Wide open spaces

Farm becomes economically viable through agritourism

By Katie Demeria

Agritourism may bring to mind images of pumpkin patches and wineries, but for Jordan Green of J&L Green Farm in Edinburg, it means a lot more.

Green started the farm with his wife in 2009. He uses agritourism as a tool through which he can make his customer an “accountability partner.” And in a changing agriculture industry, for Green, accountability is a valuable commodity.

“We are a working farm that is producing hundreds of thousands of pounds of food for people in our local area, and we invite our customers to come out,” he said.

Creating an open, honest relationship with their customers, Green pointed out, has multiple benefits. It keeps farms accountable, first, and creates a level of trust between farm and customer.

When food safety and bridging the gap between farm and table is such a popular concept, he added, those practices are especially appealing to the customer.

And it also allows the farm to stay afloat during a time of economic uncertainty in the agriculture industry.

“This is a very different economic atmosphere that we have now compared to 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago,” Green said.

“But it creates a very neat opportunity for people like us, in that we’re young and we’re practicing this — I wouldn’t call it a new type of agriculture, but it’s a lot of old concepts with a new twist,” he continued.

This twist is using agritourism not solely for the sake of bringing customers to the farm, but rather to give them a look into a working, traditional farm. This is not, Green said, a tourism spot. Rather, it is a standard agricultural business with an open-door policy.

“We encourage our customers to be participatory in this food experience, because not everybody can farm, we’re not trying to say that, but everybody should care about their food and identify where their food comes from,” he said.

And for Green, this model is very successful.

He pointed out that the way many agricultural productions work now take money away from the farmers. Livestock is sold, processed hundreds of miles away, then returned in the form of packages at the grocery store.

His model, he said, returns every dollar right to the farmer.

“That makes us economically viable,” he said. “And, it goes back to participating and accountability with our customers. They are paying the premium prices for this product, but that is not the driving issue for them. They look at the bigger picture. It’s like a cultural responsibility.”

Green uses buying clubs in order to compete with the convenience factor provided by grocery stores. People in more populated areas like Northern Virginia can make their purchases and pick it up in a convenient location.

It is an environmentally friendly alternative, as well, since one delivery truck is driving to the urban area, rather than several individual cars coming to the valley. That option, Green said, builds efficiency into the process.

“There is an awakening in the farming community — the way we’ve been doing it for the last 50, 80, 100 years is not economically viable,” Green said. “We’re bankrupting our farms, our soil and our way of life.”

“What is occurring right now is creating an amazing opportunity for farms to change what they’re doing, or in our instance, for young people who want to farm to see a viable way of doing it.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com