Farm-Based Recreation: A Statistical Profile
by Dennis Brown and Richard Reeder
Economic Research Report No. (ERR-53) 28 pp, December 2007
Farm-based recreation, or agritourism, which includes hunting,
fishing, horseback riding, and other onfarm activities, provided
income to about 52,000 U.S. farms (2.5 percent of total U.S. farms)
in 2004. Agritourism is more common in Europe and other parts of
the world and might play a more important role in the U.S. economy
in the future, both as an alternative source of farm income and as
a way for rural communities to diversify and stimulate their
What Is the Issue?
To diversify and increase returns on their farm investments,
more American farmers may consider moving into farm-based
recreation. What is it about today's farmers and their land that
will provide the keys for success? This report provides a detailed
view of the types of farmers and the types of places where farm
recreation may have the greatest potential.
What Did the Study Find?
The study found the South accounts for more than half of all
farms receiving recreational income, followed by the Midwest, which
accounts for about a quarter. Recreational farm operations are also
more likely to be in completely rural nonmetropolitan counties and
in areas dependent on recreation in general. Farms involved in
recreation require a steady stream of consumers and should be
located near cities. Conversely, farms located farther from
metropolitan areas have a greater potential for offering
high-quality habitat as might be demanded by hunters, anglers, and
Farm operators were more likely to run a farm-based recreation
- They had a high net worth.
- They worked fewer hours off the farm during the summer.
- Their property was a greater distance from a city of at least
10,000 in population.
- Their county had an abundance of natural amenities (water,
climate, and topography).
The amount of income earned from farm-based recreation is a
function of net worth, but otherwise there is very little overlap
between factors associated with a farmer's decision to provide
onfarm recreational opportunities and the amount of money he or she
can expect to earn from such activities. Earnings tend to be
highest in more densely populated counties, in areas with low or
negative growth rates, and in counties where the overall
recreational activity (farm and nonfarm) is high.
How Was the Study Conducted?
This study used 2004 survey data collected from 20,579 U.S.
farms to provide summary descriptive information about the extent
of the farm recreation industry, including information on farm size
and type, farm operator characteristics, and community
characteristics. Regression analysis identified the statistical
significance of various factors thought to affect the likelihood of
farmer involvement in an onfarm recreation business and the amount
of income derived by
farmers involved in a recreation enterprise. Data on farm-based
factors came from the 2004 ARMS survey. Data on place-based factors
reflected characteristics of the county in which a farm was