Agritourism in Kentucky
Chefs, Parks and Festivals Help Promote Ag Products to Tourists
|Above: A Kentucky "buy local" campaign encouraged the formation of community groups and helped capture part of the tourist market. Mac Stone hawks locally raised beef at a booth sponsored by Stone Grown Organics at the Harvest Festival in Lexington, Ky. Photo courtesy of Commodity Growers Cooperative.|
A Kentucky cooperative of former and current tobacco producers, seeking to build new markets for new products, launched a series of public outreach campaigns aimed at capturing tourists, with notable success. Aided by a SARE producer grant, the Commodity Growers Cooperative formed a regional tourism association with growers in six counties that linked a farmers market, Christmas tree farms, organic produce farms, horse farms and the like with a popular state park. The farmers market, part of the booming Mountain Market Festival at Natural Bridge State Park, features chef presentations and live music and strives to educate park visitors about the importance of buying locally produced food. The association also developed a "Christmas in the Mountains" program that paired Christmas tree purchases with bed- and-breakfast visits. Consumer education was also the cornerstone of a SARE professional development project that helped Kentucky farm and rural development organizations teach about local food systems to groups ranging from Kentucky legislators to extension agents. Many of the training activities took place at direct marketing conferences, each including a report from a chef or food buyer explaining their produce purchases or a researcher presenting survey findings about consumer preferences. The spin-off effects have been varied and effective: Community groups have formed to support local farmers, new farmers markets have sprung up throughout the state, and the Lexington market now features monthly festivals where chefs demonstrate recipes made with local food. "Grassroots organizations are among the most effective tools for educating non-farm groups about their food source," says Karen Armstrong-Cummings, director of the Commodity Growers Cooperative.
[For more information, go to http://www.sare.org/projects/ and search for FS97-046 or ES97-026]