Agritourism is a field that is growing in popularity as producers try to diversify and increase profits. By combining agriculture and tourism, agritourism offers new sources of revenue but also presents potential problems and legal complications to agritourism operators.
Agritourism could be thought of as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture. Stated more technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors while generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.
Agritourism presents a unique opportunity to combine aspects of the tourism and agriculture industries to provide a number of financial, educational, and social benefits to tourists, producers, and communities. Agritourism gives producers an opportunity to generate additional income and an avenue for direct marketing to consumers. It enhances the tourism industry by increasing the volume of visitors to an area and the length of their stay. Agritourism also provides communities with the potential to increase their local tax bases and new employment opportunities. Additionally, agritourism provides educational opportunities to the public, helps to preserve agricultural lands, and allows states to develop business enterprises. While agritourism may create new potential revenue streams, it also presents new legal issues for farmers and landowners.
Agritourism enterprises may involve a variety of other legal issues, depending largely on the activities involved and the laws of the state where the business is located. Producers who provide food stands or restaurants must consider local food safety and public health laws that may apply and laws governing liquor licenses if alcohol is served on the premises. For more information on food safety, please visit the Food Safety Reading Room. In addition, agritourism operators should be aware that many of their activities may not be covered by standard farm insurance policies and that additional liability coverage may be needed to cover injuries arising from agritourism activities.
Agritourism operations may also face issues with zoning restrictions, building codes, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, taxation, and business permits. Zoning restrictions are an issue that many new agritourism operators do not think about, but disputes with neighbours caused by increased traffic, noise, etc. have led to costly litigation. The Agritourism Reading Room contains resources addressing these topics and many others; However it is important to note that agritourism operations face many unique challenges because of location and the type of services that they offer.