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The Next Bite: The Growers

Instagram + farms

How tourists fertilize local agriculture

Various spices in wooden boxes Adobe/Globe Staff Illustration

The future of farming is robots, drones, and gene editing. For Big Agriculture, anyway. For the little guy?

It’s Instagram.

Small farmers hoping to carve out a living in a tough industry are increasingly relying on agritourists to pluck apples from their orchards and wander through their corn mazes — and then post the sort of just-so photographs that will draw more tourists to the country.

Phu Mai, a marketing specialist with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, says 287 of the state’s 7,755 farms are offering up some kind of agritourism now — hay rides, petting zoos, or cider donuts. And the payoff is pretty good: about $12 million in annual revenue. Growth is strong, too. Between 2007 and 2012, the most recent data available, Massachusetts farmers saw a 125 percent increase in agritourism.

Sauchuk Farm in Plympton has taken a healthy slice of that growth. “People love to take pictures and post to social media,” says Scott Sauchuk, who started the farm about 18 years ago. His website is filled with photos of toddlers sidling up to pumpkins and parents playing a game called “Barnyard Basketball” — that’s rows of amusement-park-style hoops made for rapid-fire shooting.

And that’s just a small sampling of the kid-friendly, Instagrammable entertainment at the farm. There’s also a 100-foot-long zip line, a car in the shape of a cow, a little roller coaster, a sandbox, a slide, jumping pillows, and fruit-firing guns known as apple blasters.

Jimmy Hunt, a sixth-generation farmer at Hunt Farm, a dairy outfit in Orange, rented a GPS and spent about 25 hours cutting a corn maze to attract visitors. An aerial view, posted on his Facebook page, reveals the words “Hunt Farm, Dairy Divine, Since 1879,” built into the sprawling pattern. Hunt has also hosted an Open Farm Day for two years running, where visitors can meet the cows and sample some of their work: cheese and ice cream. In Holden, Lilac Hedge Farm held a music and beer festival last summer and sold tickets online.

Any successful marketing campaign needs a good logo, of course. At Lilac Hedge, it’s three little lilacs set against an orange frame. At Cider Hill Farm, it’s a golden “C” and “H,” curved into the shape of an apple.

Jenny Durocher, retail marketing manager for Cider Hill, says the logo is everywhere: on labels for jams, jellies, and apparel — and sitting atop its slickly produced website, where a gauzy, high-production-value video runs on a loop.

Kids run through a maze in slow motion, weathered hands hold a pile of fresh blueberries, and brown, sugary cider donuts beckon. “Farm, Family, and Fun,” reads the text splashed over the video. Sounds like a good hashtag.

Editors Dante Ramos, David Scharfenberg, and Alex Kingsbury

Design and development Elaina Natario

Design Director Heather Hopp-Bruce

Audience engagement Heather Ciras

Illustration Cristina Martín Recasens

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