Owning land is powerful because it’s so profitable. You can farm it to grow and sell crops. You can raise livestock as a business. You can transform your property into an alternative energy plot as well.
Another possibility and money-generating avenue rarely explored by African-American farmers of the Black Belt Region is agritourism — or farm-based recreation. Creating a space that markets your land and develops an additional income stream is a popular farming option. And if you haven’t heard: Agritourism is on the rise.
According to market research company Technavio, global agritourism will raise by almost $54.63 (USD) billion between 2019 and 2023. Instant bookings have become a trend since visitors can virtually see destinations online before making the decision to travel. So if you haven’t already, get your interactive site ready for guests to explore before stepping foot on your paradise property.
Depending on what your land is used for, folks will travel to pick the tastiest produce, take professional development classes or even experience always-talked-about wine tours. In Georgia, Troy University’s Brunswick site hosted a summer 2019 agritourism workshop for socially disadvantaged and minority farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded group Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education partnered with Albany-based nonprofit Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education Inc. to teach farmers ways of diversifying their revenue through agritourism: bed and breakfasts; farmer’s markets; and cafés.
Agritourism is the second-largest industry in Georgia, pulling in roughly $63 billion annually. The largest Georgia industry is agriculture, which averages $73.7 billion yearly. Need a little inspiration to flip your farmland into a must-visit agritourism site? These 11 African-American farms cover everything from outdoor recreation and entertainment to hospitality, education and direct sales:
PATCHWORK CITY FARMS (Atlanta, Georgia): This 1.2-acre, independently-owned urban farm opened in the Historic West End neighborhood of Atlanta. Its new home Is based in Oakland City. The farm is Certified Naturally Grown and is committed to growing safe, nutritious produce. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It encourages community youth to visit and learn how to plant and harvest. Local farmers markets sell seasonal veggies as well. Patchwork hosts and tickets for holiday events like its annual Father’s Day farm fete.
THIS OLD FARMHOUSE GA (Franklin, Georgia): This Old Farmhouse GA is the state’s only museum owned and operated by three generations of African-American women. The museum unravels the rural experiences of the Black Belt Region’s textile industry in the original farmhouse. The family also educates modern guests about early to mid 1900 farming practices and homestead skills common to Deep South traditions.
VANGUARD RANCH (Gordonsville, Virginia): This family produce and goat farm provides an open, grassy space for their free range, Spanish-Kiko, Valero breed goats. Local chefs and foodies travel to this site to experience its fresh food and homemade lemonade. Vanguard Ranch also makes a line of natural gourmet goat meat products, including delicious goat kabobs, curry goat and goat burgers. It raises a variety of organic heirloom vegetables and herbs in a high tunnel, solar greenhouse and in fields, too. For catering, count on the ranch’s mobile concession truck for delicious dishes.
FOOT PRINT FARMS (Jackson, Mississippi): It’s a place where you can learn growing and marketing techniques and train in “sweat equity” — work to earn a plot of land under the Foot Print umbrella — on its 68-acres. The specialty crops, vegetables and livestock farm, uses agritourism for community development. It shares how it grows an array of fruits and veggies and raises meat goats, chickens, cattle and horses. It’s goal: Plant seeds in young folks minds that develop a new universe of agricultural scholars.
CHEF WILL THE PALATE (Huntsville, Alabama): This agricultural artist brings goods from his farm straight to the kitchen. He cooks up hot vegetarian dishes and serves them on the grounds of Lowe Mill a.k.a. Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment, formerly a cotton mill. It’s now a space where artists create on-the-spot artwork while farm-fresh food awaits. Chef Will works directly with local farmers and market gardeners to produce regional vegetarian cuisine that stands out with unforgettable flavor. He even operates a mobile food trailer, offers catering and holds cooking classes.
VERTICAL LIFE FARMS (Dallas, Texas): A cutting-edge farm just east of downtown Dallas, Vertical Life Farms showcases how it grows organic-quality food with no pesticides. It teaches local residents the best techniques for growing crops in tight spaces via vertical plant towers. Owner Alaric Overbey focuses on aeroponics, the process of growing plants in an air or a mist environment without the use of soil. This method is three times faster than traditional farming practices. Vertical Life aims to use farming to educate the community about ways to live healthier by bringing resources closer to homes.
FRESH FUTURE FARMS (Charleston, South Carolina): A vacant North Charleston lot transformed into this now thriving urban farm. Fresh Future Farm is a fenced-in, basic grocery-producing plot that provides educational opportunities through farm tours, classes, demos and other activities that focus on farm, nutrition and environmental stewardship. It conducts these experiences to help underserved neighborhoods become more self-reliant. The farm has its own grocery store. Its wooden shelves are lined with seasonal vegetables, fresh eggs, herbs and fruit, along with basic and specialty grocery items that cater to almost any dietary or food allergy needs.
UNIVERSITY FARM (Greensboro, North Carolina): The 492-acre working farm is a modern-designed campus at North Carolina A&T, housing dairy and beef cattle, poultry, swine, horses, meat goats and sheep. Feed crops for the farm’s livestock are also raised here, along with new vegetable and specialty crops. Students and faculty in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences use the farm for research and education, including swine waste research and soil conservation. The campus’ cooperative extension uses the farm to test and demo new crops and farming practices before introducing them to the state’s farming community.
BLACK FOOD SECURITY NETWORK (Baltimore, Maryland): Rev. Heber Brown III turned to seeds and scripture to feed his community. The garden he started on a 1,500-square-foot plot of land in front of the brick church grows everything from summer squash to kale in small, wooden-bordered, rectangular beds. Each is easily tendable by church members. The garden yields 1,100 pounds of produce — all to feed the community that meets weekly to worship. Brown also partnered with black farmers in the area to bring pop-up markets to the church after Sunday service.
K HALL & SONS PRODUCE (Little Rock, Arkansas): This small, country store packs big flavors. K Hall & Sons Produce keeps the shelves stocked with wholesale fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and preserves. The store doubles as a restaurant. The menu includes hamburgers and wings to cobbler and ice cream. K Hall serves the community on wheels with its mobile food truck, HallBros2Go, too. Its fresh seafood is a popular favorite among local customers.
ARMSTRONG FARMS (Morehouse Parish, Louisiana): Totaling 2,500 acres, this row crop farm harvests soybeans, corn, wheat and peas. Armstrong features a mechanical pea picker, holds expert talks from the LSU agricultural center and conducts demos of new South Ark equipment (leaders in advancing farm tools) on its annual Black Farmers Field Day. Agriculturalist Harper Armstrong has been farming in Louisiana for the past 53 years, continuing a tradition handed on to him by his father. He hosts the field day so farmers across the nation can gather to learn the latest in agritechnology, network to share ideas and encourage the next generation to keep generational farming alive.