Indiana Agritourism Training Initiative

Final Report for ENC04-079

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2004: $70,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Jerry Nelson
Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service
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Project Information

Abstract:

Major accomplishments for this project include, increased awareness of the agritourism potential for the State of Indiana by educators across the State, increased awareness of the business planning process by the educators across the State, increased awareness of the partners and resources available to educators and producers.

As a result of the Indiana Agritourism Training Initiative, a Statewide Agritourism Conference was kicked off at the 2005 Indiana Horticulture Congress, with a continuation in 2006, and 2007.

Six regional workshops were conducted at various agritoruism businesses and locations around the State.

NxLevel classes were conducted with more than 30 pairs of producers and educators participating in the 10-week Business Planning Course.

An Indiana Resource Guide showcasing more than 200 pages worth of information was compiled and burned on a CD. 7000 CD’s were distributed across the State. The guide lists, by county, the resources available (both technical and financial) to educators and agritourism producers.

Most importantly countless relationships were started, strong partnerships were formed, the natural divide between agriculture and tourism has decreased in Indiana, movement has been made toward the establishment of an Indiana Agritourism Association, and the agritourism momentum continues.

Project Objectives:

The short term outcomes for this project will include an increased awareness of the agritourism potential by educators across the state. 30 educators will increase their knowledge of the resources and partners that can assist producers in starting agritourism ventures on their farms. 25 educators and 25 producers will complete the NxLevel program. This will be broken down to five Educators and five Producers taking the program at five regional sites around the State. 25 educators will increase their knowledge in the steps needed to build an agritourism venture, with 25 educators gaining the skills to help producers write business plans, and 30 educators will consider agritourism a viable endeavor for sustainability on the farm by attending the workshops around the state.

Medium outcomes include that 25 educators will use skills learned to assist producers in building agritourism businesses on their farms, 20 educators will facilitate the development of agritourism teams around the state, five educators will conduct local workshops as a result of this training initiative, and 20 educators will use the resource guide.

The Long term outcome will be that a statewide network will be established to foster agritourism enterprises that will contribute to farm and rural sustainability.

Introduction:

During the winter of 2004, five Hoosier Agritourism Conferences were conducted across the State of Indiana. There was a definite interest from producers and rural residents around the state and a desire to learn more about starting new ventures in agritourism. Participation at these conferences by Educators (Reference to Educators includes Extension, NRCS, RC&D, Economic Development Professionals, Visitors Bureau Reps., and SBDC representatives) was minimal due to the fact that they were not the intended audience. Educators have little experience and expertise in advising producers who want to start agritourism ventures on their farms. There are also a limited number of Educators in Indiana trained in the NxLevel program which is designed to help producers develop and write business plans for their new ventures. Educators can transfer the knowledge and skills learned through workshops, conferences, and the NxLevel program to producers who are asking for help in starting agritourism activities on their farms. Partnerships could be established to build the resource base needed by those asking for assistance and help in starting agritourism businesses. If agritourism is to expand as a source of economic growth in Indiana, a greater understanding by “educators” of the potential possibilities and perils is essential in consulting and advising producers who want to start or expand an agritoruism business. This expanded capacity is intended to further enable and positively impact the sustainability of farms and rural land holdings throughout Indiana. The ultimate purpose of the Indiana Agritourism Training Initiative was to: Continue the ongoing work in agritourism to promote agritourism as a viable agriculture and tourism opportunity, engage “Educators” in an effort to build a knowledge base for agritourism, provide an expert resource for agritourism producers, and ultimately help establish new and augment existing agritourism ventures.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Roy Ballard
  • Brian Blackford

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

There were four major objectives that we wanted to accomplish in the Indiana Agritourism Training Initiative.

