Agri-Tourism a Boon for Central Illinois Farms
With their corn mazes, farms like Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch and Curtis Orchard draw thousands of visitors each year. But Curtis Orchard wasn’t always an orchard and Mark and Julie Hardy’s reindeer ranch wasn’t always a place you could visit. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Randy Graham of Curtis Orchard and Mark Hardy of Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch about why they wanted to be able to invite people to visit their farms. We’ll also talk with them about how they build and plan for their corn mazes, one of their biggest draws this time of year.
Steve Ayers, a local food systems and small farms educator with the University of Illinois Extension, also joins us this hour on Focus. According to the most recent data from the USDA, revenue generated by agri-tourism destinations in Illinois, like the ranch and the orchard, has more than doubled over the last decade. We’ll talk with him about how farmers start to turn their farms into destinations and what type of economic impact the trend toward doing so is having in downstate Illinois.