Agri­tourism is an un­tapped op­por­tu­nity in South Africa that has the po­ten­tial to be­come a pil­lar of the plat­te­land, says Neels van Heer­den.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

Ev­ery year, in Amer­ica, more than 60 mil­lion tourists visit places such as stud farms and wine es­tates. It is es­ti­mated that such des­ti­na­tions earn bil­lions of dol­lars from agri­tourism. In some coun­tries, in­clud­ing Bri­tain and Italy, many farm­ers make more profit from agri­tourism than from their tra­di­tional farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. In South Africa, we don’t have author­i­ta­tive fig­ures on the size of the lo­cal agri­tourism in­dus­try. Farm­stay ( farm­ has been around more than a decade, but it’s not well-known in the camp­ing com­mu­nity. Farm­stay has just over 280 farms listed across all nine prov­inces. In all of Gauteng there are a mere 22 op­tions avail­able. How­ever, there is a gap in the mar­ket for recre­ational farm­ers to in­crease the in­come from their week­end projects by re­clas­si­fy­ing their lands as con­tribut­ing to tourism. There are also pre­cious few op­tions for camp­ing on Farm­stay. My con­clu­sion is that this seg­ment isn’t be­ing tar­geted specif­i­cally by the Farm­stay mem­bers. As for food and drink, you have many op­tions – from self-cater­ing to sit-down farm din­ners. Ac­tiv­i­ties range from en­joy­ing the fresh air and ap­pre­ci­at­ing na­ture’s con­stantly chang­ing paint­ings, to hik­ing or watch­ing work­ers shear sheep and dip cat­tle. Milk­ing cows, fill­ing an­i­mal feedtroughs and fish­ing are also pos­si­ble.

TWO YEARS ago, a much more ex­ten­sive ini­tia­tive was launched, namely Agri­tourism South Africa (ASA). Any farm or agri­cul­tural ser­vice provider or prod­uct that is tourist-friendly is en­cour­aged to join them. The big dif­fer­ence be­tween Farm­stay and ASA is that AgriSA and WWF in­di­rectly sup­port the lat­ter – and it is also a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion. Ac­cord­ing to ASA, only work­ing farms can be mar­keted as agri­tourism des­ti­na­tions. Ide­ally, such a des­ti­na­tion would be at most three hours from a city. More re­mote farm­ers can work to­gether to de­velop an agri­tourism route in a re­gion. ASA aims to pro­mote the farm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, to in­form the com­mu­nity about what farm­ing in­volves, and to em­pha­sise the con­tri­bu­tion that a farm­ing com­mu­nity makes to so­ci­ety. Thus ASA is a link, rather than a book­ing por­tal, be­tween its mem­bers (the farm­ers and their staff) and tourists. Farm­ers are ad­vised to es­tab­lish and de­velop a unique tourism prod­uct. Small-scale pro­cess­ing of farm prod­ucts is also en­cour­aged to add value. For ex­am­ple, sell a corn bread rather than just mielies. In this way, the value of the ba­sic prod­uct is con­verted to a higher-value prod­uct – such as jam or chut­ney. Farm work­ers learn ad­di­tional skills, and the tourist (the camper) can par­tic­i­pate in the cook­ing of jam, pre­serv­ing of fruit and veg, and more com­pli­cated food pro­cess­ing. Campers can also par­tic­i­pate in menu plan­ning for the next day’s meals, de­velop recipes, and har­vest in­gre­di­ents. See what ASA mem­bers have to of­fer by vis­it­ing their web­site at agri­tourism­

WITH EACH of the al­most 50 reg­is­tered des­ti­na­tions, you’ll find a brief de­scrip­tion of the ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions (es­pe­cially huts, tents, and caravan sites), safety pre­cau­tions (se­cu­rity guards, elec­tric fences, rangers) and leisure op­tions. One such des­ti­na­tion is Ver­loren­kloof, which is de­scribed as a busy cat­tle and dairy farm pro­duc­ing its own yo­ghurt and cheese. Visi­tors are en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate in ac­tiv­i­ties at the sta­bles and the dairy. Pro­vi­sion is also made for tourists to give feed­back on ASA’s web­site. This feed­back is avail­able for any mem­ber of the public to read. So, if camp­ing has be­come a bit bor­ing for you, or you live from Easter week­end to Easter week­end and al­ways head down to the coast on school hol­i­days, a camp­ing visit to a work­ing farm is per­haps some­thing to add to your travel plans.

In some coun­tries, in­clud­ing Bri­tain and Italy, many farm­ers make more profit from agri­tourism than from their tra­di­tional farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

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