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Agritourism, a welcome diversification for farmers

“Agritourism” or “agrotourism”, not everyone has yet agreed on the exact term to use, but the trend has existed for several years and is growing.

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Agritourism, a welcome diversification for farmers

“Agritourism” or “agrotourism”, not everyone has yet agreed on the exact term to use, but the trend has existed for several years and is growing. In more prosaic terms, it is rural tourism which offers immersion stays on farms, direct sales of local products, or even on-site activities: horseback riding, wine tasting, milking. goats in hand, “birthday on the farm”… An exotic peasant stay, in short.

At a time when, on the one hand, economic diversification and on the other, the return to nature, reasoned consumption and the famous "short circuits", are more than ever on the rise, the phenomenon occupies a place of importance in the tourism sector. For farmers offering this type of solution, who also want to make their work known, it is both an economic opportunity and, sometimes, a necessity.

“In 1992, I took over my parents' farm which produced potatoes and cereals,” says Michel Galmel of Ferme des Ruelles, in Eure. “It’s 60 hectares. For a small estate like this, we had to diversify so as not to cause the farm to collapse,” adds the sixty-year-old. A little over forty years and an apple orchard planted later, the Ferme des Ruelles, which today operates in sustainable agriculture, has found its balance thanks to an on-site shop, which sells products made on site using apples, two guest rooms, farm tours and, soon, tastings. Les Ruelles cider, 2023 gold medalist at the Salon de l'agriculture, is putting its title back on the line at Porte de Versailles this year...

Camille Grouard, 42, a goat breeder in Orne for four years, immediately thought of offering an accommodation solution: a small guest house with two rooms to rent. “That was part of my initial plan: not to stay alone on the farm. But also, sharing the milking of goats and animals,” she smiles. “It’s rewarding for an artisan to showcase his work. And for me, who has a tiny farm, it is even essential. This clientele represents half of my salary. The other comes from the sale of my cheeses. I’m not looking to expand, just to keep my farm.”

Same story with Nathalie and Patrick Glorieux, who manage Ferme du Bois (cereals, beets, corn) ten kilometers from Amiens. Previously in pig breeding, which was not profitable enough, the couple changed their activity twenty years ago. Less for the financial side (hospitality represents around 10% of their income) than to maintain the family business: “The buildings remained empty, we wanted to do something with them! They had to be maintained, but not for nothing. We decided to make a guest house instead of the pigsties and a reception room instead of the wheat barn, for the event..." In short, "we abandoned pig breeding for others little pigs!”, jokes affectionately Ms. Glorieux who today offers four guest rooms, a gîte and nine rooms for students.

“Agritourism has evolved a lot and even exploded with Covid,” maintains Mickael Tremel. In charge of agritourism diversification at the Chamber of Agriculture of Brittany, he observes more and more requests for “agritourism” installations on farms. “People have heritage and want to use it to prevent it from falling into ruin,” he adds. In addition to the enhancement of architectural heritage, the use of agritourism can offer “in the medium or long term a supplement to retirement”, assures Valérie Louchez of the Hauts-de-France Chamber.

“It’s an economic issue as much as a desire to welcome, to explain the profession, to interact with people,” concludes Mickael Tremel. Farmers, often solitary, want to reconnect visitors with the profession and the product. Especially at a time when we no longer know where what falls on our plate comes from. People love agriculture but don't always know about it. It’s a way to cultivate yourself during your vacation.”

Agritourism has become, according to him, “a leg of agriculture” which is lasting. “Since Covid, we have been working with the ministry to raise the voice of agritourism. The goal is also to find new places to develop tourism, to relieve others that are overcrowded.” Jean-Marie Lenfant also welcomes the diversification made by farmers, who follow the needs of consumers: “who would have imagined forty years ago that spending a night in a barrel or at the top of a tree would be the top booking point? Or that we can produce CBD, tea or saffron on a farm?

Other platforms intend to connect city dwellers and the agricultural world, such as Accueil Paysan (800 structures in France) or the start-ups Oh la Vache! and Parcel. The latter raised 2.3 million euros a year ago. It offers to install Tiny Houses or other eco-designed accommodation on farms. The farmers are only responsible for welcoming travelers and receive a commission for each night spent.

Even the giant Airbnb got in on the act. There is something: according to Atout France, stays in rural areas represented 32% of the 2022 summer season, just behind the seaside. As of January 31, 2022, 35% of the platform's offering was located in rural areas, as indicated in the Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA) bulletin, with overnight stays recorded in these territories having increased by 80% compared to 2019. That same year, the multinational signed a partnership with the Association of Rural Mayors of France (AMRF) intended to develop “15,000 quality tourist accommodations” in rural areas.

If Airbnb does not provide more recent figures, the brand informs that between 2018 and 2021, “the number of hosts offering farm stays in France on Airbnb has doubled, thus allowing them to supplement their income.”

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