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Farm Tours

 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 702
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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I was wondering if anyone here gives farm tours? More specifically, structured farm tours.
We have recently have a few groups come tour our farm and I think it is something we will continue to do. I think being able to expose people to regenerative ways of producing food is a great way to infect minds.

I am also interested in what other people would like to see/hear about while on a farm tour. I have found that some of the things I think are cool as a farmer, the consumer doesn’t care about (or know enough about it to care about).

With each group I tried to tailor it a bit – while still keeping to our general tour. For instance – one group or 25 was almost 1/2 kids. On that tour we grabbed a lamb so the kids could feel that our sheep have hair instead of wool. The next tour was a much older crowd, we talked about the contrasts between the way they remember farming and why what we do is different/better. Every tour has questions that help me improve how I talk about things. (after answering the same question 4 times, you tend to just add it into your spcheal )

I will give a brief description of our tour and hope others will follow.
We meet people under the gazebo in our back yard. Introduce my wife, me – explain the farm, what makes us special, discuss certifications, list what we currently raise / have for sale. Describe the flow of the tour before we start.
Onto the milk barn. Explain our milking procedures, once a day milking, show milking equipment and discuss testing., answer any questions.
Move onto the sheep – explain hair sheep. Explain the differences between wool and hair sheep (meat flavor, tail docking, deworming). Explain hair sheep again. Answer any questions – let sheep out into pasture.
Talk about chickens. Hatch all our own layers and we are working on a good localized dual purpose bird. Free ranged and what that means here. Answer questions.
Talk about turkeys. Hatch all our own. Discuss breeds and how they differ from the double breasted store birds. Talk about turkeys and chickens role on the farm. Answer questions.
Show people kune kune pigs. Talk about their origination. Size. Temperament. Rarity. Discuss why/what better about grass fed pork. – answer questions. Point out bees as we move toward the pasture.
Discuss our grazing system, explain what and why rotational grazing. Benefits of RG. Compare to neighbors property. By this time the animals are normally crowding up to be let into a new paddock. Move animals. Talk about low stress livestock handling and routine.
Discuss the milk cows. Names, breeds, production capacity. Answer any questions.
Pass by brooder house to show chicks if/when available as tour walks back to gazebo.

We try to keep the tour and a mob of people moving from place to place instead of letting people wander all over the farm and try to keep up with questions.
So far this tour has taken between 45-75 mins. Depends on the number and quality of questions. We keep an email newsletter sign up form and a price list out for people to view. We have a tuff of wool from our sheep for people to look at. We also set an empty top bar beehive out – just to give people something to do while everyone is arriving/parking.
So far, it seems the best for tours is ~11am or so. Before to gets to hot and before our son takes a nap!

We make sure to hit all of the key “marketing” words. Free ranged, grass fed, pastured etc etc. I find myself explaining how these words have been abused and how we contrast to that.

Let me know what you think and what you think I can do better.
Thanks
 
Rick English
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Location: Central Pennsylvania, USA
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Give each tour goer a coupon for 10% of a single item you sell There is no better time to turn them into a customer than when they are on the farm. If you are in surplus milk or egg season, maybe you can give away free samples...

Also be nice to have flyers or business cards on hand, especially at the end of the tour after you knocked their socks off.

Believe it or not, I have given many tours, but no farm tours. Sounds like what you are doing are the things I would suggest. Keep it to around an hour, move from place to place and talk at each place. At each stop, ask if they have questions and answer them.

I find it interesting to ask each person where they are from and where they work. Sometimes interesting topics/conversations come out of that. I often ask easy questions to keep the group engaged. It seems like every group has at least one expert that knows most/all the answers about whatever the tour is about.

I really wish I was closer to be able to take one of your tours in person. The tour sounds like an awesome idea.

 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 702
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Thanks for the reply, Rick.
We did have business cards and some flyers out on the table as well.

I will start to ask people where they are from and what they do for sure. Never know when i can barter for someone elses services!


Anyone else giving tours?
 
Travis Johnson
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We do a lot of farm tours, mostly because we are pretty active in farming and on several local ag committees. We are the oldest farm in the community too which helps, and situated in a picturesque setting on top of a hill where we can see some 150 miles away on a clear day. We also take our farm to the local schools.

Surprisingly we have not done much as far as Open Farm Days which is a state way initiative opening up farms for the State of Maine every year.

The two avenues we would like to go, is in the building of a "Green Cabin" where people can rent it out and see if they enjoy the off-grid experience. With plenty of wood and our own sawmill, we envision building the cabin ourselves out of materials from on-farm, then renting it out in the summer. We have a wonderful spot that has a view, isolated, but not so much that people from the city would feel too threatened by nature so to speak. Being located within a drive of some major Maine attractions along the coast also helps, so I think we would do alright. In the winter we would rent it out to a local environmental college hopefully so as to obtain 100% occupancy. That might be a dream however. Adding some appeal to all that, at least for the guests who wanted to just "check out of society for awhile"would be our walking paths. I have lived here all my life and I still love walking around this place, some mornings doing 5-6 mile hikes. We are bigger then the average farm and have quite a few areas of interest to see along these paths. Since I have a bulldozer, these aren't average walking paths, they are wide and flat and void of brush and brambles; kind of like you see in real state parks. I have even considered doing signs and a parking spot so that people could do a self guided tour, even though it would not generate any income for us, but all this I have yet to do.

All this is not without risk as there are some huge liability issues to this, but there is also the ethics of giving back to the community. We certainly do not share all that we could, and I reconize that and intend to change over the next few years.



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