Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
A common problem I see for farmers who try to tap into the tourist market is that usually it's a very seasonal thing. All the touristy activities happen during the summer when farmers are very busy people. This leads to the necessity of hiring help or curtailing other activities.
In my region winters are wet. Although we seldom get snow that sticks around for more than a week it can still be miserable outside. Along the coast we get fog and drizzle sometimes for weeks at a time. My place is 9 miles in land and my elevation often creates a situation where I'm sitting in filtered sunlight while my neighbor down by the river is in fog.
I'm going to use my unique microclimate as a draw card in winter. Since I plan to have greenhouses with aquaponics and some conservatory areas with seating, this will no doubt appeal to visitors. They could go hiking or cross-country skiing on the trails and then pop into the greenhouses to warm up. The petting zoo adjacent to the beaver pond will also bring people in.
When I lived in St. Catherine's Ontario we had a winter situation that included plenty of cold damp weather but seldom enough snow for tobogganing and such. I used to take my young daughter to the Rice Road greenhouses and petting zoo. There was no admission charge but they sold plenty of vegetables and flowers and patrons could also purchase hot chocolate and other prepared items. We used to walk around looking at the animals and then enter the conservatory to warm up. We seldom left there without spending some money.
Another place we used to go to was happy Rolfe's bird sanctuary and petting zoo. It had plenty of water features with swans, turtles etc. but it was closed down in the winter.
The city of Niagara Falls had a beautiful conservatory attached to their public works facilities where they grow all the plants for park maintenance. This was also a fun outing for my daughter on cold winter days.
I intend to incorporate features from all of these and from other parks and businesses I've been to. Hopefully this will allow me to always have some retail activity on the farm throughout the year. My tour bus should play into this somehow. Most tour operators in my area have 4 busy months and then everybody gets laid off since few tourist are interested in cold rain and fog. I could see bringing people from the city only 8 miles away. I wouldn't charge much for the trip because this would be sort of a customer pickup service. I might even give people a cheaper fare when they purchase a minimum quantity of vegetables and fish.
It's been my experience that you can't always trust customers to show up so I intend to drive to town and pick them up.