Development of Extension Programming to Support the Advancement of Agritourism in the Northeast

Final Report for ENE11-121

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $112,616.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Dr. Brian Schilling
Rutgers University
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Project Information

Summary:

A. Explanation of problem and proposed solution

Northeast farmers are increasingly reliant on agritourism to expand farm income, create employment for family members, and strengthen relationships within the local community.  For many farmers, however, agritourism is a new business model, necessitating a shift from a production-centric focus to one that includes service and hospitality.  This transition challenges farmers to offer products and services farmers that are attractive to target markets, and to execute effective marketing strategies that draw customers to the farm. Importantly, agritourism also increases a farm’s legal liability as farm visitors may be exposed to risk factors with which they are unfamiliar, possibly resulting in injury or other harms.


B.  Training/educational activities, attendance, topics taught

A multistate (NJ, VT, DE and ME) team of Extension faculty developed a train-the-trainer curriculum and supporting educational materials to assist Northeast farmers (1) minimize risk and liability associated with farm visitations, (2) mitigate financial risk through enterprise budgeting, and (3) improve marketing strategies.  The team delivered educational content through a multi-tiered delivery system that included 27 workshops, classroom style trainings, and small-group farm assessments throughout the Northeast, as well as 4 nationally advertised webinars.  These training events reached more than 690 Extension educators, agency staff, and other agricultural service professionals (e.g., tourism and  marketing professionals, economic development professionals, attorneys, farm lenders, etc.) and 760 farmers.  Strong interest in the training program resulted in the presentation and dissemination of materials beyond the Northeast to national audiences through professional meetings.  All educational resources (e.g., training modules, webinar recordings, fact sheets, corn maze budgeting tool, farm assessment checklists, educational videos) are available on a project website (http://agritourism.rutgers.edu/training/).  The website has received 8,458 visits since being launched in September 2013.  The website will be maintained beyond this project’s duration; 10,000 promotional cards were printed to further promote the website and highlight available resources.

C.  Results from performance target verification

The direct beneficiaries of this project were agricultural educators and service providers.  The defined performance target was to have 30 agricultural educators utilize training from this project to develop and deliver outreach programs to Northeast farmers, leading 200 farmers to develop or revise marketing strategies to increase agritourism revenues or adopt new risk and liability management strategies to improve farm safety.  Extension educators and other agricultural service providers in NJ, VT, DE, and ME were surveyed at the end of the project to evaluate the extent to which knowledge gained through this program and supporting education resources have been used in professional practice.  Through August 31, 2015, 24 project participants reported that they had used project training and/or disseminated project materials to an estimated 1,681farmers in their service areas.  Training participants further reported that changes in marketing practices were the most common outcome observed (313 farms), followed by improvements in farm safety practices (n=207), liability or risk management strategies (n=190), and employee training procedures (n=126).

Performance Target:

The overarching goal of this project is to provide agricultural educators and service providers with the training and tools needed to assist Northeast farmers with developing or expanding their agritourism businesses. The direct beneficiaries of this project were agricultural educators and service providers.  The defined performance target was to have 30 agricultural educators utilize training from this project to develop and deliver outreach programs to Northeast farmers, leading 200 farmers to develop or revise marketing strategies to increase agritourism revenues or adopt new risk and liability management strategies to improve farm safety

Introduction:

A.  Situation assessment

The United States is a nation of small family farms, many of which struggle to remain fiscally solvent in the face of changing global markets, structural changes in the food retailing system and the perpetual vagaries of weather, diseases, and pests. Agritourism is an increasingly popular strategy for many small-scale farmers to raise farm income, diversify product lines, educate the non-farm public about farming, and enhance community engagement. 

Agritourism is the business of establishing farms as travel destinations for educational and recreational purposes.  Agritourism encompasses a variety of on-farm activities, including direct marketing (e.g., farm market and pick-your-owns), educational activities (e.g., school tours and winery tours), entertainment (e.g., corn mazes and hayrides), outdoor recreation (e.g., hunting and fishing), and accommodations (e.g., bed and breakfasts).  These activities have attracted the non-farm public to farms in impressive numbers.  Barry and Hellerstein (2004) estimate that 62 million American adults visited a farm at least once between 2000 and 2001.

