If you’ve been a reader of our publication for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard us talk about the importance of ag education. (Come to think of it, you’d be hard-pressed to find an edition of Central Florida Ag News that doesn’t emphasize that point.)
When people think of “education,” they often think of kids at desks lined up in a classroom. The problem with that is twofold.
First, not everything can be learned in the classroom. Hands-on learning and experience in the field — quite literally, in this case — plays a huge role in teaching about agriculture. Central Florida is fortunate to have strong agriculture education programs, as well as intelligent and innovative people helping to steer and promote the curriculum. Unfortunately, not all school districts across the country can say the same.
Second, education isn’t solely for children. Education is a lifelong process, not a pursuit that kids outgrow once their time in the classroom is complete. Education is just as vital for adults.
That’s one of the many advantages of agritourism. When farming and ranching operations open their doors to the public, they open minds and possibilities. A firsthand education where visitors — kids and adults alike — get to see, smell, touch, hear, and taste agriculture helps those lessons learned from books make more sense. For most Americans who are severely disconnected from the agriculture industries that create their food, clothing, and so much more, that interaction fosters understanding and support.
Will every person who visits a farm or a grove walk away changed? Of course not. But even so, the exposure may mean an increased appreciation for the industry or perhaps more mindful produce choices for their family.
University of California researchers studied the economic impacts of agritourism and found that the activities provide economic incentives for growers, spur opportunities for product diversification, and educate the public about the importance of local agriculture.
It’s easy to see how agritourism does so much more than just make some extra bucks.