We’ve all heard the stories. A farming family plants a corn field and clears a twisting path through the field to create a maize. Hooking up a flat bed of square bales to a tractor, a hay ride is born. Not far away stands a field of ripening pumpkins, newly made signs directing visitors to a stand where warm, aromatic apple cider promises to chase away the autumn chill.

Down the road a way, on a larger property where Angus herds graze beneath an oak grove, the resident rancher is headed out on his four-wheeler to check the automatic feeders around the Back 40 where a few choice deer blinds have been strategically located near a clearing. Soon hunters will be traveling down that winding rural highway trying to rein in their pre-hunt jitters as the hours tick down to the start of another white-tailed deer season.

Just a couple of counties over is another farm taking advantage of non-traditional farming revenue. The owners have planted trees to attract visitors from urban areas each holiday season, but these trees are special. They are just a small part of the 350,000 acres of Christmas trees planted by farmers nationwide that provide outdoor education and recreational opportunities to a growing number of families looking for convenient holiday excursions near their home town.

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Regardless what you call it, a popular trend seems to be spreading across much of farm country as farmers young and old are discovering they can boost profits off their rural properties in new and sometimes exciting ways.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension calls it nature tourism, or agritourism. In a report prepared by the Extension service, the American Farm Bureau defines agritourism as “an enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agriculture plant conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generates income for the owner.”

Plain and simple, it’s another way to generate income from the land, and is a great way to introduce your farm brand to consumers, which could open the door to developing a loyal consumer base for other products the farm or ranch provides.

According to Extension officials, about 440 agritourism businesses are currently listed in an online Texas inventory, but that number represents only a fraction of the businesses actually operating within the state. Many such operations are simple farm tours designed for families and school children to help them understand the concept of farming and how it works. But there are plenty of day camps, farm work camp programs, self-harvesting specialty farms, hay rides, corn maize and Christmas tree farms as well.

In addition there are literally thousands of leases for day, season and year-round hunting opportunities, rural bed & breakfast operations, fish camps, rafting companies, private campgrounds, rural wedding facilities, and even rural RV parks that have proven successful.

Many operations are small and secondary to the primary business of farming and ranching, but for others, creative and well managed enterprises provide substantial success and beneficial non-traditional revenues.