Farm agri-tourism able to supplement income

Agritourism NZ founder Marijke Dunselman
Agritourism NZ founder Marijke Dunselman
West Coast farmers are being challenged to cash in on their natural assets with agri-tourism side hustles.

Workshops encouraging farmers to open up to agri-tourism opportunities at Whataroa and Reefton were cancelled last month because of lockdown uncertainty.

Agritourism NZ founder Marijke Dunselman said there was no reason farmers couldn’t start thinking about their potential.

She said they had to look at ways to increase revenue from existing businesses.

‘‘Many farmers may have a cottage on Airbnb and there’s thousands of them, but they completely underestimate the opportunities to add value to what they already have. There’s a huge demand for off-the-beaten-track places and people want to learn about farming and where food comes from and the connection to the land.’’

Dunselman knows of farmers who charge $600 a night for accommodation, or more, instead of $90.

They offer an experience, homegrown food and they connect with tourism wholesalers and premium online channels.

Fiordland’s Cabot Lodge has become a full-time occupation for a young couple on Cathedral Peaks Station. They operate the luxury retreat with five-star Qualmark accreditation, as well as running a beehive offshoot.

Ms Dunselman said there was no denying that Covid-19 had closed off overseas tourism for the Glacier Country, Queenstown and other centres.

Some operators had pivoted towards Auckland visitors and that would restart when restrictions eased.

Accommodation could be extended to multi-day experiences such as walks and visits on a working farm.

They could offer camper van spots, adventure races and concerts. Side businesses were often operated by younger people which helped the next generation make a living on farms, she said.

‘‘On the West Coast there is the Wilderness Trail that crosses a number of farms and all these farmers could offer accommodation with food, off the farm, preferably. Some businesses have done really well during Covid by being off the beaten track, especially like guided walks or bike rides and the ones I know have had their best year ever because Kiwis like the Great Walks and walks on farms.’’

Ms Dunselman said sustainability was a worldwide trend and people wanted to stay at cottages and shearers’ quarters which gathered rainwater on roofs and captured solar or hydro power.

Farmers near the coastline could promote seafood and there was potential for using native plants in open kitchens.

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