other necessary parts of rural living, such as conservation through hunting and game management.
One of the greatest displays of natural beauty takes place every night in the sky above our heads. Unfortunately, light pollution makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see and appreciate from urban settings. Star gazing and astronomy classes held at night are wonderful and unique educational opportunities that landowners can offer through agritourism. Visitors can watch stars, identify constellations, and even learn about various nocturnal animals, like owls and bats, that call the country home.
Agritainment: The recreational side of agritourism
In addition to a more health-conscious public and their interest in learning more about food production, there is a renewed interest in engaging in outdoor activities. While there are certainly some available in urban and suburban areas, like parks, people are increasingly interested in traveling outside their respective cities to participate in activities you simply can't find elsewhere.
That's where the term "agritainment" comes into play. As we mentioned, agritourism refers to both educational and recreational uses of land. Agritainment simply refers to the more recreational activities that a farm or rural land owner might host on their property.
Although agritainment traditionally evokes images of the more agriculture-related forms of entertainment, like hay rides, corn mazes, and fruit-picking, it has grown to include all manner of outdoor pastimes, like hiking, camping, and even hunting
The following are common examples that might fall under agritainment, or the recreational portion of agritourism:
Fun on the farm.
A farm often comes with hard work, but there are plenty of leisurely options to enjoy, which makes them perfect venues for unique forms of entertainment. Some farms offer opportunities to pick your own fruits and vegetables, like apples, tomatoes, peaches, and other produce depending on the season. Still others might give visitors a chance to become acquainted with friendly farm animals through activities like petting zoos for the kids and for the adults - goat yoga
(yes, that's real)! You may also find popular seasonal events like hayrides, corn mazes, haunted barns, pumpkin patches, and Christmas tree farms just to name a few.
With ample open space comes the possibility of all sorts of outdoor fun, such as hiking, camping, pleasure driving, bird watching, cycling, and hunting, fishing, and more. Swimming, boating
, canoeing, rafting, and tubing are also popular when a water source is available.
Food and drink.
There's nothing better than a restaurant serving recipes made with farm-fresh ingredients. That's why some farms open snack bars, or even restaurants of their own, where they can serve hungry guests the very food they grow on site. This might include hand-crafted cheeses, honey, fresh produce, artisan meats and breads
, and more.
The Texas Agritourism Act
As with any business venture, it is important for a farmer or landowner to understand the risks they face when opening their property to the public. It isn't uncommon for a business owner to be sued as the result of an injured guest and therefore it is important to have protections in place, too.
To address those issues and provide limited liability protection to those who own and operate an agritourism business or entity, The Texas Agritourism Act was passed in 2015. This piece of legislation states that "an agritourism entity is not liable to any person for injuries or damages to an agritourism participant injured on agricultural land if, before the activity, the landowner posts required signs or obtains from the participant a signed, written agreement containing required language." (See disclaimer below)
These signs must be clearly displayed and placed in the vicinity of the agritourism activity. They are required to include language from the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies code 75A.002(1)
, which states "UNDER TEXAS LAW (CHAPTER 75A, CIVIL PRACTICE AND REMEDIES CODE), AN AGRITOURISM ENTITY IS NOT LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY TO OR DEATH OF AN AGRITOURISM PARTICIPANT RESULTING FROM AN AGRITOURISM ACTIVITY."
Despite those protections, it may still be valuable for an agritourism business, or someone who leases their land for agritourism purposes, to carry some form of liability insurance. Even though the Act does offer limited liability, you can still be sued, which means liability insurance is essential. Fortunately, there are several common types of liability insurance that can extend coverage to agritourism pursuits, such as Farm Liability Insurance, and Farm Umbrella Liability Insurance
Disclaimer: The requirements outlined in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies code 75A.002(1) only refer to the Texas Agritourism Act and the liability protection it provides. If you have an additional liability insurance policy, your insurance provider may have additional requirements you'll need to follow for their coverage. For example, while the Agritourism Act states that you may have a sign or a written agreement, your insurance provider might require you to obtain both in order to have their coverage.
Understanding the different definitions of agritourism
Definitions are important, especially when it comes to liability protection. When a relatively new term, like agritainment, finds its way into common usage, you may find conflicting definitions depending on who you're talking to. While a public source, such as a travel magazine or blog, might refer to a particular activity or business as agritourism, it may not necessarily meet the definitions outlined in a piece of legislation or an insurance policy.
Although the definition of agritourism outlined in the Texas Agritourism Act is broad, and includes a wide array of activities within that definition, there are always exceptions. Furthermore, because the Act is relatively new, there are many novel situations that may not have been addressed in courts yet.
Similarly, the list of activities covered for the purpose of liability insurance may vary between insurance providers, and may not be identical to the limited liability offered through the Act. For example, the Act might include the use of certain vehicles on a piece of property, but those vehicles may be excluded from your liability insurance coverage.
In other words, just because a certain activity might broadly be considered agritourism does not mean that it falls within the definitions of the Texas Agritourism Act, and just because an activity falls within the definitions of the Act does not necessarily mean your insurance will offer liability protection for it.
When it comes ensuring that you have the proper liability protections, it's important to defer to the experts. If you are thinking of starting an agritourism or agritainment venture on your land, make sure to consult legal counsel first. Whether you have an existing liability insurance policy or are looking into purchasing additional coverage, you'll need to speak with an insurance agent to make sure you have the protection you need.
As the largest farm mutual insurance company in Texas, Germania Insurance been helping farmers protect their way of life for 125 years. Reach out to your local Germania agent to learn more!