With only 45% of the nation’s farms showing income from farming, it’s not agriculture keeping many family farms alive these days: It’s “agritourism.” Farmers who used to be scared of losing their business are putting those fears to use by creating “agri-tainment” operations that go far beyond the traditional pumpkin patch and petting zoo. Think huge corn mazes, complex haunted houses, even a Santa’s Workshop. One North Carolina farmer has developed so many Halloween attractions on his 150-acre farm that only 40 acres are left for farming actual food.
“People love to be entertained more than they love to eat,” he tells the Wall Street Journal. About 35,000 visitors, who fork over between $7 and $25 for tickets, come to his farm between September and January—after Halloween, he runs a Christmas light show—and revenue has doubled since he made the change. Says another, who turned yearly revenues from $50,000 into more than $1 million thanks to 60,000 annual guests, “We realized this was going to save our farm.”