Objective I: Conduct six regional workshops (an Agritourism 101 format was used)

Objective II: Expand the well-established Indiana Horticulture Congress in 2005, 2006, & 2007 to include a full-day agritourism track

Objective III: Offer scholarships to pairs of producers and educators to attend a 10-week NxLevel Business Development Training course, “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” (offered through SBDC)

Objective IV: Produce an Agritourism Resource Guide

Outreach and Publications

The Indiana Resource Guide is an excellent tool that can be used by educators and producers as they navigate the resources needed to go down they path they have chosen. The NXLEVEL “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” Course is an outstanding business planning tool and also can build partnerships and collaboration as an educator and producer work through the plan together as a team. Regional agritourism workshops on the farms provide numerous opportunities for educators to learn from producers, for producers to learn from educators and for producers to learn from each other. This builds relationships and can foster additional resources for other s in the state. Finally, the Indiana Horticulture Congress has now become the “Annual Conference” for agritourism in the State of Indiana.

Outcomes and impacts:

Six Regional Workshops

The multi agency planning team of the Indiana Agritourism Training Initiative continued the concept of a statewide series offered on a regional basis to provide fundamental information to those who serve in an advisory or educational capacity to other who have an interest in starting or expanding and agritourism venture on their farm as a means of diversifying their operation and more fully or efficiently utilizing available resources. Additionally, this effort was designed to facilitate the networking of interested farmers with agencies with whom they could partner. Six regional programs were developed and offered from May 2005-January 2006 around Indiana to facilitate easy access by interested participants. These meetings were hosted on farms who where currently offering agritourism venues as part of their operation.

Over 250 participants attended the six regional workshop sites. Farmers, non-farm rural residents, tourism /convention and visitor bureau, media, local government and university staff attended each of these sessions and began the process of developing the connections necessary to develop this growing industry within the state. The vast majority of respondents agreed that they left the session better prepared to select a AT operation and more aware of the possible opportunities in Indiana. Similarly, they expressed a greater awareness of the potential of a cooperative to foster agritourism, the steps involved in building a business plan and a greater comfort level in approaching others for help about this topic. One educator attending stated that “In order to keep farming profitable we must expand beyond traditional row crops. Agritourism is one way to do that while educating the general public about agriculture and why it is important.” Another rural resident indicated that agritourism is a form of rural economic development and can help preserve farms and farm land. Several participants encouraged assistance with business planning, market plan development and resource assessment/feasibility.

Horticulture Congress

The 2006 Agritourism conference held as a preconference to the Indiana Horticulture Congress attracted in excess of 150 participants. While the focus of the event was for the professional development of “educators”, many farmers and other rural landowners attended also.
Representatives from several agencies participated in this event including Purdue Extension, Tourism/Convention and Visitors Bureau, Economic Development, USDA Rural Development, and Rural Conservation and Development. All of the topics covered during this training were rated as being useful to the educators in their day to day work. 100% of those educators reported that they planned to offer information to their clientele about agritourism- the majority through newsletters, referrals, meeting or seminars, or via e-mail or telephone. Nearly 2/3 of the respondents indicated that they also felt they would serve their clientele by referring them to the appropriate agency if they could not otherwise help them. 90% felt as though they had a better understanding of what brings a customer back to an agritourism venue. A six month follow up reflected that over 85% of respondents used the information about liability, working with the media and where alternative enterprises “fit” on a farm at least monthly. Additionally, 100% indicated that they agreed that they felt agritourism could keep some farms viable and that it is a subject worthy of the time of the educator as they serve their clientele.

Of the farmers in attendance, 100% expressed that the training had provided adequate information about agritourism as an economic development tool while 96% felt that they were better informed about the challenges that faced any new agritourism enterprise. In a six month follow-up 95% still expressed that they had a better understanding of the potential and pitfalls of an agritourism venture while nearly 3/4th of those who replied indicated that they had reevaluated their exposure to liability. After 6 months, while no respondent had dropped the idea of an agritourism venture and only one had changed their offering, several had reviewed their marketing plan, written a business plan or completed additional research and/or used the reference materials that they had been provided.

The 2007 Horticulture Congress featured an Agritourism Workshop. The Indiana Office of Tourism Development partnered with Purdue Extension (Roy Ballard and Jerry Nelson), and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to plan and conduct the workshop for producers and educators to continue with the Indiana Agritourism Training Initiative. The Workshop focused on public relations 101, grassroots marketing, CVB (Citizens & Visitors Bureau) and producer partnerships, liability issues, and signage regulations. A roundtable discussion of the producers and educators was also conducted to discuss issues for agritourism businesses across the state of Indiana.

