The most profitable crop at Snead’s Farm in Caroline County started as a way for the farm’s owner to pay for a new kitchen floor.
Emmett Snead III, who owns the Caroline County farm off U.S. 17, said he first planted pumpkins on 1 acre in the mid-1990s. The first year he made enough money from pumpkins to put in a new floor for his kitchen.
Before long Snead had expanded the pumpkin patch to 16 acres and started a fall festival at his farm that allows the public to pick the perfect pumpkin, take a hay ride, go through a maze and pet animals.
The pumpkin is now Snead’s most-profitable crop. (He makes the most money on his Community Supported Agriculture program, but that involves customers getting numerous fruits and vegetables). It’s followed by asparagus and Christmas trees.
Snead’s isn’t the only local farm that has profited from “agritourism” events such as pumpkin-oriented fall festivals.
An increasingly large list of local farms have started fall festivals that run throughout October. This year the list includes Braehead Farm, Belvedere Plantation, Clark’s Farm, Miller Farms, Mount Olympus Farm, Westmoreland Berry Farm, Round Hill Farm and more. Many of the farms are also open to the public at other times throughout the year and are a popular destination for birthday parties, school groups and families.
The agritourism trend isn’t limited to the Fredericksburg area, said Tony Banks, commodity marketing specialist for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
Banks said more working farms throughout Virginia have started running festivals that he said “can be a good source of income” for farmers and allow the public to “connect with that rural lifestyle” in an affordable manner.
Banks said the agritourism trend is especially common at farms near larger population centers such as Fredericksburg, Richmond and Virginia Beach.
The dramatic increase in farm festivals and agritourism statewide coincided with the buy local movement a decade ago, said Elaine Lidholm, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Income from agritourism and farm-related recreation in Virginia has increased at a significantly higher percentage than overall farm income, according to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy money, however.
Mary West, who owns Mount Olympus Farm in Caroline County with her husband, Ken, said the festivals and events they’ve put on have not been big revenue-generators.
“They are more to promote the farm to the community,” West said.
Snead said the festivals bring a different set of challenges than what comes from farming, namely dealing with the public coming onto one’s property.
But the various festivals that Snead’s runs throughout the year have been good for the farm’s bottom line, not to mention its kitchen floor.
“It’s grown every year,” Snead said. “They’re another way for farmers to make money.”
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405