Farmers and crofters are being encouraged to cash in on the growing appetite for farms tours and experiences.
Caroline Millar – sector lead at farm tourism industry body Scottish Agritourism – said diversifying into farm tours and experiences offered the double benefits of additional income and giving people a better understanding of farming and food production.
Speaking at a virtual press briefing to mark the end of the latest Scottish Enterprise Agritourism Monitor Farm Programme, Mrs Millar said: “VisitScotland are really supportive of our sector and they are feeding back that there’s not enough supply [of farm tours and experiences].
“It has double benefits – if someone is paying £95 to be a farmer for the day and they go away with more knowledge [about farming] there’s a real benefit there.”
Kay Wilson from Lennox of Lomond – a diversified farm business near Loch Lomond which was one of the agritourism monitor farms – said getting involved with farm tours and experiences was relatively easy and VisitScotland offered free listings on their website.
She said the farm had seen huge demand for its experiences, which include a day in the life of the farmer tours and lambing days, and diversifying the farm business to include tourism had enabled it to provide enough income for everyone working on the farm.
Ms Wilson added: “We run an array of events throughout the year including a three-week lambing experience, and we now offer bespoke quad bike trailer tours.
“We have also taken on a contract until 2024 with an American tour company which is worth around £30,000.”
The other agritourism monitor farm – Drift in East Lothian run by Stuart and Jo McNicol – is also venturing into the farm experience and tours business.
Jo McNicol told the press briefing: “We have plans going forward to work with the travel trade, but with smaller groups to perhaps come for a scone baking demonstration.”
The inaugural Scottish Agritourism Growth Tracker report, compiled by VisitScotland on behalf of Scottish Agritourism, said both the increased value of the sector and the number of jobs it could support were dependent on the goals of the Scottish agritourism strategy being achieved.
The overall goal is to have 1,000 Scottish farming and crofting enterprises offering an agritourism experience, with at least 50% providing a food and drink element by 2030 –there are currently around 500 agritourism businesses in Scotland.