Nightly News   |  October 22, 2013

From zip lines to corn mazes, small farm tourism reaps profit

With the rise in agritourism small farmers are less reliant on agriculture to make a living. More than 23,000 U.S. farms are currently making extra money from creative attractions that are immune to fluctuations in crop prices or weather patterns. NBC’s Janet Shamlian reports

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>>> finally tonight, no one ever got into farming to get rich it's never going to be confused with investment banking . family farms mean hard work, loving the land, and your stock up early, in bed early, and lean years, to say the least. but lately, more of them have realized their own beauty. and they're watching a growing number of people who are willing to pay money to come and enjoy the land they work for a living. our report tonight from nbc's janet shamlian in atkins, iowa.

>> 3, 2, 1!

>> reporter: cheering on the winner at a pig race. or feeding the animals at a well-stocked petting zoo .

>> he feels kind of like a warm winter sweater.

>> reporter: it would be easy to mistake this for a country fair .

>> it's almost like a small amusement park .

>> it's $46, please.

>> reporter: but the crowds lining up and paying $11.50 each have come not to a theme park , but to a working corn and soybean farm, along a rural iowa road.

>> did you ever think you would be doing something like --

>> not in my wildest dream.

>> reporter: dave peterson is the fifth generation to farm this land.

>> looks really good.

>> reporter: but the first to charge admission. it's the farm as entertainment venue. they call it agri tourism and fall is the peak season for attractions like this corn maze . which can bring in thousands of dollars each day.

>> we need to back out.

>> reporter: at bloomsberry farm, it stretches ten acres and can take hours to navigate.

>> we got lost. austin was navigating us and led us to a lot of dead ends.

>> reporter: it's not just the corn belt. across the country, there are hundreds of mazes on working farms, open to the public. at last count, more than 23,000 u.s. farms make extra money from agri tourism, totaling half a billion dollars. at bloomsberry farm, between the price of admission, pumpkin sales and the extra 20 bucks to ride the newest attraction, a zip line , tourism dollars make up 30% of profits.

>> corn is up, down. cowbo soybeans, we had a drought this year. this keeps it steady for us, keeps a steady income, because it's grown that much.

>> reporter: so much that peterson has 40 people working for her this time of year, some of them actors. because at dusk, there's a whole new paying crowd for fright night . as farmers take advantage of the season. t to harvest extra cash. janet shamlian , nbc