One of the perks of attending a NAFDMA event is the collaborative spirit that’s harnessed by attendees. While there are a plethora of scheduled educational sessions during each annual conference, impromptu talks take place as well.

At the most recent International Agritourism Association’s conference in Austin, Texas, nearly two dozen attendees came together for a Christmas event roundtable, speaking about what worked for them and seeking inspiration for ways to expand their offerings.

A bright example noted by several people was Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge, Iowa. The operation offers a strawberry patch in May and June, a farm camp in June and apple picking and a corn maze in autumn. After that’s all done, they put together a winter wonderland and specialty gift shop.

The winter wonderland displays are lighted and thematic, telling the story of Stella the Snowflake. Those walking through the displays have apple cider and cookie decorating included in their admission. By not making it entirely Christmas themed, it opens up the opportunity to decorate in different ways and offer something for everyone. Don’t worry, though – Center Grove Orchard also hosts brunches with Santa and a PJs with Santa event too.

Gull Meadow Farms in Richland, MI, was also noted for its holiday attractions. On weekends in late November and throughout December, they offer an indoor Christmas light display. Visitors are invited to walk through their transformed greenhouses and get lost in a magical Christmas wonderland. Several greenhouses are decorated, each with their own theme, including candy canes, snowmen, gingerbread houses and more.

“Dear Santa” is also a part of Gull Meadow’s holiday draw. As families enter the greenhouse, children can create reindeer food to leave on the lawn on Christmas Eve, create a special ornament for the tree, mail a letter to Santa and then visit with Jolly Old St. Nicholas themselves.

Gull Meadow Farms decks out their greenhouses with themed holiday light displays to draw in visitors. Photo courtesy of Gull Meadow Farms

It was suggested those looking for specialty lighting for holiday events should check out Creative Displays, based in Kansas City. They were highly recommended by several in the group.

A suggestion was also put forward to seek out sponsors for large light displays and/or electricity for such displays – including local electrician unions, both to help you safely set up your lights and to promote their work as well as yours.

Other ideas put forth by roundtable participants included offering an unlimited hot chocolate bar with all the sugary dressings, providing visitors with games to play with holiday themes (like corn hole) and selling tickets to horse drawn wagon (or sleigh) rides.

Having families or groups design themed Christmas trees could also fill a weekend, and those trees could then provide photo opportunities for future visitors. Wreathmaking workshops have also proven popular.

There are other opportunities to plan special events out there, including something for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights (Nov. 9 – 14); Hanukkah (which begins Dec. 8); the winter solstice (this year on Dec. 22); Kwanzaa (which begins Dec. 26); and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day – but be sure to look at your farm’s usual crowd and regional demographics before investing too much in something like this.

by Courtney Llewellyn