Talent in the GreenSeam: Agritourism – A growing identity for Minnesota’s rural communities | news


Did you experience a perpetual sense of cabin fever during the pandemic? I sure did. All I wanted to do was travel and socialize with friends and family; but my options were limited. Borders and restaurants closed their doors; concerts and sporting events were cancelled; and weddings were downsized or postponed.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, a new form of tourism has grown like a weed: agritourism and agritainment. Minnesotans were hungry for activities and the outdoors were open for business.

Agritainment includes — but is not limited to — wineries, breweries, farm-to-table diners, farmer’s markets, Christmas tree farms, sunflower fields, orchards, strawberry picking, pumpkin patches, petting zoos, breakfast on the farm, barn weddings, glamping , farm tours, and more.

Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to experience agritainment first hand. I attended a wedding at a family farm in a barn near Red Wing, Minn. and another at a winery near Alexandria, Minn. I found a few new favorite breweries in Madelia, Minn. and Annandale, Minn. I admired the beauty of a sunflower field in bloom near Mankato and cut down my first Christmas tree near St. Peter — learning the important lesson: it is not about the destination, but the journey — as you spend more time picking out the perfect tree than cutting it down.

Strained supply chains led to restaurants sourcing local foods. Others created outdoor food experiences like the Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm in Waseca, Minn. where you can enjoy great food, admire a beautiful landscape, and interact with animals like llamas, alpaca and goats.

Sunflowers were in bloom for most of August at Guentzel Family Farms just outside of Mankato, Minn. This was the family’s first year growing sunflowers. Angela Guentzel estimated about 400 people came out to their farm to admire the fields, take pictures, and get a hayride — all for free. The family farm plans to grow sunflowers again in 2023.

Breweries are popping up across the state. David Gullixson, a business banker with Pioneer Bank, has a particular interest in the brewing industry. When asked about the impact breweries have on a community and region, Gullixson shared, “breweries have a big impact on communities by bringing people together in good times and bad. They are always supporting a local charity or fundraiser and giving back to the communities they are in.”

These businesses are hiring, and they offer an immense amount of flexibility. Whether you are looking for a part-time, morning or afternoon shift, seasonal, volunteer experience, or meaningful work during retirement, there is a place in agritourism for you in Minnesota’s small towns.

Agritourism joined the spotlight during the Covid-19 pandemic, but its impact on rural communities is here to stay. Not only is agritourism growing across Minnesota, but the nation. People are seeking experiences outside of the city, shaping new identities for small communities and leading to immense business growth since the beginning of the pandemic.

What are you waiting for? Get out of the city and experience what small towns and agritourism has to offer.

Talent in the GreenSeam focuses on developing talent and promoting careers in agriculture and food. Garrett Lieffring can be reached via email at glieffring@greenseam.org.

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