Farmers diversify with agritourism
Angus’s agricultural richness helps the county lead the way in establishing substansial agritourism
Covering a diverse range of farm-based activities, agritourism is anything from an overnight camp-out in a field to outdoor pursuits, gift shopping and, most naturally, a direct connection with our food and drink landscape.
There are clear-cut benefits for everyone. Farmers, sometimes forced to diversify or dwindle, can cushion themselves from the vagaries of global markets and governments can strengthen rural economies while the increased visitors get to enjoy themselves be active or unwind, eat and drink, and even learn a few things along the way.
One Angus resident keen to spread agritourism is Caroline Millar who runs luxury acommodation the Hideaway Experience from the family farm near Auchterhouse. In 2013 she co-founded Go Rural, an organisation helping businesses to diversify and agritourists to plan itineraries. It also runs campaigns and conferences to persuade the power-wielders that agritourism should be recognised as a growth sector and a focus for tourism strategies.
'The Italian agritourismo model is setting the precedent. Tuscany is the same size as Angus and Aberdeenshire yet has 4,000 businesses on farm agritourismos,' says Millar. 'That emphasis on diversification now drives food exports and plays a key part in the overall tourism output. With the right support we can harness Scotland's ample resources and mirror Italy's success.'
Peel Farm at Lintrathen by Kirriemuir diversified 30 years ago with a coffee shop and now has on-site retail, accommodation and a calendar of events. It is highlighting agritourism's benefits by spending a year as a monitor farm, welcoming those starting or improving their diversified strands.
'Scotland's agritourism industry is a largely untapped resource,' says Kim Gall, the farm's business manager (and lecturer in business at Dundee College). 'We might not guarantee the sunshine that made the Tuscan model so successful, but there's still an awful lot of unexplored potential here.'
As appetites grow for farm-fresh local produce, so Scotland's natural larder can shine. 'Our country's food and drink offering can play a large part in attracting visitors, Gall says. At Peel Farm weve been looking at ways of better highlighting how we use local suppliers and producers, and now offer a range of workshops for food lovers everything from jam-making to gin-infusing to combine with their stay.