Agritourism has been recently embraced by South African Farmers as a means of not only diversifying risk and earning additional income, but also to create a platform whereby farmers and fellow South Africans can communicate.  Surprisingly, many South Africans living in urban environments believe that it is easy to farm, in fact, they believe anyone can do it.  Well, not quite…and communication between farmers and consumers has been almost non-existent.

So what is Agritourism?  Agritourism is a commercial business on a working farm or agricultural operation, conducted for the enjoyment of visitors, that generates supplemental income for the farmer.  An Agritourism operation can be broad in scope, for example, educational (cheese making) or activity based (cycling) or accommodation/camping facilities.

 Domestic tourism has dropped over the past 3 years in South Africa, due mainly to the economic circumstances which most South Africans find themselves in.  However, Agritourism destinations are far cheaper than accommodation in South African cities.  This is the ideal time for South Africans to explore their own country for a fraction of the cost.

Who is the type of tourist that will enjoy an Agritourism holiday?  Agritourism appeals to individuals who enjoy authentic, personal experiences that they can discuss with their friends/colleagues on their return.  These visitors enjoy exploring the countryside and involving themselves in activities that are provided by the farmer.  They are adventurous, ‘self-challengers’ and self- drive tourists.

One of the stakeholders in Agritourism, is the Government (National and Provincial) and for very good reasons.  The latter want to attract visitors to Rural areas to increase employment, to increase the income of farming communities and to stop the migration of people to the cities.  Unfortunately, Stakeholders, particularly the Government and Tourism Bodies need to provide action plans of how they plan to help the farmers achieve best practice with regards to Agritourism. 

Agritourism is not even registered on the South African Tourism website. I did not realise that, until this was pointed out to me by a journalist who was attending the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Conference in South Africa earlier this year, of which I am a member. He had a planned to stay in South Africa a week after the conference, but he struggled to find information on the internet about Agritourism destinations.  He wanted to meet to meet South African farmers.  Agritourism South Africa NPO 175-957 was registered to create a national database of farmers and visitors who were interested in Agritourism. 

We have several farms that welcome children, including a farm that caters only for teenagers.  What a wonderful way to spend a holiday in fresh air with a large educational playground!

The Association of Agritourism NPO 175-957 has several guiding principles to assist farmers and tourists:

• Introducing Sustainable Agritourism farming practices on farms;

• Assisting farmers with feasibility studies and marketing;

 • Assisting with the education as to what Agritourism is;

• Building Environmental Awareness amongst tourists (on farms and in media);

• Assisting in creating dialogue between farmers and South Africans to alleviate misunderstandings about what farmers do and what farming is;

• Assisting Agricultural students to find employment.

 Information and articles are available on the website www.agritourismsouthafrica.com and the Face Book page “Agritourism South Africa”.