The 2007 Census of Agriculture reported that 23,350 U.S. farms offer agritourism, earning $566.8 million from these activities.  Eighty percent of American farms presently engaged in agritourism are small farms.  The reliance of small farms on agritourism is further illustrated by the fact that this segment of the farm sector accounts for only 14 percent of the total market value of farm products sold in 2007, but 57 percent of reported income derived from agritourism and recreational services.

The Northeast region is a particularly important location for programming related to agritourism.  Census of Agriculture (2007) data show that although the region produces less than 5 percent of total U.S. farm revenue, it accounts for more than one-quarter of farm direct marketing sales and nearly 14 percent of agritourism income. Consumer interest in farm visitation has been one driver of agritourism growth.  However, well-documented pressures on farming have resulted from the advancement of urbanization into historically agricultural areas.  These include the loss of farmland, rapid appreciation in farmland values and taxes, conflicts with non-farm neighbors, shifting socio-politics, and loss of agricultural suppliers and market infrastructure.  On a regional scale these pressures have been pronounced in the Northeast for decades, forcing farmers to make a number of adaptations to remain economically viable in the face of rising operating costs.  Northeast farmers have responded to these pressures and capitalized on proximity to large, affluent and growing consumer markets.           

While not a panacea for American farm viability, there is converging statistical and anecdotal evidence that agritourism is an important opportunity for farmers, especially those operating at or within the urban fringe, to bolster the profitability of small family farms.  At the same time, there is a need to increase the knowledge of agricultural educators and their access to informational resources to effectively support clientele interested in agritourism.  Therefore, the goal of this project is to provide agricultural educators with training and tools needed to properly assist Northeast farmers with developing or expanding their agritourism businesses.

B.  Statement of problem

While a promising opportunity, agritourism is a new business paradigm for many farmers.  It requires a shift from a production-centric focus toward a service and hospitality orientation. Such a transition requires new business skill sets, especially in critical areas related to liability management, marketing, and financial risk management.  Resources to help manage risk – both financial risk and potential hazards to farm visitors – stand as a vital need as the prevalence of agritourism grows and the number of farm visitations continues to rise.  Similarly, many farmers entering into agritourism lack the experience and expertise needed to successfully market their operation to visitors and make the transition to a retail service and hospitality enterprise.  Guidance on effective marketing (e.g., “the four P’s of marketing”) and hospitality management is often needed.

While agritourism resources are emerging within the Cooperative Extension system, many are state-specific and do not provide comprehensive and actionable guidance to farmers seeking to grow their businesses.  This project seeks to build on previous NE-SARE efforts and provide educational resources available to Extension and other agricultural educators in the Northeast region seeking to deliver actionable guidance to farmers interested in agritourism development or expansion.

C.  What was done?

A multi-tiered train-the-trainer program and supportive educational resources were developed to help Cooperative Extension and other agricultural education and service providers support Northeast farmers to (1) minimize agritourism-related risk and liability, (2) develop impactful marketing strategies, and (3) manage financial risk by properly budgeting for new agritourism enterprises. 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Jenny Carleo
  • Dr. Lisa Chase
  • Stephen Komar
  • Lucas Marxen

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Eight project milestones were outlined in the project proposal. 

  1. 5 State Coordinators will be trained and tasked to assist with educational resource development and delivery.
  2. 5 State Coordinators will each host two regional training workshops and train 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers.
  3. 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers will attend an educational webinar on the use of the cost calculator and self-assessment tool.
  4. 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers will attend an educational webinar on agritourism best practices.
  5. 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers will attend a “farmer experience sharing” webinars.
  6. All educational resource materials and webinars will be integrated into a Rutgers Cooperative Extension Sustainable Agriculture website, with replication of materials or links to source materials on all the websites of all participating state Extension sites.
  7. All Northeast Cooperative Extension Directors will be notified of the availability of the online educational resource kit.
  8. 500 Northeast farmers will receive fact sheets, “best practices”, and other educational resources through Cooperative Extension and the broader network of agricultural service providers.

A.  Achievement of milestones

Milestone 1: Five state coordinators were recruited to assist with the development of training materials and organized educational outreach.  One coordinator left Cooperative Extension; however, additional Extension personnel shared responsibility for program delivery.

