On-Farm Sales and Tourism, Page 3

On-Farm Sales and Tourism, Page 3

On-Farm Sales and Tourism, Page 3

On-Farm Sales & Agritourism

On-Farm Sales | Agritourism | Community-Based Farm Tourism

scenic beauty of the Hidden Meadows Farm
Hidden Meadows Farm in West Greenwich, R.I., a member of the state FarmWays agritourism campaign, hosted the public during a Thanksgiving weekend of on-farm activities. The farm sells Christmas trees and value-added products. – Photo by Jo-Anne Pacheco

Community-Based Farm Tourism

Farmers considering ways to put themselves on the map, literally, might team up with state or regional agencies to promote rural economic development through farm-based tourism activities. In many parts of the United States -- not just traditional vacation destinations like Hawaii or New England -- tourism can make a significant contribution to local economies, and attractive, well-managed farm operations can do a lot to draw rural tourists. Explore local government, quasi-government and business connections to participate in local festivals, get listed in state tourism brochures or be featured in regional public outreach campaigns.

In Minnesota, the nonprofit Renewing the Countryside organization used a SARE grant to promote local foods-based tourism. Working with groups like the Minnesota Bed & Breakfast Association and the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, RTC developed a promotional campaign called Green Routes. Printed maps and an online directory (www.greenroutes.org) guide visitors to farmstands, craft shops and other rural destinations. “There’s a lot of interest in and support for ‘green’ travel, and farmers are a big piece of that,” says RTC’s Jan Joannides.

Similar efforts are underway in Rhode Island, where the Rhode Island Center for Agricultural Promotion and Education launched “Rhode Island FarmWays,” a campaign to highlight farms as tourist destinations. The goal, says Center Executive Director Stuart Nunnery, is “to help showcase Rhode Island’s farms as places of significant beauty, culture, ecology and history. Those farms are crucial to maintaining Rhode Island’s quality of life.”

With help from a 2004 SARE grant, Nunnery and colleagues have held professional development workshops for farmers, provided grants to help producers initiate farm-based tourism activities and created a Website listing farm-based attractions statewide. The Rhode Island Center also negotiated a $250,000 loan package with the state Economic Development Corp. to provide small loans to farmers to develop or expand agritourism and direct marketing activities. Finally, the team is focusing on streamlining the regulatory process by which farmers can set up farm stay or bed & breakfast operations.

“Our farms have a variety of untapped assets that can create products and experiences for visitors,” says Nunnery. “They could be walking trails, historical features, wildlife, heritage livestock, horticultural diversity or just a spectacular landscape. We have farms with beautiful grasslands preserved by conservation easements. One of the farms we’re working with has ancient settlements and artifacts being excavated by university archaeologists.”

If you’re interested in on-farm sales and agritourism, consider the following.

Check your local extension office for information about how to construct sales stands, small market buildings and produce displays. From building materials to permits, establishing a stand can prove expensive.
Social skills and a scenic, clean, attractive farm are crucial for success in agritourism and can overcome a location that is less than ideal.
Farm visitors may interfere with main farm activities and pose a liability risk. Consult your insurance adviser to ensure adequate liability coverage.
In the tourist business, you are never really off-duty. Expect late-night calls and working holidays.
State departments of agriculture often offer assistance in setting up farm festivals and similar activities. State tourism bureaus also can offer a wealth of ideas and information.

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