With over 1 billion people travelling internationally each year, responsible tourism has become more and more important for both travellers and tourism providers. You have heard of eco-hotels, animal protection and fair trade standards, but what about agritourism? Could organic farms be the next big thing in responsible tourism?
What is agritourism?
Agritourism is the joining of tourism and agriculture where tourists visit private agricultural areas to learn more about sustainable and organic farming, conservation and local produce.
This is a great way for farmers to supplement their income while educating visitors about the importance of organic produce and local farming practices in a fun and entertaining way. Many of these activities are targeted to children, so they are a great family friendly activity, that will keep the kids entertained for hours!
Connect with nature on an organic farm
With over half the world’s population living in cities, travellers are seeking to get back to nature and escape the urban city sprawl. Visiting an organic farm gives visitors the opportunity to reconnect with nature for a few hours, a day or even a week or two.
These farms each specialise in local farming practices which vary based on location. Local farmers are usually employed to help ensure that these traditional farming methods are not forgotten and replaced with modern technology. Instead, they are adapted and preserved, providing local workers with employment, conserving the natural environment, and producing healthy, natural foods.
Get your hands dirty with experiential tourism
Central to the philosophy of agritourism is giving visitors the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and their hands dirty as they get involved in the daily running of the farm. I visited the Thai Organic Food Farm outside Bangkok with Live two Travel, Shari Tucker, and Adventurous Journeys. There we learned how to plant and harvest rice – at first we delicately planted each plant, but then we copied the locals who expertly throw the plants and manage to have them land exactly where they want them!
While each organic farm is different, some of the activities visitors might expect to mingle with farm animals, help with planting or harvesting crops, learn about organic home gardening, or evening cooking classes using some of the produce that you have helped grow. Many of these farms offer visitors the chance to stay overnight or even longer, extending your holiday and giving you the chance to participate in more activities.
Dig deep: Voluntourism on an organic farm
If you would like to take your visit to the next level, consider volunteering on an organic farm in exchange for food and accommodation. This is a great way to learn more about organic farming while helping local farmers with their business.
Welcome to World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF, the number one resource for both volunteers looking to work on an organic farm, and farmers who want to open their home to volunteers. Volunteers usually live with their host for anywhere between one week and six months where they spend between 4-6 hours a day working on the farm in exchange for accommodation and food.
What sort of work will you be doing? Well, it varies, but volunteers may be asked to help sowing seeds and planting, gardening, harvesting, making compost, feeding or milking animals, or even making cheese, bread or wine. If you are thinking of volunteering, make sure you read more about how to find responsible volunteer work overseas.
Three organic farms YOU can visit on a short trip!
- Thai Organic Food Farm, Thailand: Only a few hours outside Bangkok, this farm is a great kid friendly excursion that gives children the chance to learn more about organic food in a fun and engaging way. During my visit, a local school group was having fun playing on a mud slide, feeding ducks, making and flying kites, and planting and harvesting rice. But it isn’t only for kids. If you time your visit well, you might be able to join a cooking class where you can learn to cook your favourite Thai dishes using produce grown on the farm. Short on time? Thai Organic Food Farm sells their products both domestically and internationally so you can experiment with Thai dishes from your own home!
- Lakesh Farms, India: Spread over 8 acres, Lakesh Farms, is nestled in the Aravalli Hills surrounded by thousands of indigenous fruit trees and shrubs. They promote eco-farming through vermi-composting and bio-waste management in partnership with the local community. Visitors can help with milking and churning the milk to make ghee and buttermilk, or even making organic pesticides for use on the farm. Through the Lakesh Foundation, qualified volunteers may also help at one of their four learning centres for underprivileged rural children.
- Bioporos Organic Farm, Greece: Explore 7 acres of hills, olive groves and vegetable gardens next to a beautiful lake in southern Corfu. Here visitors can explore the local area, help out on the farm, play with the animals or take a cooking class or soap making lesson. This farm has a number of different workshops visitors can join – everything from bread making to learning about medicinal herbs!
Have you visited an organic farm or WWOOFed?
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