At a Christmas tree farm in the heart of Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley, the start of summer is busier than one might expect.
Among the trees, there are dozens of tents and eager campers ready to stay the night. It’s an unusual camping experience Heritage Farms owners George and Carol Haramis have offered for almost a decade.
"It never occurred to them you could camp on a Christmas tree farm," George Haramis told Fox Business. "This has been a family farm for 175 years, and each generation had done something different. … This [camping] is one small part of what we’re doing to keep things going."
The Haramis’ campground is part of the nation’s growing "agritourism" economy that links agricultural production to travel by attracting visitors to farms for entertainment.
It’s a nearly $1 billion industry, according to the latest U.S. Census of Agriculture.
This has been a family farm for 175 years, and each generation had done something different. … This [camping] is one small part of what we’re doing to keep things going.
— George Haramis
"At the farm, you have nice access both to modern amenities, restaurants, and, you know, shopping. But out here you might as well be in the wild wilderness … it’s every bit of a national park environment," George Haramis said.
Haramis said he maintains about 15 camp sites, including a handful of rainproof shelters, from April to October. In June, camper Stephanie Hoover said she was happy to find Heritage Farms in the middle of a cross-country road trip.
"The problem with a lot of state parks is it tends to get crowded," Hoowver said. "We always try for other areas where it allows us to just separate ourselves from our city life that we experience every day."
Industry insiders say agritourism has become increasingly popular amid the pandemic. Hipcamp, a camping platform similar to AirBNB, reports that demand for camping on private land has grown 470% since 2019.
Sameer Dohadwala, Hipcamp’s global head of operations, said the concept benefits both campers and hosts in ways traditional camping cannot.
"The primary benefit for the hosts is economic opportunity. In the last year, we’ve put more than $31 million into hosts' pockets just in the U.S." Dohadwala said. "Besides the money, this is an opportunity for many of our hosts to share their land and connect with people."
Dohadwala anticipates more people will opt to explore the outdoors through agritourism in 2021, as traditional campsites at national and state parks continue to see large crowds and reservations.