The math is undeniable.
Agriculture and tourism are Sussex County’s two leading economic powerhouses. In combination they present massive opportunities as people become increasingly aware of and interested in the benefits of active, healthy lifestyles and sustainable tourism, and as they clamor to know more about where their food comes from and how it’s produced.
And Sussex County producers who wish to provide visitors with agritourism experiences have a huge leg up over producers in landlocked and often geographically isolated locations throughout the U.S.
Why? Because Southern Delaware is already an immensely desirable tourism destination. The natural beauty of our area and the recreational opportunities it offers, our pristine beaches and waterways, our location within a four-hour drive of 30 percent of the U.S. population, and our innovative and collaborative community of local organizations and businesses all contribute to an ever-growing visitor base.
The term agritourism includes a wide variety of activities including things like staying at a B&B on a farm, buying produce direct from a farm stand, feeding animals, picking fruit or navigating a corn maze. Agritourism takes place at authentic farms, gardens and educational sites that present activities where visitors can learn more about agriculture, take part in an event or purchase an item grown on the farm.
There are already lots of creative and thriving agritourism initiatives taking place in Southern Delaware including vineyards, lavender farms, apiaries, organic herb and vegetable farms, animal farms, flower farms, orchards, outstanding plant nurseries and more. And don’t forget our local shellfish farmers, one of which offers tours of their oyster farm and facilities. Here are just a few other examples:
• Local on the Menu, an initiative of Southern Delaware Tourism, directs visitors to restaurants in our Culinary Coast™ region that are committed to purchasing and using locally produced goods.
• Restaurants offer in-season Farm to Table dinners.
• Nassau Valley Vineyards, Delaware’s first farm winery, offers visitors tours and tastings and a farmers’ market (May through mid-October).
• Local producers like Magee Farms,
Bennett Orchards and T.S. Smith allow people to pick their own produce.
• Sussex County has a host of local weekly in-season farmers markets, including the Historic Lewes Farmers Market, a non-profit, community-based, producer-only, farmers market in operation since 2006.
• Plant and flower producers like Lavender Fields in Milton, Jeff’s Greenhouses in Bethel and others are popular destinations for visitors. Many producers also offer food and/or bath and body products, etc., created from the bounty of their gardens. See Southern Delaware Tourism’s Local Specialties page for examples (visitsoutherndelaware.com/source-local-specialties.)
• A variety of popular farm tours are offered by Delmarva Discovery Tours
• Who can pass up an ice cream stop at Hopkins Farm Creamery in Lewes or
Vanderwende’s in Bridgeville, or a chance to enjoy the petting zoo at TS Smith?
Agritourism in Southern Delaware has grown in popularity among visitors, producers and communities in recent years and the trend is escalating. Not only does it provide farmers the opportunity to diversify, generate additional income and market directly to consumers, but it adds tremendously to the richness and variety of experiences available to our visitors, contributing to more frequent visits and longer stays.
Agritourism helps preserve the rural lifestyles and character that set Sussex County apart as a unique destination. It also offers the opportunity to provide sustainable tourism, something that is increasingly important to both destinations and travelers. Agritourism is simply a win for everybody.