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Agritourism helps keep Colorado farms and ranches afloat

When you pick up a tomato or a bag of carrots at the grocery store, have you ever wondered about the process followed by this product to arrive on the store shelves?

Whether it’s planting a seed, watering, picking, packing and shipping, there is quite a process that farmers must go through every growing season to keep grocery store shelves across the country well. stocked.

Agriculture is a difficult industry that most people are not fully aware of.

From constantly changing weather conditions and water issues to fluctuating market prices and pest control, farmers face a lot of adversity for little income.

This is why some farms have turned to agritourism to help earn extra money to support operating and living costs.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture defines agritourism as “agriculture-related activities, events and services that take place on or off the farm or ranch, and that connect consumers with heritage, natural resources or the culinary experience they enjoy ”.

In short, that pumpkin patch you took the kids to or that corn maze you and your partner made your why through are both forms of agrotourism.

With Colorado’s foundation firmly rooted in agriculture, it was obvious for farms and ranches to open their doors and invite the public to see exactly what life is like on a working farm or ranch.

Agrotourism provides a way for farmers and ranchers to generate an additional income stream to support operations and educate the public about the agricultural industry. (Greeley Tribune file photo)

Agritourism events like pumpkin fields, corn mazes, and harvest festivals also provide an additional income stream for farms and ranches that help when the market dips or Mother Nature wreaks havoc on crops.

Or in the case of Tigges Farm, 12404 County Road 64 1/2, the agritourism to help the farm strengthen its bank account after the pandemic ended its annual fall festivities last year.

Each year, Tigges Farm offers a fresh chili roast and hosts a pumpkin patch with a variety of activities for people of all ages.

As with many industries, COVID-19 has forced the family farm to cancel its annual operations, forcing owners to tighten their financial belts.

“The pumpkin patch and the events and activities we sponsor make it a fun place for people to fall and pumpkins are the crop that provides us with income,” said Kathy Richart, co-owner of the farm. “The peppers here are what we need for our operations and to pay the employees. Without the pumpkin patch, like last year, it was zero income for my brother, sister and I for the year.

For farms to survive, especially small family farms, they have to be a destination, Rickart said.

“So this part of agritourism makes it a destination,” she said. “It’s a place where you can take people when they’re coming from out of state. It is a place with activities and a good experience. Farms today have to be either big and commercial or small and a destination.

The agritourism industry is growing not only in the United States, but around the world. (Greeley Tribune file photo)

For Cynthia Pope, co-owner of Pope Farms Corn Maize and Pumpkin Patch at 19502 County Road 3 in Wiggins, agritourism was her husband’s way back to farming.

“My husband graduated in 2007 and wanted to come back to farming, but farming is really not a thing for our generation, just because you can’t really make a living from it,” she explained. . “And with the volatility of the market, it just seems impossible. You cannot buy land and equipment. You can buy equipment and no land, or you can buy land and no equipment.

“It was a difficult thing for him to come back.”

However, coming from a farming family, Pope’s husband already had farming knowledge and skills under his belt.

The couple found property in Wiggins and this is where Pope Farms Corn Maize and Pumpkin Patch was born.

“It was right at the intersection, so he thought, ‘why not make it an agrotourism spot? “,” Pope said. “We had the pumpkins, we were right on the highway, we could add a few things, so our turn now we have a zipline and an airbag and stuff.”

The Pope’s Corn Maze theme for 2021 is “ag is the ticket Colorado” and features an old-fashioned ticket stub design with a cow and the words “admit one” in it.

“I hope agritourism will help educate people and realize that small family farms still exist and that we need to support family farms,” Pope said.

Agritourism has become so popular in the state that the Colorado Department of Agriculture has an entire web page dedicated to the industry. The page provides resource information, an Agritourism 101 video, different activity options, risk management information and more for farmers and ranchers looking to get into the popular industry.

The Colorado Agritourism Association is another source for farmers and ranchers who want to get into the agritourism game, but don’t know how or where to start. The organization provides extensive resources on regulations and guidelines, employee training, funding resources and more for farmers and ranchers.

Agrotourism activities can vary, however, corn mazes and pumpkin fields are among the most popular offerings. (Greeley Tribune file photo)

“Colorado’s population, as well as tourism, continues to grow at record numbers,” the organization’s website reports. “In 2018, 86.2 million tourists visited the state of Colorado. With the increasing number of people visiting and staying in Colorado, we must both promote and protect our cultural, environmental and economic assets. “

In addition to providing fun family activities in a farming environment, Rickart and Pope hope agritourism will inspire others to consider farming careers.

“All the events and activities that we have, we try to keep them related to agriculture in some way or to the history of agriculture,” Rickert said.

For more information on Tigges Farm, visit www.tiggesfarm.com. To learn more about Pope Farms, visit www.popefarmscornmaize.com.


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