Milestones 2-5:  Milestones 2 through 5 were attained through delivery of 31 workshops, conference presentations, educational sessions at state or regional agricultural conventions, in-service trainings, webinars, and other training events.  More than 1,450 farmers, Extension professionals, and agricultural service providers were trained or presented with educational resources.  An estimated 52% of participants (roughly 760 individuals) were farmers operating at various scales; 48% (roughly 690 individuals) were Extension educators, agricultural service providers, farm organization (e.g., Farm Bureau) or agency (e.g., state department of agriculture) staff, tourism and economic development professionals, or related professionals (e.g., attorneys, farm lenders, insurance providers).  A listing of the most significant training sessions is provided below.

  1. September 2013 – National Farm Viability Conference, session on Engaging the Public on Working Farms: Successes and Challenges of Agritourism. (Middlebury, VT). 20 attendees  (farmers, extension staff, farm service professionals, marketing professionals, economic development professionals, and land preservation professionals).
  2. October 2013 – Farm-Based Education Forum: Agritourism, Education, and Economics on Your Farm. (Shelburne, VT). Project materials made available to 143 attendees (farmers, land preservation professionals, marketing professionals, NOFA mentor, university agricultural professionals).  Dedicated training session for 13 attendees.
  3. November 2013 – Project materials and training delivered to University of Maine Agricultural Extension Educators and Specialists. 25 trainees.
  4. December 2013 – Project materials and training delivered to the Maine Alpaca Association. 16 producers.
  5. January 2014 – Marketing Farm Experiences to Increase Product Sales. Held at the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA-VT) Direct Marketing Conference. (Royalton, VT). 10 attendees.
  6. February 2014 – Farm Safety Advice to Protect Agritourism Farms from Legal Liability. New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show. (Atlantic City, NJ.)  51 attendees (farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff).
  7. February 2014 – Tips to Manage Liability and Help Avoid Conflicts in Agritourism Operations. New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show. (Atlantic City, NJ). 35 attendees (farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff).
  8. February 2014 – Growing Your Farm into a Successful Agritourism Operation (a farmer-to-farmer panel).  New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show.  (Atlantic City, NJ). 30 attendees (farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff).
  9. February 2014 – Training session offered at a regional Women in Agriculture Conference – women producers in DE, MD, NJ. 40 attendees (women farmers).
  10. February 2014 – New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show. (Atlantic City, NJ). Training session on VisitNJfarms.org (a statewide agritourism marketing website for New Jersey farmers).  27 farmers, Extension personnel, NJ Dept. of Agriculture staff, NJ Farm Bureau staff, agricultural service providers.
  11. March 2014 – National Agritourism Safety and Liability Management Webinars (New Brunswick, NJ). Webinar 1 – Promoting Safety on Agritourism Farms (42 agricultural service providers, Extension educators, farmers). 
  12. March 2014 – National Agritourism Safety and Liability Management Webinars (New Brunswick, NJ). Webinar 2 –  Managing Agritourism Liability (35 agricultural service providers, Extension educators, farmers).
  13. March 2014 – Building Collaborative Networks to Strengthen Vermont Agritourism. Conference. (Green Mountain Girls Farm, Northfield, VT). 20 attendees.
  14. March 2014 – ABC’s of Farm-Based Education conference. (Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT). 27 attendees.
  15. March 2014 – Agritourism in-Service Training for Agriculture Service Providers, with a focus on maple production. (Merrifield Farm, Gorham, ME). 4 producers.
  16. May 2014 – Tools and Resources for Farms with Direct Sales of Products and Experiences. Extension Professional Improvement Conference (EPIC). (Vergennes, VT). 15 attendees.
  17. June 2014 – Agritourism In-Service Training for Agriculture Service Providers. (Pietree Orchard, Sweden, ME). 6 attendees.
  18. August 2014 – Designing Your Farm Retail Space. Co-organized with NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms. (Killdeer Farm, Norwich, VT). 22 attendees.
  19. September 2014 – In-service training, Rutgers Agricultural and Resource Management Agents Department. (New Brunswick, NJ). Presentation of project website and distribution of training materials to 42 members of this extension department.
  20. October 2014 – Training sessions offered at the Farm-Based Education Forum: Agritourism, Education and Economics on Your Farm (Shelburne, VT). 140 conference attendees.
  21. October 2014 – Agritourism Study Tour of Quebec. Bus Tour of Farms in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. 35 attendees.
  22. January 2015 – Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. (Hershey, PA.) 3-hour workshop on risk management (enterprise assessment, farm safety, regulatory compliance, food safety, employee training).  Approximately 110 farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff, agricultural service providers.
  23. January 2015 – NOFA-NJ’s 25th Anniversary Winter Conference. (Lincroft, NJ.) 90 minute workshop on Agritourism Safety and Liability Management: Overview and Introduction to RCE Resources.  21 farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff, agricultural service providers.
  24. January 2015 – Farms Forests and Rivers, Sustaining Our Way of Life conference. (Sussex, NJ). Training on agritourism resources and economic development potential.  140 participants (mainly service providers).
  25. January 2015 – Presentations to County Boards of Agriculture in New Jersey (Burlington, Gloucester, Mercer and Sussex Counties). Materials presented and distributed to 105 farmers and 20 agricultural service providers/agency staff.
  26. January 2015 – Presentations to County Agricultural Development Boards in New Jersey (Gloucester, Burlington and Sussex Counties). Materials presented and distributed to 18 farmers, 3 public members and 3 county government personnel.
  27. February 2015 – The Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference – Working with Tourists: Practices for a Successful Agritourism Effort. (Sturbridge, MA). 64 participants.
  28. February 2015 – Northeast Organic Farming Association – Vermont (NOFA-VT) Winter Conference – Best Practices for Opening Your Farm to Visitors. (Burlington, VT). 52 participants.
  29. February 2015 – Resources for Agricultural Service Providers webinar. 14 Extension personnel.
  30. March 2015 – Employee Management for Agritourism webinar. 8 Extension personnel. 
  31. April 2015 Welcoming Customers to Your Farm conference. (Rutland, VT). Best safety practices and liability management for agritourism farms workshop. (17 producers).  Note: 106 attended the conference and were provided access to educational resources.

