Farmers market or agritourism? One is ‘like buying local on steroids,’ farmer says

Carolyn Buckenham of Dallas plucks different types of peppers on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at Pure Land Farm in McKinney. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Jaxon Quincey, 5, carrying sunflowers that he picked from the nursery walks to the counter on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at Pure Land Farm in McKinney. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

MCKINNEY, Texas — The heart of harvest season is here, and one Collin County farm offers not just fruits and vegetables but an agricultural experience.

Pure Land Farm in McKinney uses agritourism — the combination of agriculture and tourism — to engage with and educate the public. It allows customers to pick their own produce and walk away with not only fresh, local fruits and veggies but also knowledge about how it is grown.


“Agritourism is separate from just supporting buying local. Agritourism is like buying local on steroids,” said Megan Neubauer, who co-owns the farm with her father, Jack Neubauer. “Because not only are you going to the farmers market to buy something that was grown by a local farmer, but participating in the process is just taking it to the next level.”

Neuberger said agritourism allows people to participate in a very tactile, immersive, fun way to give them an experience in regenerative agriculture, a system utilized by local farmers that nurtures and restores soil health and protects the climate.

“You’re not experiencing agriculture standing in a parking lot in front of a table of vegetables. That’s what most markets are like,” she said. “When you come to my field and you get a basket, we’re helping you pick carrots and we’re showing you how tomatoes ripen. It puts a face on the whole process of growing food.”

It also brings in more money.

“I can’t tell you how much we used to get haggled at the farmers market. Everybody’s shopping for a deal,” she said. “But I never get haggled on the farm, and people are literally spending 10 times as much when they come to the farm and pick it, it’s an entirely different experience.”

Neubauer said people spend more because they buy a lot more produce when they pick their own, and sometimes they don’t even know what they picked and buy it anyway.

“They don’t know what it is. They don’t know how to cook it,” she said. “They’re like, ‘What is this?’ It’s a beet. ‘I need a recipe.’ And I’ll send them to the website.”

Neuberger said during Pure Land’s first five years, they sold at farmers markets and didn’t make much money.

“You have to pick it, store it, prep it, process it, bunch it, bag it,” she said. “That really limits the amount that two people can do.”

The pick-your-own concept gives back time, which they, in turn, spend growing more produce.

Neubauer is writing a book about agritourism and hopes it will not only save farms and help them thrive but also help communities learn more about where their food comes from, which is where the regenerative system fits.

Neubauer said most small, community farms like hers have been using regenerative agriculture practices for a long time.

“It’s these commodity farms that have to change because we’re already doing this,” she said. “The farmers that need to do this are the million-acre farms growing GMO corn and wheat and soybeans.”

She said those crops are not even considered food, and the USDA labels farms growing fruits and vegetables as “specialty crops.”

“Little farms like ours, these small farms growing food for communities, are a drop in the bucket on acreage,” she said.

Regenerating the soils can rapidly stabilize the Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies, according to the 2020 documentary “Kiss the Ground.”

Josh Tickell, director and producer of the film, said since its release, 30 million acres are being converted to regenerative agriculture, including many farms in Texas.

The film illustrates by drawing down atmospheric carbon, soil is the missing piece to climate change.

Chase Brooke, small acreage program specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, said a lot of practices that fall under the regenerative umbrella are also practices that are just considered good conservation.

“So in an offseason, you’re planting a kind of crop that will help pull nitrogen from the air, put it into the plants and at the end of the season, you shred the plant, which decomposes and puts that nitrogen in soil,” Brooke said, as an example. “Things like reducing tillage, increasing soil organic matter, using cover cropping methods … The execution and the details might be slightly different but as far as the conceptual application goes, we’ve been seeing adoption of these practices statewide. And some of them go back to the Soil Conservation Service recommendations after the Dust Bowl.”

Reeves Family Farm in Princeton is another Collin County farm that practices regenerative agriculture.

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