Colorado is cultivating a new kind of tourism. Rather than erecting a Disneyland of the Rockies or enticing luxury-seeking tourists to one of the state's hot springs, Colorado is drawing visitors to its many farms.
Tourists spent about $2.2 billion on "agritourism" in 2006, and the new trend is sprouting up all over the Centennial State. The Rocky Mountain News reports:
"It's going to grow, especially if we nurture it a little bit," said Dawn Thilmany, a professor in Colorado State University's Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics. "We're not leading-edge in Colorado, but we're ahead of the curve."
...For those in agriculture, it can mean preserving the land for future generations. Outside Colorado Springs, Duke Phillips has been hosting visitors at Chico Basin cattle ranch for the past several years.
Phillips initially was skeptical of having guests at the 87,000-acre ranch, but he found the extra money helps carry him through not only droughts but market downturns. He also was surprised to find that paying customers often like to pitch in and work, even while they are on vacation.
"That's what people want—they don't want to sit on a beach," Phillips said. "They come to contribute."
Farmers are erecting tents, yurts, and tepees for guests to stay in, since many farms do not have lodging necessary for multiple overnight guests. Visitors can lend a hand fixing fences, burning tumbleweeds, and even roping cattle. Farmers are also looking for new ways to promote local vineyards and to incorporate heritage and cuisine into their farm stays.
There's also a new Colorado Birding Trail, a nature tourism initiative designed to promote "non-consumptive outdoor recreation"—a huge draw for tourists who want to see the state's 900 wildlife species (including 400 species of birds). Most of Colorado's bird habitats sit on privately owned land, so opening farms to guests gives visitors a chance to explore otherwise inaccessible property.
IT's always had a thing for farms, so we're thrilled agritourism is piquing interest in the land of the Rockies.
Photo: Eric Wunrow/CTO