One local farm recently nabbed the attention of a popular NBC morning show and will soon get a moment in the national spotlight.
Bloomsbury Farm in Atkins hosted a crew from “The Today Show” over the weekend. The show’s crew toured the more than 3,000-acre farm filled with a pumpkin patch, zip-line, the Sugar Shack and acres of corn and soybeans.
“We were pretty surprised,” said Karen Petersen of when she found out the show would feature her farm. Petersen and her husband, David, own Bloomsbury Farm and Petersen Farm, a fifth-generation family operation.
Petersen said the show’s producers said the show will focus on traditional farms, like hers, that are venturing into alternative agricultural business — agri-tourism — and making their farm available for the masses. The segment would feature farms from across the country and will air sometime in October.
Agri-tourism is considered as activities provided by a local farm or agricultural operation to help involved and educate the public.
On Oct. 12, NBC’s Janet Shamlian, tweeted about her Iowa stop with an Instagram photo of a pumpkin patch.
“Started the day in NYC..now on an Iowa farm with @nbcnewscrew for @NBCNightlyNews,” she tweeted that afternoon.
Petersen used to operate Bloomsbury Farms as a landscaping business until a tornado hit in 2004, then the family decided to focus on expanding activities for the public. Petersen said the idea also came from one of her daughter’s kindergarten class field trip to the farm. Petersen said more than 5,000 students visit the farm for class trips each season and a total of 30,000 a season adding other public visitors.
She said about 70 percent of their revenue still comes from traditional farming and 30 percent from their agri-tourism activities.
Aaron Steinmann, market and communications manager at Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Areas, said interest has grown in agri-tourism for farmers and the public.
More than 40 percent of Iowa farms were involved in agri-tourism, according to a 2007 Census of Agriculture for National Agriculture Statistical Service.
“I’ve really seen it over the past five or so years become more of something people are looking to do,” Steinmann said.
He said Iowa is a state easily identified as a farm state and that often draws in people from other states.
“I think people are really looking for an authentic experience,” Steinmann said, adding more farmers are getting into the industry to share the history and culture of farms.
Petersen said she’s delighted for the opportunity to appear on the NBC morning show, which will shed light not only on her family’s livelihood but a way of life for many farmers.
“I’m pretty darn excited to bring some face to agriculture too,” she said. “Farming and agricultural have evolved so much.”