Farmers who run caravan, camping, and glamping sites have said the rise in agritourism is playing a “vital” role in educating people about where their food comes from.
Scores of farm-based campsites sprung up during the COVID pandemic after farmers sought to cash in on staycations.
As well as providing affordable getaways to some of the most beautiful surroundings, farm-based holidays are also leading to other benefits for visitors and farmers alike.
By staying on farms, people from non-farming and urban backgrounds are getting a “first-hand glimpse” into farming life and how the food they eat is produced.
This is leading to a “greater” understanding of the industry among the public, some farmers claim, and a “greater appreciation” for the hard work farmers carry out to produce food.
Oli Lee – Grassy Shire
One such person involved in the trade is Oli Lee of Grassy Shire, a livestock farm, butchery, and campsite, which he runs along with his wife, Rebecca, in south Leicestershire near Market Harborough.
There, the couple raises around 50 Shorthorn cattle and 900 Lleyn sheep, which are butchered on-site, a proportion of the meat from which is sold online and to campers during the summer.
They secure many bookings for their site via the popular online platform, Pitchup.com.
Oli said visitors to the campsite often show interest in the farming side of the business, with circa three-quarters asking questions about what it entails.
He said: “Our campsite is on a meadow that does not give a great return from traditional agriculture, so camping was a great solution. It is not next to the yard or any serious farming action.”
“But when visitors arrive, we make a concerted effort to ensure they feel welcome and understand their surroundings.”
“Farming questions inevitably crop up. I would say three-quarters of people who stay with us have conversations about farming, and that gives us the opportunity to educate them on the basics.”
Talk about food and farming
But Oli added that although it is important to talk about farming, it is equally important to shine the spotlight on food, which their on-farm butchery enabled them to do.
“All of our sheep and cattle are pasture fed and butchered and dry-aged on-site,” he said.
“So we can talk people through that process, and that completes the story.”
“Once they have tried it, most people rave about it, and they go away better informed about how the food they eat reaches their plate.
“We produce literature about our livestock to help educate people. It is all about education, and with the campsite, we have an engaged audience who are generally eager to learn.”
Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com – Europe’s largest outdoor accommodation provider – said many of the farm-based campsites listed on the platform report similar findings.
Since the COVID pandemic, hundreds of farmers have set up caravan and campsites in response to the increasing popularity of staycations as quick and easy diversification projects.
This is fuelling a new-found interest in farming, and how food is produced, Dan believes.
“During the pandemic, a lot of people rediscovered the British countryside, or discovered it for the first time, as a place to holiday as they couldn’t go abroad,” he said.
“And when surrounded by farm animals and experiencing a working farm first-hand, most people cannot help but want to find out more about it.”
“Thousands of positive reviews in the last year specifically mentioned how much they enjoyed being on a farm.”
“What we are now finding is people are booking to go back to farm sites year after year because they are fascinated by what goes on there and how food is produced.”
“When they return to their everyday lives, they tell their friends about what they have learned.”
“It is great for farmers as it is sparking a real interest in what they do, and for consumers who have the opportunity to learn about food production while enjoying the chance to relax in beautiful surroundings.”
Yates is expecting to see this trend continue throughout 2023 as more people spend their summer holidays exploring working farms.
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