Lansdale, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today joined Merrymead Farm to encourage Pennsylvanians and tourists to support Pennsylvania farmers through trips to the farm this fall. Merrymead Farm is one of more than 700 Pennsylvania farms who diversify their farm operations through agritourism.
"Pennsylvania farmers are entrepreneurs finding innovative ways to strengthen on-farm competitiveness. Agritourism is a great example of on-farm diversification that increases financial resiliency," said Secretary Redding. "Agritourism also tells the story of Pennsylvania agriculture. Farms are living classrooms that agritourism brings to life."
Agritourism strengthens business diversification, increases farm revenue and serves as a hands-on educational tool to promote consumer awareness and opportunities in agriculture. Pennsylvania ranks 12th nationally in number of agritourism operations. According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service survey on agritourism, Pennsylvania's agritourism sales average $27 million annually and increase income per operation by more than $38,000.
"Agritourism is a great way for farms to highlight the important role they play in the lives of all Pennsylvanians by providing the food we eat, boosting our economy, and building our cultural identity," said Department of Community and Economic Development Executive Director of Tourism Michael Chapaloney. "On-farm agritourism experiences allow visitors to immerse themselves into Pennsylvania's rich food history while creating treasure memories with family and friends. And, farms who participate in agritourism activities, such as our culinary trails, benefit through an expanded clientele and increased revenue streams."
In June, Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania Agritourism Activity Protection Act into law. Introduced by State Representative Barb Gleim as House Bill 101, the Pennsylvania Agritourism Activity Protection Act protects agritourism operations from liability challenges associated with on-farm activities. The Act safeguards farms from lawsuits in cases where no party is at fault if operations warn visitors of potential risks associated with on-farm activities through waivers or by printing a disclaimer on visitor materials.
"Before I became a representative, my family hosted the public on our farm throughout the fall with Halloween-themed events and attractions. I know first-hand the work that farmers put into protecting the public, while creating family-friendly events and activities," said State Representative Barb Gleim. "Farm markets, pick-your-own produce, corn mazes, Christmas tree farms, petting zoos, hay rides and farm tours are the types of enterprises that can make the difference between having a positive year on the ledger as opposed to ending up in the red, especially for small family farmers."
Merrymead Farm is a fifth-generation dairy farm and on-farm market that specializes in producing and processing milk. A PA Preferred® program member, Merrymead is one of 31 Pennsylvania creameries that make up the Pennsylvania ice cream trail, Scooped.. The farm operates additional agritourism activities seasonally, including their Fall Harvest Days which feature a 5-acre corn maze, hayride farm tours, pumpkin painting and other fall activities.
To ensure agriculture's prosperity for food to remain available, accessible and affordable, we need to grow a new generation of agriculturalists. Pennsylvania faces an agricultural workforce shortage, that at one point estimated a deficit of 75,000 workers as farmers retire and new technology-based positions become available. Agritourism is an opportunity to engage youth in agriculture through hands-on experiences while exploring careers in science, technology, engineering, management and traditional farming.
Opportunities to participate in fall agritourism include:
Farms interested in starting an agritourism operation or diversifying their operation should contact the Agricultural Business Development Center at RA-AgBusiness@pa.gov, or visit agriculture.pa.gov.
More information about fall tourism activities is available at vistpa.com.
Note: Photos and video of Merrymead Farm will be available on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Flickr page.
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