One of the greatest things about Missouri is that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy fresh, local food, and spend time outdoors or at an area farm. Whether home is St. Louis or St. Charles, Kansas City or Scott City, or anywhere in between, opportunities to connect with agriculture aren’t far away. That isn’t to say everyone in Missouri is a farmer, but if you want to learn about where your food comes from, how it’s grown and what it’s like to live on a farm, the Show Me State is the place to be.
The increasingly important connection between consumers and agriculture can occur through agritourism, a growing sector blending agriculture and tourism, generally defined as touring and participating in agricultural activities. Agritourism has grown rapidly nationwide, manifesting itself in U-pick farms, farmers markets, roadside stands, and even the development and expansion of outdoor adventure trails such as those used for horseback riding. Small businesses and rural economies benefit from the growing trend in Missouri.
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets in the state has grown roughly 10 percent a year over the last decade – to more than 220 in 2012. Wineries, which contribute to an increasingly exciting sector of Missouri’s agritourism market, have grown approximately 50 percent the last five years. Missouri headed into 2013 with 118 wineries.
The priority of connecting consumers to producers is something that simply cannot be overstated by those invested in the success of Missouri agriculture.
Connecting Missourians to the farm families and agribusinesses behind their food, clothing, fuel and fun is a priority for the Missouri Department of Agriculture and its AgriMissouri promotional program, which highlights all things Missouri-made and Missouri-grown.
The AgriMissouri program’s more than 1,700 members include a variety of farms, agritourism opportunities and agribusinesses with products ranging from alpaca rugs to fresh meats, cheeses and produce, to home décor and wellness products.
AgriMissouri member Peters Orchards and Market is located just east of the small town of Waverly, Mo. More than 100,000 people visit Peters’ market for apples, peaches, pumpkins and the playground at its seasonal roadside market each year.
The Peters family knows how important connecting with consumers is for bringing people to his rural hometown.
“Today’s consumer doesn’t understand where their food comes from,” says Paul Peters, who, along with four cousins, owns Peters Orchards, a more than 100-year-old family farm spread across 500 acres. “It’s important to give them a realistic view of what modern agriculture is and how it provides for people.”
The family sells most of its apples wholesale to locations throughout the central and southern United States. Their roadside market sells peaches, apples, squash and pumpkins directly to consumers from mid-July to Halloween.
In addition to word-of-mouth, Peters Orchards depends on AgriMissouri to draw people to that roadside market. The business has taken advantage of social media support and training, graphic design, and other services offered through the program, especially in the last two years.
AgriMissouri members choose from three levels of participation that include a variety of marketing support, educational training and participation in special events.
AgriMissouri’s offerings – and membership – surged since the program’s redevelopment in 2011, which included a fresh website, new membership structure and a creative marketing plan. Membership grew from about 350 to more than 1,700. Consumer attention has increased as well. The new AgriMissouri.com website received more than 554,000 visits after its launch in 2011, and continues to provide resources to both producers and consumers.
Whether you are looking for the closest farmers market, fair, U-pick farm or locally made treats, AgriMissouri’s interactive map can provide ideas for exploring your area, help plan a family staycation, and show the many bed-and-breakfasts available to host your guests or special event.
Just remember, wherever your adventure takes you, whether it’s an afternoon with friends, a week with family or realizing a life-long dream, there are great experiences to be had and plenty of opportunity in Missouri.