BROOKINGS, S.D. - Recently SDSU Extension and partners formed a South Dakota Agritourism Work Group to explore opportunities to encourage, promote and support agritourism across South Dakota. In addition to SDSU Extension, the other partners include: the South Dakota Dept. of Tourism, South Dakota Dept. of Agriculture, South Dakota Value Added Agriculture Development Center, South Dakota Specialty Producers, Southeast Tech and USDA Rural Development.
"Is agritourism a good fit for South Dakota?" asked Peggy Schlechter, SDSU Extension community vitality field specialist. "I think there are opportunities South Dakota's agriculture producers should explore that may increase their business profits."
She goes on to list several facts to support the suggestion:
- Agriculture is our top industry.
- According to the SD Department of Agriculture website, agriculture generates 20 percent of our state's economic activity, with an economic impact of $25.6 billion each year.
- The SD Department of Tourism website shares that visitor spending generated $6.2 billion in total business sales in 2017.
"For our state, those are big numbers and it might make sense to find opportunities to combine the two industries," she said.
What is agritourism?
According to Webster's dictionary, agritourism is the practice of touring agricultural areas to see farms and often to participate in farm activities.
"It is a niche in the tourist industry that allows connects visitors to agriculture," Schlechter said. "While we might think the chores we do to maintain our operations are not too exciting, but to many people, all those chores are something new.
She added, that although many may think that most visitors to agritourism enterprises would come from urban settings, she believes there would also be a draw for those who work in agriculture in other states or countries.
"For those who work the land, agriculture is a not only a career, but a passion and a way of life. Those people often enjoy the chance to see agricultural enterprises that are operated in a way different from their own," she said.
More about the South Dakota Agritourism Work Group
The first item of business for the new South Dakota Agritourism Work Group is to collect agriculture producers' ideas.
"What are your ideas? What could adding an agritourism enterprise contribute to your operation? What resources do you need to make it happen? We want to know," Schlechter said.
To collect ideas, the group had a booth at Dakotafest and will have one at the South Dakota State Fair in the Value Added Ag Tent Thursday, August 30, 2018.
"We would appreciate your ideas and input as we explore opportunities to encourage, promote and support agritourism across South Dakota," she said.
If South Dakota's farmers and ranchers have ideas, Schlechter said they can contact her at any time to share; by email or 605.394.1722.