Seasonal events such as harvest festivals, Easter- or Halloween-themed activities and Winterfests are a unique way of attracting tourists to your farm during specific months of the year. This option benefits farmers who don’t want to be open to the public year-round or who simply want to bring in income during a slower part of the season.
Dan Pawlowski and his wife, Diane, operate Pumpkinville, the oldest original pumpkin farm in New York, located outside of Great Valley. Catering to families with their motto, “Your family’s fun is our business,” Pumpkinville not only offers a limitless supply of pumpkins, but fall harvest attractions such as hayrides, pony rides, farm animals, a cornfield maze, picnic pavilion and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch as well.
With a passion for agriculture, Dan Pawlowski left a position in business 11 years ago to pursue a career in growing pumpkins. “We originally started out just selling pumpkins; since then we gradually evolved into an agricultural entertainment farm,” he says. “We discovered that there’s never much money in growing anything; the box stores have seen to that.”
Pawlowski has carved his niche by operating an entertainment center that offers families the opportunity to spend a day taking part in fall harvest activities on his farm during September and October.
“It’s a fun business, but it can also be quite competitive; you have to work hard to stay on top,” explains Pawlowski.
“If you don’t want to work 14-hour days for at least two months straight, then this isn’t for you. And the rest of the year, you’re growing your crop and getting the place ready for opening day. You might have to work long, hard hours, but you still get to be your own boss and you can get a lot of satisfaction out of the job.”
Of course, the lure of working for oneself is one of the strongest incentives for this kind of hobby-farm venture. But the more you want to offer, the more likely you are to need help. A typical fall-harvest farm might require 10 or more employees for such non-farming activities as traffic and parking management, ride operation and ticket sales.
Planning ahead for that two-month spike in expenses like payroll and employee taxes will help you get the most from your agritourism business.