Planning and running an agritourism event is difficult, as there are many factors to consider. There are many strategies to focus on to have a successful and profitable event on your farm, and Hugh McPherson, the founder of Maize Quest, talked about a few at the NAFDMA Convention earlier this year. (NAFDMA is the International Agritourism Association.)

The strategies McPherson mentioned were pricing, pre-event preparation, noting must-have dates and using indoor spaces.

The way you price your event and amenities is essential to the profit of the event. It’s not always the right decision to continuously increase your prices to make more money, but you have to consider the question “Are my prices high enough?”

Is your pricing high enough to cover all the costs of the event itself? Is your pricing high enough to be able to offer discounts? Discounts are nice to make available, but you can’t offer them if your prices are already too low. One way to determine if you have a pricing problem is based on the number of attendees at your farm. McPherson made it simple to understand by stating, “If you have a parking problem, you actually have a pricing problem” – it means you have more attendees than your farm can handle.

One way to manage the number of visitors at your farm is online ticketing. Online ticketing allows people to commit to the event while they’re excited about it instead of giving them time to change their mind the day of. Online ticketing also has the advantage of collecting information on the attendees: their email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers or anything else you ask. This way, you’re left with a means of contacting every one of them about this event and future events.

Agritourism strategies: Bouncing back from weather

Hugh McPherson, founder of Maize Quest, provided tips on how to handle weather at agritourism operations. Photo by Kelsi Devolve

Using “must-have dates” is a great marketing strategy for agritourism events. Advertising an event’s attendance as limited creates an urgency factor that makes customers excited and more likely to splurge on the price. With only one opportunity to attend, and tight deadlines, customers may be willing to pay more for an experience – and they’ll have less time to second guess their decision to purchase a ticket.

An important thing to consider is having indoor spaces for your events, whether it’s for the entire event or just for emergencies. McPherson noted how indoor spaces are used to “protect people, protect the event and protect the revenue.”

Tents are not considered indoor spaces, though, as they are not stable shelters. They cannot protect your guests during a rainstorm, high winds or heavy snow. (Ultimately, if you do not have enough shelter at your event for all of your attendees, at least get them all back into their cars.)

Although you can plan and influence a number of factors on your farm or at your event, the weather is not something you can control. Instead, it’s something you have to prepare for. If it rains on the day of your event, there are really only two options: open or close.

If you open and continue your event, it’s going to be a less profitable day than intended. If you choose to close and not host your event, make sure you have a way to communicate with everyone attending or planning to attend that it is cancelled, such as an automatic messaging system.

Although you can’t control the weather, you can control how you respond to it.

by Kelsi Devolve