At Blue Rock Station, Annie Warmke views agritourism in a unique way. “Agritourism” is an umbrella term used to describe the practice of tourism in rural areas. Usually it takes the form of urban residents driving out to the countryside for a day of farm tours, food, and sometimes educational workshops. It can be a great way for farmers to diversify their income by repurposing resources they already have to earn money from people who feel a sense of “farm nostalgia” or a desire to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
On the one hand, Blue Rock Station is a perfect site for this kind of agritourism. A small, scenic farm with goats, dogs, and unique buildings like the earthship (built from discarded tires and bottles and held together with a mud-like mixture) fits the bill to a T for urbanites desiring a taste of rural life – I should know, as I was one of these tourists when I toured Blue Rock Station with my mom at age 12!
But at Blue Rock Station, Annie sees agritourism as serving a different purpose for her and her “customers” (if you can call them that). Unlike the typical business mode, where customers experience a problem and an entrepreneur provides them a product or service as a solution, Annie sees her visitors as partners with characteristics in common with her. Characteristics like a desire to build community, resilience, and innovation as tools for climate adaptation.
During my short visit to Blue Rock Station, I met a few of the “tourists” that are often found around the farm in the summer. They weren’t your traditional urban day-trippers seeking a short-term escape from the city. They were actually interns, who were each staying at Blue Rock for different lengths of time (but all for at least a few weeks) to develop confidence and skills in climate adaptation like construction with natural materials, forest gardening, animal and plant care, and more. Not all visitors to the farm are interns, however. Blue Rock Station also hosts occasional gatherings of like-minded people – individuals from Athens or other parts of eastern and southern Ohio come together to share a meal, and to share ideas.
Through these and other forms of outreach, Annie and Jay Warmke are creating different kinds of value. Some of it is monetary value, but more often than not this value takes the form of new buildings and projects completed by interns, or new ideas and partnerships that come out of conversations facilitated on the farm. It’s very possible that this intangible kind of value, the kind that fosters community relationships and builds resiliency in our lives, will become increasingly valuable in the coming years as we face new challenges catalyzed by changes in our climate and society.
For more information on Blue Rock Station, visit https://www.bluerockstation.com/ or check out Annie and Jay’s podcast When the Biomass Hits the Wind Turbine.
Community Update by Fresh & Healthy Foods VISTA, Rachel Brunot