Agritourism runs throughout the year at New Jersey farms, but now is the time when they attract the most visitors and raise extra revenue.

Pumpkin patch (AllenSphoto, ThinkStock)
Pumpkin patch (AllenSphoto, ThinkStock)

Apple picking, pumpkin patches, hayrides and corn mazes are all part of the routine on the 347 Jersey farms and wineries that are part of fall agritourism.

New Jersey ranks ninth in the nation when it comes to agritourism, bringing in more than 18 million dollars per year, according to figures from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA).

"The summer activities are winding down, and it presents a perfect opportunity to get out on the farm," said Al Murray, assistant state agriculture secretary with the NJDA.

Murray said farmers are busy 12 months out of the year, so it is not like things really slow down too much for them during the fall.

Many farmers have been able to capitalize on the popularity of Halloween by offering haunted corn mazes and hayrides, haunted houses and other Halloween-related activities, according to Murray.

And if Halloween isn't your thing, there are plenty of other things that farms offer.

"Fall is the time when our vintners are putting together their wines and making their wines. People are encouraged to visit a local winery and enjoy one of the many wine festivals that are held throughout the state in the fall," Murray said.

Kurt Alstede, who operates Alstede Farms in Chester, said agritourism has become a crucial part of business for farmers in New Jersey. He said for every dollar spent on agritourism in New Jersey, $9 is return to the local economy.

"We ourselves have over 70 high school students employed by us each fall, plus scores of other people. So that kid who is working for us, takes a girl out on a date. They go to Burger King, buy a burger.  That kid who is working at Burger King goes and buys a movie ticket. The guy working at the movies fills his tank with gas. Nine times that dollar goes through the local economy," Alstede said.

He also pointed out that many farms are only a half-hour drive away.

“There are four seasons and people are always anticipating those changes and I think that is what really drives agritourism,”said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher. “Every farm in New Jersey is different. Each one is special and each one has something unique to offer.”

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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