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September 30, 2020

2020 Fall Harvesting Season: Agritourism and COVID-19

Fall harvest season comes with a new set of challenges this year for U.S. agriculture.

The season of festivals and sweater weather is upon us, but annual fall events in 2020 will likely look considerably different than years prior. This year, there may still be pumpkin patches and family gatherings but with it will also come masks, hand sanitizer, and frequent temperature checks.

Preparing Your Farm for the 2020 Fall Harvest

The fall harvesting season for many American farmers has long signaled a time where sleep is sparse and experienced farmworkers are coveted. But along with sleep deprivation and difficulty finding the farm labor needed for harvesting, farmers are facing additional obstacles to ensure the health safety of workers, visitors, friends, family, and themselves. Yet, fundamental fall harvesting business planning strategies will remain the same.

Inspecting Farm Equipment

Farm equipment maintenance is a year-long activity that can be maintained through an equipment management system. Through this system, farmers can track information such as the last service date and schedule routine maintenance. Keeping up with farm equipment maintenance can prevent unpleasant surprises and equipment malfunctions during harvesting season.

Preparing Storage Facilities

An infestation of rodents or storage insects can lead to contamination and financial devastation, which makes checking, cleaning, and repairing storage bins a top priority. Ensuring you have proper food storage is exceptionally critical this year as the recent food supply chain disruptions have led to a surplus in many agricultural commodities.

Monitoring Operational Finances

Harvest season prep would be incomplete without proactive financial preparation. This year, proper financial documentation is critical to recovering from the losses incurred from recent events. Crop insurance indemnity payments are up 66 percent from last year and government payments will make up an estimated 36 percent of farm income in 2020, according to AgAmerica’s Chief Economist Dr. John Penson. Staying on top of proper documentation and having a filing system in place is beneficial when applying for federal aid or crop insurance as many farmers will be doing this year due to COVID-related disruptions and severe weather events.

Learn more about fall harvest preparation strategies.

Staying Safe During this Year’s Fall Harvesting Season

While routine harvesting preparation is in full force, there are additional elements that will need to be considered to protect workers during harvesting as well as protect visitors if you open your operation to agritourism events.

Popular on-farm activities include pick-your-own harvesting, corn mazes, wildflower-seed farms, pumpkin patches, farmstead weddings, country cookouts, on-site farmers’ markets, food festivals, and more. These activities add variety and revenue to your operation but will require extra precaution in the midst of a global pandemic. Health safety precautions to consider when opening your operation to the public include,

  • Mask-wearing requirements for visitors;
  • Hand washing and sanitation stations for workers and visitors;
  • Capacity requirements to comply with social distancing guidelines; and
  • Temperature checks for those entering the property.

Ensuring a safe harvesting season this fall starts with the proper preparation and protective equipment. Remember, preparation is the biggest factor in crisis prevention.

Five Marketing Strategies to Generate Fall Harvest Revenue

Once the necessary preparations are in place, farmers have ample opportunity to continue the growing direct-to-consumer trend that we’ve seen this year—along with increasing use of technology—to get the word out and excitement brewing.

1. Get into the Holiday Spirit

With fall weather comes the holiday season and opportunities to provided joy and entertainment to your local community at a time when it is desperately needed for many. Here are just a few socially distant event ideas to bring some holiday cheer (and extra revenue) to your operation this year:

  • Fresh, seasonal family meal boxes pick-up and delivery program;
  • Outdoor corn maze;
  • Drive-in holiday movie;
  • Drive-thru trick-or-treat or Christmas light installation; or
  • Virtual pumpkin carving workshop or cooking class.

2. Create Seasonal Deals

Once news starts buzzing about your local holiday events, capitalize on the momentum with deals on seasonal products. Whether it’s homemade jams or soaps, adding a little holiday flair to your products is an easy way to boost agritourism revenue beyond charging for ticketed events.

Especially considering the recent renewed appreciation and support for local farms this year, now might be an opportune time to consider creating merchandise with your farm logo on it as a way to further boost sales and gain organic exposure. Coffee mugs, shirts, hats, masks, and more can all be used as prizes for events and marketing campaigns as well as visitor souvenirs.

3. Connect with Your Local Community

Engage, engage, engage. Farmers are already plugged into many aspects of the local community. Collaborating with existing connections can lead to an expansion of your network. Partner with a local chef when creating a virtual cooking show. Contact community churches about upcoming events or create flyers for your local market. Become an active participant in city commission meetings.

Embracing the opportunity to engage with your local community is not only beneficial to the financial health of your operation but personal wellbeing as well.

4. Engage in Online Social Platforms

In the age of social distancing and self-quarantines, an easy way to connect with your community and beyond is social media. Now more than ever before is the time to establish a social presence on popular networking platforms. If you haven’t done so already, create a business page for your operation and utilize groups to connect with like-minded individuals. Posts can range from behind-the-scenes glimpses of your operation to seasonal recipes to everything in between.

As proud supporters of the family-owned farms that make up the foundation of U.S. agriculture, AgAmerica uses our online social network to share inspirational stories, news updates, educational resources, and statistics relevant to the industry to promote agricultural awareness.

Follow AgAmerica Lending to stay updated on the latest news in U.S. agriculture.

5. Set a Marketing Budget

While the agritourism opportunities are abundant during fall harvesting season—even amid a pandemic—creating a fall business plan with a set budget will help you effectively measure input costs and profits in order to refine your seasonal operations over time. A budget keeps you on track to spend money when needed and skip excess. For example, rather than spending money on branded graphics, create them yourself through free editing applications and use that money to put dollars behind paid advertisements on social media networks.

Conduct a SWOT analysis of potential new agribusiness ventures and set a clear budget to ensure your fall harvesting activities are creating the additional revenue stream that you are anticipating.

Supporting the American Farmer’s Way of Life

Founded with roots in agriculture and a common-sense approach to finance, AgAmerica goes beyond the means and restrictions of traditional lenders to provide customized financing and educational resources needed for farmers to maintain strong financial health in the tough times and flourish in the good ones. When farmers, ranchers, and landowners work with AgAmerica, they not only find a lender who understands the unique needs of agricultural operations nationwide, but they also gain a partner who is invested in the success of their operation.

If you would like to learn more about flexible financing opportunities to restructure existing debt, expand your operation, or secure capital for operational expenses, contact us today or try our land loan calculator to explore some payment options that are available to you.

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