The project team promoted the availability of curricular resources through national venues, including presentations at professional meetings of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, National Extension Tourism, National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals, and American Society for Horticultural Science.

Milestone 6: A dedicated project website, Extension Training for Agritourism Development,  was launched in September 2013 (URL: http://agritourism.rutgers.edu/training/).

Milestone 7: All Northeast Cooperative Extension Directors were notified in Fall 2014 via email about the project (goals, resources) and the Extension Training for Agritourism Development website by Dr. Larry Katz, Director of Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Milestone 8:  Printed materials suitable for specific trainings were distributed at conferences, workshops, in-service trainings, etc.  The study team estimates that more than 1,500 printed resource materials were distributed throughout 2014-2015.  In addition, 10,000 glossy 5″ x 8″ promotional postcards were printed in 2015 to enable continued marketing of the project website and associated educational resources beyond the official project expiration.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

A.  Performance target outcome data and discussion

The first phase of the project focused on the development of the core training curricula and supporting educational resources.  All resources are now available on a dedicated Extension Training for Agritourism Development website (http://agritourism.rutgers.edu/training/).

The core curriculum comprises five PowerPoint-based educational training modules.  While developed primarily to support the needs of Extension and other agricultural educators, the modules were designed to be accessible to end-clientele (e.g., farmers engaged in, or considering the development of, agritourism enterprises). The five modules are:

  • Introduction to Agritourism
  • Marketing Agritourism While Providing Quality Customer Service
  • Financial Management: Budgeting & Pricing for Agritourism
  • Managing the Safety Risks of Agritourism Farms
  • Agritourism Liability

Additional educational resources include:

  • A series of “Managing Risk on Your Agritourism Farm” Training Videos were produced. Each is narrated and contains field footage appropriate to the topic.

    • “Managing Liability on Agritourism Farms” (6 min. 21 sec.)
    • “Insurance for Your Agritourism Farm” (7 min., 30 sec.)
    • “Managing Risk on Your Agritourism Farm: A Farmer’s Perspective” (7 min., 55 sec.)
    • “Managing Risk on Your Agritourism Farm: Hayride Safety” (6 min., 49 sec.)
    • “Managing Risk on Your Agritourism Farm: General Farm Safety” (6 min., 39 sec.)

