News / USA

Halloween Pumpkins are Serious Farm Business

Rise in tourism helps struggling American farms

Farm tourism almost tripled nationwide between 2002 and 2007, when it was worth about $600 million.
Farm tourism almost tripled nationwide between 2002 and 2007, when it was worth about $600 million.

Multimedia

Audio

Farmers looking for ways to stay profitable are finding a growing source of income in farm tourists.

Especially near urban centers, welcoming visitors is becoming increasingly lucrative while raising crops and livestock are becoming less so.

Autumn is a particularly popular time for farm tourism. This weekend's Halloween celebration of all things scary draws visitors to scenic farms around Washington, DC, to pick pumpkins to carve into jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin picking fun

On a recent weekend afternoon, a steady stream of people takes the tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch at Brookfield Pumpkins in Thurmont, MD.

Laine Cliber is here with her brother, sister and parents. She says she is looking for "a tall, orange pumpkin with a long handle." She ends up with a squat, green one with a short handle. But she seems happy with it anyway. The family has a good time in the afternoon sun. They spend more than 70 dollars on four large pumpkins and some smaller gourds.  

It has been a good day for Mary Jane Roop, whose family runs the farm. It was a dairy farm until six years ago, when they sold their herd of 300 cows.

Business, weather challenges

Small dairy farms across the country have been shutting down. In about the last 10 years alone, the United States has lost about a third of its dairy farms.

"Many commodities in agriculture have cycles," Roop says, "but this cycle in the dairy industry has been very deep and very long, and it's been very hard on the American dairy farmer."

The Roop family now raises cows for other dairy farms. After getting out of the dairy business, the Roops switched to raising corn and soybeans. But this was a bad year.

"We had a tremendous drought this year. Our corn yields and soybean yields are down substantially," she says.

Mary Jane Roop used to run a dairy farm but now relies increasingly on tourists to boost profits.
Mary Jane Roop used to run a dairy farm but now relies increasingly on tourists to boost profits.


Pumpkin profits


But the pumpkins thrived in the hot, dry weather.

More importantly, Roop says people want to come pick them.

"The dry weather will affect the crop yields," she says, "but it will not affect the people coming to the farm."

She says pumpkin sales will make up only about 10 percent of the family's income this year. But in a year when other revenue sources are down, every bit helps.

In today's global economy, when farmers face competition from growers overseas, experts say many farmers are finding that welcoming visitors is a good way to help the bottom line.

In addition, urban encroachment on rural areas often puts pressure on farmers to sell their land for development. But some farms near Washington, DC, are capitalizing on the crowds of city folk looking for some fresh air, says Kellie Boles, who runs agriculture development programs for Loudoun County in the neighboring state of Virginia.

"If our wineries are seeing over 400 people on a single day, and our farmers are seeing 3,000 people on a weekend, that's got to be translating into financial benefit for them," Boles says.

Farms near Washington, DC are attracting city people. Farmers in nearby Loudoun County, Virginia, draw about 3,000 people each weekend.
Farms near Washington, DC are attracting city people. Farmers in nearby Loudoun County, Virginia, draw about 3,000 people each weekend.

Growing business

It's hard to know exactly how big that financial benefit is, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture says farm tourism nationwide was worth about $600 million in 2007. That's nearly triple the figure from 2002.

Boles says the growth comes as increasingly health- and environment-conscious Americans try to learn more about how their agricultural products are raised.

"The kids are going out in the fields and they're picking pumpkins and they're picking apples, and I think it inherently serves as an educational tool to the next generation about where our food does come from," she says.

That makes farm tourism good for the farmers and for the tourists, says Mary Jane Roop.

"We have families that have come back 15 years in a row," she says. "And to us, that says something: That we're meeting a special need for them, and they're meeting a special need for us."

Visitors get to enjoy a fall afternoon in the pumpkin patch. And the Roops get to continue farming.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid