CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – Agritourism is growing in popularity, and small farms can become a big business if they are able to find their agritourism niche.
Raghela Scavuzzo, head of the Illinois Specialty Growers, says there are more of those in Illinois than one might realize.
“Agritourism is the fastest growing tourism in the country, let alone here in Illinois. We are seeing a wide range of opportunities,” Scavuzzo said. “We are seeing things from haunted corn mazes to goat yoga and hikes all falling into agritourism. We have seen it exponentially grow because it’s a way to add value to your farm and get people out there understanding what agriculture is.”
They would like to have them there, but welcoming the public is a risk.
“It is a complete risk and that is something Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Specialty Growers has been working on with the state legislation for the last three years and hopefully will continue to work on,” Scavuzzo said. “We are the only state in the surrounding area that does not offer limited liability protection. And what that means is right now, you could sue if you went to an agritourism farm for just about anything.”
“Let’s say you scratched your arm on a tree branch, you could sue them and that is a really large risk for our farms. They could lose their liability insurance, or have insurance they can’t afford, and that does prohibit farms from wanting to take that risk,” Scavuzzo continued. “So what we are working on, legislation-wise, is to create limited liability; kind of like that “swim at your own risk” sign, which would say as long as we are not doing something negligent and you understand the risk of coming on the farm, we at least have some protection.”
Anyone interested in developing an agritourism farm may want to attend the Specialty Growers convention.
“People can start registering; it is January 5th through the 7th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield Illinois,” Scavuzzo said. “If you can’t make it in person, we are offering a hybrid model. Go to specialtygrowers.org/ISPC2022 to register.”