  • An online corn maze budget calculator (and associated fact sheet/work sheet), available at: http://agritourism.rutgers.edu/corn_maze/
  • A series of farm evaluation checklists for use by Extension and agricultural educators, as well as farm operators.

    • Agritourism Animal Safety
    • Agritourism Emergency Response & Liability Assessment
    • Agritourism Employee Assessment
    • Agritourism Operation Food Safety
    • Agritourism General Farm Safety Assessment
    • Agritourism Marketing Assessment
    • Agritourism Parking & Traffic Assessment
    • A sample “Farm Accident/Incident Report Form.”

  • Extension fact sheets.

    • Is an Agritourism Venture Right for Your Farm?
    • Marketing 101 For Your Agritourism Business
    • Developing a Mission Statement for Your Agritourism Business
    • Community Supported Agriculture: A Farmer’s Overview
    • Agritourism – Keeping Passengers Safe on Hay Rides
    • Budgeting for a Corn Maze

  • Recordings of Agritourism Safety and Liability Management Webinars (A two-part, nationally advertised educational webinar series for technical service providers, educators and farmers.) Recordings available at: http://agritourism.rutgers.edu/training/webinars.html           

    • Promoting Safety on Agritourism Farms
    • Managing Agritourism Liability

 

The second phase of the project focused on educational outreach and training.  Twenty-four in-person training presentations, in-services, and/or workshops were offered in New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, and Delaware.  Attendance ranged from 6 to 143 participants per event.  Venues included in-service training of Extension personnel, state or regional agricultural conventions, Northeast Organic Farming Association conferences/meetings, farm workshops, professional (Extension) and practitioner conferences, etc.  In addition, the project team hosted 4 webinars marketed to national audiences.  In total, approximately 1,214 Extension educators, agricultural service providers (e.g., staff from state departments of agriculture, state farm bureaus, Farm Credit, tourism and economic development professionals), and farmers participated in online, farm-based, or classroom style training sessions.

The project website (http://agritourism.rutgers.edu) is a repository for all educational resources developed or compiled to advance the project’s training deliverables.  Since its inception (September 2013), the website has had 8,458 hits from 4,730 users.  Web analytics are routinely monitored to track views and downloads of each resource or tool.  Commonly accessed resources include:

  • Interactive Corn Maze Budget Tool: 595 views
  • Assessing on-farm risk training videos: 297 plays
  • Training modules: 395 downloads
  • Agritourism Farm Assessment Checklists: 304 downloads
  • Recorded Agritourism Safety & Liability Management Webinars: 31 views

In addition to the project website, a redesigned statewide (New Jersey) agritourism marketing platform was launched in April 2014 (http://visitnjfarms.org) to facilitate and support agritourism marketing efforts and social media advertising.  The site currently has 242 registered farms; 61 newly registered farms are attributable to the marketing-related programming supported by this grant.  In addition, 139 farms updated their marketing presence, most often through the creation or expansion of social media promotional efforts.

Project evaluation efforts
Standard program evaluation forms revealed strong acceptance of the training materials within the Extension/agricultural service provider community and among farmers.  For example, one of the larger training forums took place in October 2013 at Shelburne Farms in Vermont (Farm-Based Education Forum: Agritourism, Education and Economics on Your Farm).  Dr. Chase’s evaluation of the event notes that the event convened 143 attendees (70 were farmers and/or homesteaders/gardeners; over 30 were service providers; and a large number of educators, non-profit employees, researchers, or tourism professionals).  Fifty-five percent of forum participants completed an emailed evaluation survey after the event: 94% said that the forum helped them identify useful resources and contacts, 88% said that the forum increased their knowledge of opportunities for farm-based education and agritourism, and 85% said that the forum gave them the knowledge they needed to implement these opportunities on their farms. Importantly, 86% reported that they are likely to assess their farm, expand communication, and/or adopt a new practice as a result of the forum. Dr. Chase found that nearly all of the subset of farmers surveyed one year after the event had indeed made one or more changes to their operation as a result of the training.

