Over the past several years there has been a current trend rising within the tourism industry. People all over South Dakota, and even the United States, are flocking to the rural sections of this nation to explore the world of agritourism. But what exactly is agritourism? Agritourism is defined as an activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public to view or participate in agricultural activities for recreational, entertainment, and/or educational purposes, according to the South Dakota Department of Tourism. Visitors are continuously showing signs of demand for the authentic, rural experience, and this niche tourism market fits South Dakota oh so well. In this blog, we will be breaking down the history of agritourism as well as places here in Spearfish where you can get the same authentic experience.
Historically, agritourism has always been a metaphoric link between the rural and the urban. Its roots lie within the early years in America when city dwellers needed an escape from the busy city life. Today, that concept of escaping the city is as alive as ever, however, now there are so many ways to enjoy the countryside. Agritourism is extremely complex in that it can take many forms. That is one of the beauties of the industry is that there is seemingly something for everyone. Examples of agritourism are-
- Farmers Markets
- Dude Ranches
- Cheese/Dairy Farms
- Wineries and Distilleries
- Pumpkin Patches and Corn Mazes
- Community Gardens
- Horseback Riding
- Bed and Breakfasts
- Wildlife Sanctuaries
What about Spearfish Agritourism? What does it look like and does it exist?
Fortunately for Spearfish, agritourism is alive and well-represented thanks to places like McGuigan Farm Experience and AJ Farms 605. Each destination represents a different element of agritourism while still being that visitor’s connection to life in the rural.
McGuigan Farm Experience- In 2020 the McGuigan Family opened their barn doors for the first time with the McGuigan Farm Experience. Prior to that, the McGuigan family had been farming on the historic land since 1908. Nearly six generations later and the family decided to expand into the growing field of agritourism.
This farm offers agricultural education, recreation, and entertainment. Some of the amenities this farm offers are touring the barnyard and getting to pet the baby farm animals, a private one-on-one experience where visitors can feed the animals, tour the farmlands, and even a hands-on experience where you help the owners with the daily chores. The fun does not stop there, the farm also offers unique packages and events such as their campfire series; a fun speaker series that takes place under the stars and around a campfire with unique ag-based topics that combine learning and fun.
AJ Farms 605- Established in 2013, AJ Farms 605 is another great example of how agritourism can work successfully. This small laying hen and specialty crop farm takes a more traditional “U-Pick” approach, where visitors can come to the farm for a hands-on experience that allows them to hand pick their products. AJ Farms offers free-range eggs, chemically free vegetables, and cut flowers. The farm offers a variety of other unique experiences on the property such as farm tours, farm photography in the flower garden, a remote-controlled racetrack, and even a winter greenery where folks can pick up their Christmas tree.
There is simply no question that agritourism is on the rise in this country. It shows that America still has that yearning for the past, that nostalgia for the rural. And what better way for families to get this experience than to go somewhere dedicated to keeping that feeling alive. It is not all for show and fun though. These agritourism destinations offer clean eating for locals and visitors alike, they offer education and information on the benefits of sustainability and agriculture and even supported jobs for 9 million people as of 2022 thanks to statistics from Agriculture Marketing Resource Center. If you haven’t yet, take a step into the past and go check out either McGuigan Farms or AJ Farms and see what all the buzz is about, you will not be disappointed.