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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid