Growing On-Farm Agritourism and Sales
Grant Award: $6,000
Alan and Susan have expanded their agritourism venture with the addition of a multi-purpose covered shelter and bathroom facilities. The new building is serving as a location for workshops in inclement weather, a place to display products, a storage area, and a space for drying their Bloody Butcher corn, which is high in demand.
They expect to be able to lower the cost of workshop fees with the purchase of portable toilets, as they will no longer need to rent them. Lower fees mean more customers, they hope.
Alan and Susan offer such workshops as “Maple Tapping with Natural Sumac Spiles,” “Inoculating Shiitake Mushroom Logs,” “Flowers to Jelly” and “All Things Corn.” At the corn event, they teach visitors how to shuck back corn, hang it for drying, make Cherokee Bloody Butcher corn cob jelly, and create corn shuck dolls. The Bloody Butcher heirloom variety is red, which makes for a unique cornmeal color. Native Americans originally introduced the seed to settlers in the 1840s, according to Susan.
Alan and Susan decided to turn their homestead into a commercial farm after Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and could no longer work off-farm. Alan needed to stay by her side to help her through chemo treatments, which had physical and neurological complications. Because they had a lifetime of experience of homesteading and farming with their parents, they decided to teach others their skills.
Susan found selling at market, which includes packing up boxes at early morning hours, is not a good option for someone with a disability, so agritourism was a great fit. She attracts customers in creative ways such as writing articles for Small Farm Today and doing demonstrations at Mother Earth News Fair.
“We try to teach sustainability, homesteading and backyard projects to people who may not be interested in farming for income,” Susan said. “We have learned a lot—most the hard way—and we want to impart what we’ve learned to others so maybe it won’t take them as long to make their dreams come true.”