What does agritourism mean to Mississippi?

Take a real working farm and those who own the land and work so hard to preserve it. Reflect on what you might find if you were to visit such a farm. A big red barn? Stalks of corn and bales of hay? A definite possibility. How about pumpkins, peaches or blueberries? Maybe a tractor or two? Absolutely!

Combine all of the elements of a working farm, blend them together with the tender loving care of the farmers, add a whole lot of open air, throw in a variety of sounds and aromas and then mix thoroughly. The result of this agricultural fusion is Agritourism, of course.

There's the challenge of a corn or hay bale maze, or the chance to grab a bucket and pick your own produce for a delicious meal. Think about a petting zoo, with pigs, goats, and chickens-oh my! Wagon rides, hay rides and train rides are amusing modes of transportation, and an inspired approach to stargazing and bird watching. Horses for riding, cows for milking and bees for honey-ing are fun and enlightening. Festivals to celebrate peanuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, watermelon and catfish are excellent ways to bring a community together. Mix in opportunities for education with hands-on syrup making, goat's milk soap and cheese production. Get yourself in the holiday spirit by visiting the Red Barn Haunted House; pick a pumpkin for carving and a Christmas tree for trimming. What could be more invigorating than camping, picnicking or hosting a family reunion on a working farm?

Where in the world can all of these fun times be found? Right here in Mississippi, of course! Mississippi's rich and colorful agricultural heritage is filled with great innovation and success, and although it remains a leading resource in the state's economy, agriculture constantly change with time, technology, needs and opportunity. With roughly 42,000 farms in the state covering 11 million acres, agriculture makes a significant contribution to all 82 counties in the state.

Agritourism can benefit local economies by drawing consumers to the community, improving the attractiveness of the region as a tourism destination, providing employment opportunities, and increasing visibility and revenues of local businesses and other retail establishments. Agritourism generates approximately $150 million annually int he state and now is one of the fastest growing tourism markets.

For farmers and landowners, agritourism can be beneficial by promoting product diversification, increasing visibility, increasing demand for products, direct marketing and sales, and value-added production.

For adventure, fun, and entertainment, as well as a desire to learn more about the history, customs and culture of Mississippi's working farms, look no further than the Hospitality State's many agritourism operation. The offering are many and diverse and will leave a lifetime of memories.

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