A goat farm on Johns Island is the first thing Airbnb guests all over the country see when they use the service to look for things to do in Charleston.

Burden Creek Dairy gets eight or 10 visitors a week looking for some time in the country, according to co-owner Danny Sullivant.

The state Department of Agriculture calls these kinds of activities agritourism, working farms that also welcome paying visitors. It's a growing trend as farmers look for extra sources of income and travelers seek to reconnect with their rural roots or want to see where their food comes from.

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Ashleigh Johnston of Reading, Pa. visited Burden Creek Dairy on Johns Island last week with her mother, Kathy Johnston. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Burden Creek charges $16 for a two-hour tour that includes milking a goat and sampling the cheese and some fruit. Airbnb collects the money and keeps 20 percent.

"It pays the feed bill," Sullivant said. "People's faces just light up around goats."

The visits are getting high reviews on the Airbnb website.

"What a wonderful break from the crowds at the beaches and noise of the city," a guest named Dean posted last month.

The S.C. Department of Agriculture created a separate agritourism division in 2014 and started the S.C. Agritourism Association. As of last week, the group listed 362 agritourism farms, and the number continues to grow, according to division director Jackie Moore.

Goat yoga is also popular at Burden Creek, as well as Split Creek Farm in Anderson. People roll out the mats and go through the poses while the curious, gentle animals vie for attention.

"It was apparent from the very first time that I tried it that it was something," said Megan Schlobohm with 90 Degrees Yoga in Anderson, who leads the sessions at Split Creek. “It was joyful, it was hilarious, it was lighthearted. Goats have such interesting and unique personalities."

The state Legislature gives the Agriculture Department $100,000 a year to advertise farms that cater to tourists and help farmers understand how to open their gates to visitors. The Department of Transportation created a road-sign program to alert travelers about farms that welcome visitors. The farmers have to pay for the signs, which cost $400 apiece.


The goats at Burden Creek Dairy on John Island give a curious glance at visitors Friday. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Blue Pearl Farms in McClellanville regularly gets visitors from the sign on Highway 17, owner Cheri Ward said. Visitors can check out the 3,000 blueberry bushes and 100 beehives and browse through the store. A telescope has been set up on the porch so people can peer into a hive from a safe distance.

"The agritourism program is particularly important when many children spend far more time looking at little screens than they do being outdoors looking at nature,” Ward said. "To see the kids' faces light up, you can just hear people squealing all over the place."

The S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism for last four years has been sponsoring chef ambassadors, who travel around promoting the state's food and the farms that provide it.

"One of the top reasons people travel now is food," agency director Duane Parrish said.

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The so-called farm-to-table movement has been among the fastest-growing trends. Several South Carolina farms — such as Chattooga Belle Farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains west of Greenville — hold banquets on site featuring their produce.

But opening a farm to groups of visitors isn't as simple as unlocking a gate, said Helen Legare, co-owner Legare Farms on Johns Island  

"Insurance is one of our biggest headaches," she said.

The General Assembly passed a law in 2010 saying that farmers who open their operations to visitors can't be sued if somebody gets hurt as long as the farm has the proper warning signs. But Legare said she still wouldn't let anybody too near the cows.

Legare, a 300-acre cattle and vegetable farm on Johns Island, regularly entertains groups by appointment. Visitors can rent chicks to take home with them around Easter. The big event is the annual pumpkin patch, which draws thousands of people in October. 

But ordinarily the farm has a gate up to keep animals in and visitors out.

"We’re just too busy trying to farm to be open to the public every day," Legare said.

Boone Hall Farms, the 120-acre farm that's connected to Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, is also gearing up for its annual pumpkin patch, a festival that will draw thousands of visitors in October. The strawberry festival in the spring also draws thousands, with more going out into the fields to pick their own fruit. The farm grows and sells a variety of produce on site throughout the year. The farm has the advantage of being in a metropolitan area that's already a major tourist draw.

Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, about 20 miles west of Charleston, is always open to visitors at no charge. Guests can look through glass windows to see how tea is grown and processed. The farm drew more than 60,000 visitors last year for the free tours, according to owner Bill Hall.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.