This pattern of intended behavioral or business adaptation was common throughout the regional training events.  Many farmer participants expressed an intent to modify farm practices or operation in accordance to one or more recommendations advanced during training sessions.  While systematic farm-level observation of changes implemented as a result of training/educational outreach delivered by program participants was not conducted, the majority of Extension/service provider training participants interact with farmers in their counties/services areas and are capable of developing informed assessments of “on the ground” project impacts, namely farm-level adoption  of recommended practices emerging from this project. Commonly reported examples include:

  • Development of “incident response forms” (or adoption of the model form created as part of this project) to record accidents and other adverse occurrences on agritourism/direct marketing farms. One large New Jersey grain farm, for example, adopted the model form offered in outreach kits (see: http://agritourism.rutgers.edu/training/supplemental.html) which was employed only days later when a farm guest suffered a leg injury requiring medical treatment.
  • Many farmers participating in direct training sessions reported that they will perform routine farm inspections and “walk-throughs” to evaluate farm safety conditions. The series of farm evaluation checklists were well received as useful, practical tools to assist farmers with these activities.
  • Several farms shared examples of farm staff training/employment guides or contracts that outline job duties and performance expectations. Others reported plans to improve staff training on how to properly evaluate farm safety conditions.
  • Many farms reported plans to expand or refine on-line farm marketing and promotional efforts (including adoption of social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, You Tube, etc.). As a New Jersey-specific example, at least 61 farms registered on a newly redesigned statewide agritourism marketing website.  Another 139 registered farms updated their marketing profiles, most often enhancing their social media presence.
  • The liability management recommendation that attracted the most interest among farmer participants during training sessions was the value of incorporating indemnification waivers to manage farm liability and installing proper signage (e.g., “this is a working farm” signs or signs clearly demarcating potential hazards or areas of the farm not open to visitors).

At the conclusion of the project period, a brief survey was administered to Extension educators and agricultural service providers to determine (1) whether they are using program training and materials to assist their farmer clientele, (2) the number of farmers to whom educational training or materials were provided, and (3) the number of farms that, as a result of their guidance, made changes to their marketing practices, farm safety practices, approaches to liability and risk management, employee training, and/or other aspects of their agritourism operations.  

The survey validates that our project performance targets were attained.  As of August 31, 2015, at minimum, 24 Extension educators or other agricultural service providers confirmed that they have used our program materials to assist their clientele.  They collectively estimate that they distributed program educational content to 1,681 farmers in the Northeast.  They affirm a large number of farm-level changes or adaptations to accord with recommended practices and strategies for improving marketing, farm safety, and liability management.  In some cases, training participants provided informed estimates of the number of clientele (frequently farmers within their county) that made such changes.   Most commonly, educators reported that farms made changes to marketing practices (n=313 farms).  Educators also reported farms making changes related to farm safety practices (n=207 farms), liability and risk management approaches to (n=190 farms), and employee training procedures (n=126 farms).  One Extension educator in New Jersey emphasized food safety best practices in her training, leading to an estimated 140 farms taking action to enhance this aspect of their enterprises.  Farms often made changes in more than one aspect of their agritourism enterprise.

 

B.  Additional outcomes discussion

Several favorable outcomes resulted from the project, beyond attainment of training performance targets.  For example, the project fostered substantial professional dialogue and networking and garnered media attention on the topic of agritourism.  The project team promoted the availability of curricular resources through national venues, including presentations at professional meetings of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, National Extension Tourism, National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals, and American Society for Horticultural Science.  These professional engagements, coupled with national exposure achieved through project webinars, also resulted in Extension professionals from outside of the Northeast region requesting the use of curricular materials (e.g., Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin).  At least two international requests for information also resulted (i.e., Canada,  Antigua). 

An offshoot of the project in New Jersey has been a growing number of farmers requesting individual farm assessments from Extension personnel (e.g., farm safety evaluation, review of marketing practices, etc.).  This resulted in a team of Rutgers Cooperative Extension faculty developing a new proposal to support farm SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) assessments to new and established agritourism farms.

The project website has earned several regional or national awards, including the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Communications Award (Northeast winner) and American Society for Horticulture Sciences Extension Division National Award for Outstanding Website.  In addition, the educational/training modules have been recognized by the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (Northeast winner and National runner-up in the educational package category) and National Association of County Agricultural Agents (Communications Award,  Learning Module Category).  Lastly, one educational resource (“Budgeting for a corn maze” – Rutgers Cooperative Extension publication E343) was a National Finalist for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Communications Award.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Eight project milestones were outlined in the project proposal. 