Seventy five producers and fourteen educators attended and participated in the agritourism workshop at the Indiana Horticulture Congress. 89 % of the producers who responded to the survey considered agritourism as a profession and not a hobby. 50 % were interested in starting an agritourism venture and 50 % were considering expansion of an existing agritourism business.
As a result of the producers participating in the workshop: 78% were better able to understand the potential and the pitfalls of an agritourism venture, 72% better understood the role that the Indiana Agritourism Initiative could play in the future of agritourism in the state of Indiana, 100 % were considering new methods of promotion, 89% have a better understanding of how to promote their venture through marketing and public relations, 78% have an understanding of how to partner with others to enhance their venture, 78% better understand what resources are available to help them with their agritourism venture, and 78% have a better understanding of issues that affect agritourism ventures. As a result of the educators participating in the workshop: 90% found the promotion presentation somewhat useful and may use the information in their work, 60% found the partnerships and creative ways to work together very useful and will use the information in their work, 90 % recognized the risk of exposure and liability in agritoruism ventures and would use this information in their work, 90% found the networking opportunity somewhat useful and may use in their work, and 70% found the resources and references somewhat useful and may use in their work with agritoruism businesses in the future.

NXLEVEL Program

One vital part in the development of any new venture- including an agritourism venture-is a thorough business planning process.

The NxLevel Entrepreneurial Training program provides a systematic approach to the development of a business plan for those considering a new venture with a strong potential for enhancing success. A portion of the funds made available through a NCSARE grant provided scholarships (registration and mileage) for over 50 educators and entrepreneurs considering an agritourism venture to attend a NxLevel training series in their area. Those who did not have access to a local program were given the opportunity to participate remotely via IP video

Over fifty educators and entrepreneurs were provided scholarships (mileage and registration fees) to attend a NxLevel Entrepreneurial Training series either in person or via IP video. All respondents to the survey replied that they had a better understanding of the importance of business planning as it relates to their venture and indicated that they felt that the program had a somewhat high or high value to their business venture. All respondents indicated that they had substantially increased their understanding of how to develop goals and objectives for their business and how to conduct industry research for their business. One respondents indicated that they “appreciated the hands on and individual assistance and felt that they had a better understanding of the importance of the business plan and what they needed to do to move forward with their business”. Another indicated that they valued the opportunity to “network with others and valued the validation of their plan”. Thirteen educators and 39 producers completed the class and turned in Business plans for their ventures.

Indiana Agritorusim Resource Guide

An Indiana Resource Guide showcasing more than 200 pages worth of information was compiled and burned on a CD. 7000 CD’s were distributed across the State. The guide lists, by county, the resources available (both technical and financial) to educators and agritourism producers. We received permission to burn the “Virginia Agritourism” book from Virginia State University. Additionally, we were given permission to include the “Agritourism in Focus” book from the University of Tennessee.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

• 2005, 2006, and 2007 Statewide Horticulture Congress agritourism workshops completed attracting more than 150 attendees in 2005 and 2006, with 100 attendees in 2007

• 6 workshops were conducted statewide reaching more than 200 agritourism educators and producers

• NxLevel Workshops, “Business Planning Classes” conducted with 12 educators and 40 producers completing Business Plans

• Resource Guide input gathered and distributed Statewide via 7000 CD’s

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The process of “Training the Trainers” via the Indiana Agritourism Training Initiative could be used as a model across the Country to engage educators and tourism professionals in working with producers who want to start or enhance their agritourism business. As a result of the regional workshops, the horticulture congress workshops, the NXLEVEL Course and development and distribution of the Resource Guide, educators, producers and tourism professionals from across the state have formed valuable relationships which is fostering collaboration of Indiana Agritourism.

Future Recommendations

In order for the momentum to continue for Indiana Agritourism, an Indiana Agritourism Association needs to be developed. The relationship that has been established with the Indiana Office of Tourism needs to continue, but there must be a “grassroots” entity such as an Indiana Agritourism Association established for the effort to remain viable. Continued educational workshops and conferences need to be delivered to meet the emerging needs of agritourism producers. A statewide marketing effort needs to be established for agritoruism businesses. This would include a website that producers could sign up on to list their business.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.