Agritourism leaders encourage optimism and flexibility as pandemic lingers


Agritourism leaders encourage optimism and flexibility as pandemic lingers

The CEO of the largest pick-your-own fruit business in the country is encouraging ag tourism businesses to be optimistic and flexible in 2021.

Chris Eckert with Eckert’s Country Store and Farms in Belleville, Illinois says those two traits have helped them remain successful during the pandemic.

“As a national industry, we are connecting millions upon millions of people with food. For those people we are basically all they know about how food is produced in the world. I think it is important to recognize the importance and responsibility of that.”

Chris and his wife Angie implemented a theme of gratitude with their staff last year.  

“At the end of every meeting, everybody just had to say what we were grateful for. Believe it or not, even though COVID and the darkest days of March and April there was something every week that everyone was grateful for. I think that was really important to keep our heads above water.”

They say they had to be flexible with changes to their business last year including the implementation of timed ticketing to limit the number of guests on the farm at one time and dynamic pricing to incentivize guests not to come at peak times.

They expect more changes will need to be implemented in 2021 to help keep employees and customers safe throughout the pandemic.  

The Eckert’s were keynote speakers during the virtual Illinois Specialty Crops Conference last week.