Hawaii Farmers Increase Profits by Offering Tours

July 10, 2017 05:48 PM
Hawaii Farmers Increase Profits by Offering Tours

Many Hawaii farmers are boosting profits by offering tours of their operations.

Steve Frailey, who has owned and operated a Hawaii farm with his family for 30 years, said educating visitors about life on a small Kauai farm is the goal, but bringing tourists to his land also helps market his products and keep the farm afloat.

Frailey and his family started the free farm tours three years ago. He said they have been a massive help in generating extra income, as people buy products on the tour.

"We bring them in and tell them all about what we do, about noni and organic farming," Frailey said. "They have this great learning experience and then there's a chance to buy our products at a discounted rate."

Those farmers who want to charge admission for farm tours have to get a use permit from the Planning Department.

Will Lydgate got a permit when he started offering tours of Steelgrass Farm in Kapaa.

"It's a process to get the use permit because you have to get a hearing and support from the community," Lydgate said.

Retailing products through the tours, Lydgate can make twice as much on a product compared to wholesale, and that's a big draw for Steelgrass Farm, The Garden Island reported.

"Agritourism has a tremendous potential to support real farmers who are really farming," Lydgate said. "You're doubling your farm revenue, and there's an increase if you're going to charge for the tours."

In the past five years, Kauai has seen growth in agritourism, according to the Kauai Visitor's Bureau. Some of those activities include tours at Kauai Coffee Co., farm tours and rum tasting at Kilohana Plantation, and touring the Haraguchi Rice Mill.

Lydgate would like to see the budding industry expanded even further, to include legal overnight housing for visitors on farms.

"People would love that. You could stay for a week and pick your own ginger and turmeric, and harvest chocolate," Lydgate said. "It's a lot of money that's being left on the table."

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