Agritourism Opportunities - Caroline Millar Guest Blog

Agritourism and selling farm produce direct presents opportunities for many of Scotland’s farmers and crofters to be in control of their own economic destiny at a time when businesses will have to adapt in a new post-Brexit world writes Caroline Millar, chair of NFU Scotland’s East Central Region.

While not for everyone, for those farmers and crofters keen to engage with the public, agritourism provides an income stream which complements and adds value to farm produce and is one route to securing a sustainable future for the family farm.

Current consumer trends in tourism and food and drink have never been so aligned as they are now to fit with agritourism.  Field to fork, food and drink experiences with a story, wellness, nature, and even something known as a “workcation” is an up and coming trend – coming on to farm and paying the farmer to work for the day.

Currently we have excellent case study evidence in Scotland of the positive impact agritourism provides to many farming families – income, a “decent salary” for multiple generations, the ability to set your own prices, opportunity to create income on the farm without the need for one or more people to work off farm, the satisfaction of building relationships with customers, more people means a less lonely environment, the role agritourism plays in providing an ownership and management role for women in farming businesses, and many other benefits.  

We know too from case studies that agritourism generates local employment and brings thousands of visitors on to Scottish farms and is the shop window for agriculture.  It allows us to tell our environmental and biodiversity story as well as our food and drink story.

While the case studies are hugely valuable, we do not have the necessary data on Scottish agritourism to provide an overall summary of the impact of the sector. The aggregated picture is essential as we endeavour to make our case as farmers and crofters for policy and capital investment support to help maximise the growth of the sector for the benefit not only of those in agriculture but the whole rural economy.

Without the answer to “What is the economic impact of agritourism in Scotland?” we cannot move forward in a more dynamic way which will grow the sector faster.  

Other countries have put specific policies in place as they recognise the significant opportunity and benefit of agritourism – these range from a VAT rate of 5%, tax free income, capital grants, international marketing support and other measures.

Capital grant programmes such as the Scottish Rural Development Programme have assisted many Scottish agritourism businesses to start up and to develop and as we move into whatever the replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy and rural development support will look like, the overall agritourism business case is required to shape future support for businesses.

To provide a solution, Visit Scotland is leading with the delivery of an Agritourism Census which is now live and which will track the growth of the Scottish Agritourism sector over coming years.

This has been an investment by Visit Scotland’s economists and insights team to measure the impact and growth of all farms, crofts and estates in Scotland who are selling any farm produce direct and also those involved in tourism or leisure. The survey is completely anonymous and only aggregated results will be shared. The data will be held securely by Visit Scotland’s insights team.

The tracker will also capture feedback from farmers and crofters who are interested in starting to sell their farm produce directly or who are interested in starting up a tourism or leisure business. The survey wishes to capture views on what support is required to get started.

If you are currently in agritourism or thinking about it, please take part in this census.  It will not only benefit your business in the future but will benefit your fellow farmers and crofters too.

Yesterday I was called by a new entrant to agritourism, a crofter from the Isle of Lewis.  He was wishing to start selling meat direct and looking at setting up farm tours. The bank were asking for data on the value of agritourism in Scotland, as part of the loan application. The grant application form also asked for data on the growth of the sector. Sadly, we cannot currently answer these questions but that is an example of how the collective sector data gathered by this survey will assist so many people going forward.

The survey is lengthy but you can save it as you are going along.

Here is the link, your contribution is really valued, and it would be great if you could take part.  -

  • Caroline Millar comes from a family farm located just north of the City of Dundee. The farm produces Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and malting barley. Along with her husband Ross, they have been running a 5-star accredited tourism business on the farm called The Hideaway Experience since 2005. Caroline currently delivers the project for Scotland’s two agritourism monitor farms for Scottish Enterprise. She also represents agritourism on the Scottish Tourism Alliance Council.

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