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Food On The Farm

From multi-course meals to family pizza nights, farmers are launching dining experiences on their farms which is diversifying their income streams. And the public is eating it up.

Lisa Kivirist is with an organization called “Renewing the Countryside” which has developed a free publication for farmers called “Come and Get It: What You Need to Know to Serve Food on Your Farm”. She says this is a growth industry and a great opportunity for agritourism and diversification, but it takes some solid research and soul-searching as well.

"It takes farmers in a new direction, often involving the health department and commercial kitchens and things that require in many cases, significant investments," says Kivirist. "We want to help farmers be sure it’s the right decision, or what are some alternatives? What are some ways to do things economically? It’s definitely something you want to research well before you get into, so it’s a smart business decision."

State and local regulations will vary, and things can get complicated. However, there are a few ways to get your feet wet in the business before putting in a lot of money and resources.

"One way that farms often do this is to work with an area chef, for example, at a restaurant, and they would basically be catering using potentially your vegetables, your meat but preparing the food onsite and then bringing it to your event on your farm," she says. "Now granted, there’s a cost factor to that, but it could still be a better way to put your toe in to on-farm dining and is this working for you before investing in a kitchen."

Kivrist says the publication also includes case studies and behind-the-scenes tips from nine successful on-farm food businesses in Minnesota and Wisconsin.