Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Maryland and SoCal Agritourism

Farm fall Photo by Skip Lawrence The Frederick News-Post's Ike Wilson penned an article called "Farm fall," on Maryland agritourism. The opening paragraphs outline an unfortunate but typical pattern for small farms, particularly in more urban/suburban areas. Agritourism here, like elsewhere in the country, is providing a bit of hope for farmers who have run out of options for economic survival. From the article:
"Maryland lost 82 farms in 2006 and the number of cows in the state has dwindled to 60,000 from double that number about 12 years ago, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. To cope, farmers like the Burrier family in Union Bridge decided to diversify after they realized that the prices they were being paid for the products from their KKR Acres Dairy Farm did not cover production costs.

That's when Little Beavers Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze was born, said Robyn Burrier, who runs the business with her husband, Dennis. This fall marks the first patch and maze for the Burriers."

Corn mazes and pumpkin patches seem to be some of the more popular ways that farmers delve into agritourism. Corn mazes run a whole gamut from super high-tech, GPS-designed mazes that are contracted to professional corn maze companies, to farmers who mow or hand-weed their own whimsical trail through the corn field.

I have to admit: I've never been to a corn maze, but I'm intrigued. I'm a bit turned off by the flashy, crowded ones, but whatever the form, I'm glad that farmers have found this unusual way to bring folks to their fields.


Don Curlee of the San Diego Appeal Democrat writes, in an article called Farm tourism in full bloom in rural San Diego, that "the contributions of agritourism to farmers and to the enjoyment of California's non-farm population is on display in San Diego County like no place else." A bold claim! UC-Davis is doing a lot of good work to promote agritourism in the area, with its Small Farm Program. Unfortunately, the UC Small Farm Program is shutting down at the end of 2009 due to a budget shortfall.


  1. Thanks for mentioning the University of California's decision to shut down the Small Farm Program. Right now our website is down due to bad weather here, but it should be up soon,www.sfc.ucdavis.edu. We do hope the University keeps on supporting small-scale farmers in as many ways as possible.
    - Penny Leff, Agritourism Coordinator, UC Small Farm Program

  2. Penny - I was really shocked to hear the news that the program was shutting down. It's a real loss for small farms throughout the country. The UC Small Farm Program was really at the forefront of promoting agritourism in North America. Thanks so much for your good work!