  1. 5 State Coordinators will be trained and tasked to assist with educational resource development and delivery.
  2. 5 State Coordinators will each host two regional training workshops and train 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers.
  3. 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers will attend an educational webinar on the use of the cost calculator and self-assessment tool.
  4. 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers will attend an educational webinar on agritourism best practices.
  5. 60 Extension educators and related agricultural service providers will attend a “farmer experience sharing” webinars.
  6. All educational resource materials and webinars will be integrated into a Rutgers Cooperative Extension Sustainable Agriculture website, with replication of materials or links to source materials on all the websites of all participating state Extension sites.
  7. All Northeast Cooperative Extension Directors will be notified of the availability of the online educational resource kit.
  8. 500 Northeast farmers will receive fact sheets, “best practices”, and other educational resources through Cooperative Extension and the broader network of agricultural service providers.

A.  Achievement of milestones

Milestone 1: Five state coordinators were recruited to assist with the development of training materials and organized educational outreach.  One coordinator left Cooperative Extension; however, additional Extension personnel shared responsibility for program delivery.

Milestones 2-5:  Milestones 2 through 5 were attained through delivery of 31 workshops, conference presentations, educational sessions at state or regional agricultural conventions, in-service trainings, webinars, and other training events.  More than 1,450 farmers, Extension professionals, and agricultural service providers were trained or presented with educational resources.  An estimated 52% of participants (roughly 760 individuals) were farmers operating at various scales; 48% (roughly 690 individuals) were Extension educators, agricultural service providers, farm organization (e.g., Farm Bureau) or agency (e.g., state department of agriculture) staff, tourism and economic development professionals, or related professionals (e.g., attorneys, farm lenders, insurance providers).  A listing of the most significant training sessions is provided below.

