Ambitious plans to double the number of Scottish farmers and crofters involved in high-level tourism activities over the next decade have been unveiled.
Currently, there are around 500 farm businesses operating in the Scottish agritourism sector. But industry leaders are seeking to increase the number of registered farms, estates and crofts to 1,000 by 2030.
Scottish Agritourism 2030 – The Strategy for Sustainable Growth sets out a shared vision for the sector: one that aims to sustainably grow the rural economy; protect family farms for future generations; build consumer awareness and loyalty towards local produce; and celebrate the history and heritage of these important Scottish communities.
The strategy was launched at the Scottish Agritourism Conference, which took place in Perth on 9-10 November. It will be supported by a staged action plan, including a collaborative approach from the public and private sectors both in Scotland and internationally.
Agritourism has become a growing consumer trend in Scotland, with an increasing number of farms, crofts and estates diversifying their operations to attract visitors, such as offering seasonal events that aim to educate and inspire visitors about life on a working farm.
Popular agritourism experiences include farm stays, farm tours, farm shops that sell locally grown and sourced produce and events such as pumpkin-picking or lambing sessions.
Growing the number and diversity of authentic agritourism experiences in Scotland is one of the main ambitions of the new strategy, which seeks to galvanise the country’s agritourism sector.
Caroline Millar and her husband Ross farm beef, sheep and malting barley on the family farm at Auchterhouse, near Dundee. But they also run The Hideaway Experience – a five-star luxury retreat on-farm in south Angus.
She said the strategy also aims to provide visitors with education on how farms work through the farm-to-fork experience, and to enjoy local produce.
At a time of great change for the agricultural sector, expanding agritourism will put vital income into the rural economy, create jobs and protect the future of the family farm and croft, added Mrs Millar, who is also the facilitator of the Scottish Enterprise Agritourism Monitor Farm programme.
Scottish rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon told the conference that agritourism is a major area for growth and opportunities for farm businesses. She said the Scottish government would lend its support through initiatives such as monitor farms.