The What and Why of Agritourism

This month’s Friends of Agriculture Breakfast featured a presentation by Annie Baggett, the Agritourism Marketing Specialist for the N. C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.  This blog will touch on the benefits of agritourism that were discussed, as well as some tips for starting your own tourism venture on the farm.

Agritourism is defined as:

“Any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, ranching, historic, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions. An activity is an Agritourism activity whether or not the participant paid to participate in the activity.”

-NC General Assembly 2005

 

The Benefits of Agritourism:

Below are some graphs illustrating some of the many benefits provided by agritourism .  These graphs were part of a study from NC State, assessing the benefits of agritourism for both farmers and vistors to the farm.overalleconomic_benefits

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socio_cultura

As you can see, allowing visitors to your farm has numerous economic, environmental, and sociocultural benefits.

Agritourism allows farm ventures to…

1) Be Profitable:

  • Farmers can even out their revenue stream
  • Maximize farm resources
  • Create post harvest revenue
  • Diminish the impact of catastrophic events (droughts, floods, crop failure, etc.)

2) Provide Education for the Public on the Benefits of Agriculture, and in turn:

  • Increase direct sales
  • Gain new customers
  • Enhance service to existing customers
  • Show the value of the farm product, so customers understand pricing

3) Preserve Family Farms and Way of Life

4) Create Future Farmers

5) Build Community Vibrancy

 

Maybe you are a farmer, and you’re wondering…where do I start???

First consider what you have and who you know!

  • What grows on your farm that could be made into a tourism activity??  Do you have livestock?  Berries for picking?  Value added product you make on site?  Do you have an old barn that could be used as a venue for special events?? etc.
  • What makes your farm special??  Maybe you are the only farmer producing….heirloom squash?  Or maybe your farm has an old barn that has a unique family history?? for example.  Outlining the key things your farm provides and what sets you apart is a great first step.
  • Did you know that there is a Polk County Farm Tour you can take part in??  ASAP also hosts a farm tour each year.  Look around at all the possibilities to advertise your farm and your product.

Next be sure to look at the safety of your farm.

  • Make sure that there are no considerable safety issues on site.
  • Make signs for electric fencing, fill large holes, etc.
  • If you have any concerns, your insurance agent can help answer questions.

Consider a Marketing Strategy

  • Think about a way to brand your farm or your farm product
  • Take pictures of the farm
  • Think about yourself as the face of the farm, and how you want to portray your venture.

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North Carolina has a statewide campaign and it offers many free advertising services to farmers across the state!!

Here are some ways to advertise your farm to the 7 million tourists visiting NC Welcome Centers annually:

  • Join the Got To Be NC website for free!  You get to create your own webpage to advertise your farm.  For more information visit:  http://www.ncagr.gov/NCproducts/CatSubDirectory.asp?CatNum=1011
  • Your farm can potentially be advertised at the Raleigh and Mountain State Fairs, the Southern Farm Show, or the Got to Be NC Festival
  • Regionally a few programs are being developed for 2015:
    • Passport programs (specifically for distilleries across the state)
    • A food preservation program

 I hope this was helpful.

Get out there and show people the hard work you put into providing food for our community!!