  1. September 2013 – National Farm Viability Conference, session on Engaging the Public on Working Farms: Successes and Challenges of Agritourism. (Middlebury, VT). 20 attendees  (farmers, extension staff, farm service professionals, marketing professionals, economic development professionals, and land preservation professionals).
  2. October 2013 – Farm-Based Education Forum: Agritourism, Education, and Economics on Your Farm. (Shelburne, VT). Project materials made available to 143 attendees (farmers, land preservation professionals, marketing professionals, NOFA mentor, university agricultural professionals).  Dedicated training session for 13 attendees.
  3. November 2013 – Project materials and training delivered to University of Maine Agricultural Extension Educators and Specialists. 25 trainees.
  4. December 2013 – Project materials and training delivered to the Maine Alpaca Association. 16 producers.
  5. January 2014 – Marketing Farm Experiences to Increase Product Sales. Held at the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA-VT) Direct Marketing Conference. (Royalton, VT). 10 attendees.
  6. February 2014 – Farm Safety Advice to Protect Agritourism Farms from Legal Liability. New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show. (Atlantic City, NJ.)  51 attendees (farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff).
  7. February 2014 – Tips to Manage Liability and Help Avoid Conflicts in Agritourism Operations. New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show. (Atlantic City, NJ). 35 attendees (farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff).
  8. February 2014 – Growing Your Farm into a Successful Agritourism Operation (a farmer-to-farmer panel).  New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show.  (Atlantic City, NJ). 30 attendees (farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff).
  9. February 2014 – Training session offered at a regional Women in Agriculture Conference – women producers in DE, MD, NJ. 40 attendees (women farmers).
  10. February 2014 – New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show. (Atlantic City, NJ). Training session on VisitNJfarms.org (a statewide agritourism marketing website for New Jersey farmers).  27 farmers, Extension personnel, NJ Dept. of Agriculture staff, NJ Farm Bureau staff, agricultural service providers.
  11. March 2014 – National Agritourism Safety and Liability Management Webinars (New Brunswick, NJ). Webinar 1 – Promoting Safety on Agritourism Farms (42 agricultural service providers, Extension educators, farmers). 
  12. March 2014 – National Agritourism Safety and Liability Management Webinars (New Brunswick, NJ). Webinar 2 –  Managing Agritourism Liability (35 agricultural service providers, Extension educators, farmers).
  13. March 2014 – Building Collaborative Networks to Strengthen Vermont Agritourism. Conference. (Green Mountain Girls Farm, Northfield, VT). 20 attendees.
  14. March 2014 – ABC’s of Farm-Based Education conference. (Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT). 27 attendees.
  15. March 2014 – Agritourism in-Service Training for Agriculture Service Providers, with a focus on maple production. (Merrifield Farm, Gorham, ME). 4 producers.
  16. May 2014 – Tools and Resources for Farms with Direct Sales of Products and Experiences. Extension Professional Improvement Conference (EPIC). (Vergennes, VT). 15 attendees.
  17. June 2014 – Agritourism In-Service Training for Agriculture Service Providers. (Pietree Orchard, Sweden, ME). 6 attendees.
  18. August 2014 – Designing Your Farm Retail Space. Co-organized with NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms. (Killdeer Farm, Norwich, VT). 22 attendees.
  19. September 2014 – In-service training, Rutgers Agricultural and Resource Management Agents Department. (New Brunswick, NJ). Presentation of project website and distribution of training materials to 42 members of this extension department.
  20. October 2014 – Training sessions offered at the Farm-Based Education Forum: Agritourism, Education and Economics on Your Farm (Shelburne, VT). 140 conference attendees.
  21. October 2014 – Agritourism Study Tour of Quebec. Bus Tour of Farms in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. 35 attendees.
  22. January 2015 – Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. (Hershey, PA.) 3-hour workshop on risk management (enterprise assessment, farm safety, regulatory compliance, food safety, employee training).  Approximately 110 farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff, agricultural service providers.
  23. January 2015 – NOFA-NJ’s 25th Anniversary Winter Conference. (Lincroft, NJ.) 90 minute workshop on Agritourism Safety and Liability Management: Overview and Introduction to RCE Resources.  21 farmers, Extension personnel, agency staff, agricultural service providers.
  24. January 2015 – Farms Forests and Rivers, Sustaining Our Way of Life conference. (Sussex, NJ). Training on agritourism resources and economic development potential.  140 participants (mainly service providers).
  25. January 2015 – Presentations to County Boards of Agriculture in New Jersey (Burlington, Gloucester, Mercer and Sussex Counties). Materials presented and distributed to 105 farmers and 20 agricultural service providers/agency staff.
  26. January 2015 – Presentations to County Agricultural Development Boards in New Jersey (Gloucester, Burlington and Sussex Counties). Materials presented and distributed to 18 farmers, 3 public members and 3 county government personnel.
  27. February 2015 – The Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference – Working with Tourists: Practices for a Successful Agritourism Effort. (Sturbridge, MA). 64 participants.
  28. February 2015 – Northeast Organic Farming Association – Vermont (NOFA-VT) Winter Conference – Best Practices for Opening Your Farm to Visitors. (Burlington, VT). 52 participants.
  29. February 2015 – Resources for Agricultural Service Providers webinar. 14 Extension personnel.
  30. March 2015 – Employee Management for Agritourism webinar. 8 Extension personnel. 
  31. April 2015 Welcoming Customers to Your Farm conference. (Rutland, VT). Best safety practices and liability management for agritourism farms workshop. (17 producers).  Note: 106 attended the conference and were provided access to educational resources.

The project team promoted the availability of curricular resources through national venues, including presentations at professional meetings of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, National Extension Tourism, National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals, and American Society for Horticultural Science.

Milestone 6: A dedicated project website, Extension Training for Agritourism Development,  was launched in September 2013 (URL: http://agritourism.rutgers.edu/training/).

Milestone 7: All Northeast Cooperative Extension Directors were notified in Fall 2014 via email about the project (goals, resources) and the Extension Training for Agritourism Development website by Dr. Larry Katz, Director of Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Milestone 8:  Printed materials suitable for specific trainings were distributed at conferences, workshops, in-service trainings, etc.  The study team estimates that more than 1,500 printed resource materials were distributed throughout 2014-2015.  In addition, 10,000 glossy 5″ x 8″ promotional postcards were printed in 2015 to enable continued marketing of the project website and associated educational resources beyond the official project expiration.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Future Recommendations

The demand for agritourism resources and information remains high within the region’s agricultural community.  Continued use of the educational resources and programming developed from this grant is planned by members of the project team, and those that have received training.

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.