New South Wales farms have been hit with hard times amid storms, droughts, and the rising cost of living, and smaller farms are turning to agritourism to stay in business.

New agritourism legislation passed on 18 August allows for a more flexible approach to land use, however Kiama MP Gareth Ward said that the changes bring new risks.

“Properly regulated, agritourism can be a real boost for farmers, tourism, jobs, and the local economy. I support agritourism, but the current unrestricted expansion of this industry will come at the expense of neighbouring property owners who should expect the quiet enjoyment of their properties,” Mr Ward said.

As of December 2022, farms were allowed a maximum of 100 people for farm gate premises such as fruit picking, and a maximum of 50 people for farm experiences such as weddings, or specialised days like apple pie contests. The 2022 legislation also placed a limitation on farm stays, with a maximum of 20 guests in tents, 6 caravans or campers, and a maximum of 21 consecutive days on the farm.

The latest legislation allows farms to have greater flexibility in the amount of visitors allowed at the farm, as well as allowing farms to apply for development applications (DAs), so they can build on their farm and allow them to hold larger festivals and events. 

Although the NSW government claims that these agritourism activities must be secondary to the production of the farm, smaller farms increasingly see agritourism as a lifeline.

By 2030, the CSIRO estimates the appetite for agritourism in Australia will be worth $18.6 billion annually.

Glenbernie Orchard has long been a commercial farm selling apples to large corporations such as Woolworths and Coles, but since the rising cost of living, the owners of the Darkes Forest property have resorted to agritourism for their profit.

Jo-Anne Fahey said that agritourism on Glenbernie includes fruit picking and other events, and Wollongong City Council has identified the orchard as suitable for these sorts of agritourism activities.

“We’re really excited about where things might go,” Ms Fahey said.