MONTVALE, Va. (WFXR) — Profit margins can be slim for farmers some years, especially when there are unexpected rises in input costs or declines in markets. That is why farmers are always looking for a way to generate business. Some are taking an approach that puts them in direct contact with the people who buy their products.

Aside from direct sales to customers, some farms are taking advantage of the agritourism.

In Virginia, perhaps the best known form of agritourism are wineries. More than two million people visit Virginia wineries every year. However, wineries are not alone. Many farms conduct tours so customers can get an up close view of how their food is raised. Others host elaborate chef-prepared dinners to showcase their crops and livestock.

The fall is primetime for agritourism in the commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is pushing agritourism in its marketing.

“The great thing about being in Virginia in the fall are the wonderful agritourism opportunities that we have,” said VDACS Director of Domestic Marketing and Promotion Heather Wheeler. “Visiting farms for pumpkin patches, corn mazes, but also enjoying Virginia apples, go to the orchard, try the cider.

Cider is a big draw at Chapel Creek Farms in Bedford County. Chapel Creek raises beef cattle, and produces apples and cider at its cider barn.

Cider at the Chapel Creek Farms cider barn (Photo: George Noleff)

“This allows us between the beef and the apples and the cider, this allows us to be open year round,” said Melody Divers, co-owner of Chapel Creek Farms. “It started off that people who knew us for our apples and our cider, then became our beef customers. now this year we’ve seen that a lot of people who were solely just our beef customers are coming in to enjoy apples and cider.”

Agritourism generates about $3-billion dollars a year for the Virginia economy.