OSU Analysis, Willamette Agritourism Impact is Nearly $1 Billion Yearly

A new, first-of-its-kind economic analysis finds that the annual economic impact of agritourism in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is nearly $1 billion.

The Oregon State University Extension Service and the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences produced “An Initial Economic Impact Estimate of Agritourism in Oregon’s Willamette Valley,” which quantifies the economic effects of agritourism on the region’s farms and communities.

In agritourism, producers combine farming with aspects of tourism. Agritourism can take the form of farm-direct sales, education, entertainment, outdoor recreation and hospitality.

When the report’s co-authors totaled the economic effects of agritourism sales – spending by both daytime and overnight visitors – direct sales annually exceed $985 million. Value-added sales, which are sales minus outside supply or production costs, exceed $572 million.

“By researching agritourism’s economic effects on Oregon farms and our communities, this study explores how agritourism can diversify farming businesses,” the co-authors wrote in the study. “Our goal is not to promote agritourism as an industry or suggest that any particular farm should adopt any specific agritourism practices. Rather, we aim to provide economic and other information that may shape and inform both current and future policy debates around agritourism.”

The study found that approximately 22% of the18,679 farms in the region might be engaged in agritourism. It also found that agritourism supports, in full- and part-time jobs, approximately 9,000 jobs on farms and contributes to approximately 2,000 jobs in both rural and urban communities in the region.

The study estimated that between 3.7 million and 13.7 million people visit agritourism farms annually in the valley.

The study findings were based on 162 farmer survey responses in 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture data from 2017 and an economic modeling software program. The farms are in nine counties – Benton, Clackamas, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington and Yamhill. Most of the farms are considered small to mid-sized in terms of acreage.

According to the study, agritourism in the Willamette Valley is diverse, ranging from selling produce at farm stands to on-farm lodging and school visits to farms. Based on the survey responses, farmers offering agritourism might earn 50% of their gross revenues and 50% of their net revenues or profits from agritourism.

Survey participants overwhelmingly indicated that agritourism was important to their financial viability and their efforts to help people learn the importance of farming.

The study co-authors are Bruce Sorte, professor emeritus in the Department of Applied Economics in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Audrey Comerford, Extension’s agritourism coordinator for Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties; and Melissa Fery, associate professor of practice in the OSU Extension Small Farms Program in Benton, Lane and Linn counties.

By Chris Branam

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