WHAT IS AGRITOURISM?

This page provides a information to help both consumers and businesses furhter understand the scope and breadth of the agritourism industy.

Overview

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An agritourism business is a farm enterprise operated for the enjoyment and education of the public that may also generate additional farm income by promoting farm products and experiences. Typically these are rural enterprises that incorporate both a working farm environment and a commercial tourism component (Weaver & Fennell, 1997). In the general sense, agritourism is the practice of attracting visitors to an area or areas used primarily for agricultural purposes (Virgina Cooperative Extension). However, agritourism can include anything that connects consumers with the heritage, natural resource or culinary experiences unique to the agricultural industry, or a particular region of the countrys rural areas (Wilson, Thilmany, & Sullins, 2006). Agritourism is a lot more like eco-tourism or heritage tourism in that it is small-scale, low-impact, and, in many cases, education-focused (Virgina Cooperative Extension). In many cases agritourism is more about providing alternative income to assure viability of the working farm, but a collaborative effort on a regional scale can create a unique rural destination that is attractive to tourists.



What's Included in Agritourism

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Agritourism can include both on-farm and off-farm activities, as long as they are agriculturally related. On-farm tourism activities have been distinguished between those that are directly connected to the agricultural business and those that use the farm for other recreational activities that take advantage of the farm setting (Busby & Rendle, 2000). The list of possible on-farm activities can also be distinguished as participant, education and spectator experiences including (Wilson, Thilmany, & Sullins, 2006):

Off-farm activities typically involve opportunities to purchase and eat local foods (farmers markets, fruit stands and country stores, restaurants highlighting locally harvested foods) or educational and entertainment experiences (community festivals and events featuring agriculture heritage, and museums featuring local agricultural heritage). In addition, farm landscapes are attractive to visitors who are interested in rural scenery.



Successful Agritourism Businesses

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The success of agritourism enterprises depends partly on the community systems supporting tourism development and the characteristics of agricultural businesses in a region. Furthermore, regional level agritourism planning needs to consider barriers and opportunities for development, characteristics of potential visitor target markets, unique needs of small farm families interested in agritourism, including continuing education needs, local heritage and culture, availability of visitor services, and other tourism attractions in the area. Creation of a network or system of agritourism products and experiences in a region depends on cooperation with destination marketing organizations (DMOs) (McGehee, 2007). Most enterprises have developed independently as part of a specific business and DMOs are just beginning to develop regional or statewide promotion programs.

Collaboration between DMOs and the farm sector is important to sustaining efforts of agritourism providers and to integration of agritourism into destination marketing plans. Involvement of DMOs also removes some of the burden for marketing and promotion from farmers (who may not have expertise in defining markets and strategies for tourism) while at the same time providing economic benefits from increased regional visitation related to an increased profile for agritourism.