There is no simple rule of thumb when it comes to estimating income from most new forms of agritourism. Those who operate fishing lodges, hunting leases or bed & breakfast operations may be able to estimate revenues based upon a set number of hunters or guests. But trying to guess how many families will visit the farm to walk a corn maize or ride a hay wagon is more difficult.

What’s certain is that since 2002income per farm from agritourism has more than doubled. In the 2007 USDA census, 23,350 survey respondents claimed they generated a total of $566 million in total farm income, an average of about $24,240.00 per farm.

Of interesting note and perhaps more important, among all farms reporting recreational income in 2007, the household net worth of farm operators with recreational income is higher than average, with a median net worth of about $794,000 compared to $457,000 without recreational income. Looking at it from that angle, it becomes obvious that some form(s) of agritourism can not only boost annual revenues but also can provide overall added property value.

Operators and supporters say Agritourism is also a good way to survive bad crop years, disasters and drought. Even with crop insurance to reduce losses, difficult years can always benefit from additional revenue sources.

But running a petting farm or operating a hay ride isn't for everyone. It requires time and good management, and most successful operations generally involve family members or partners who help out with the day-to-day operations and the planning and management of the program. Seasonal activities, like hunting and corn maizes are popular during traditional off season periods and this appeals to many for that reason.

But before you run out and hook the wagon up to the tractor and fill it with hay, there are a number things you should consider. Talking with an attorney is always a good start, and engaging your home and property insurance agent is a must. Public health and safety issues can ruin a good party if you have not followed all the rules and requirements and protected your operation with appropriate liability coverage.