Agritourism Training for Agriculture Professionals

Final Report for ES08-093

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $82,986.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information

Abstract:

The rise in the popularity of agritourism has brought a need for information specific to this industry. As a result, producers are looking to agricultural professionals for help in developing agritourism on their farms. This project provided training to over 100 professionals in Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina. The project included workshops in North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. In addition, educational materials were created. In addition, an agritourism association was created in Georgia, an agritourism faculty position was created at Tennessee Tech University, and zoning regulations have been formulated in Georgia. All of the materials are available online at NCState and UGA.

Project Objectives:

The objectives for the agritourism training program are:
1. After participating in the agritourism training workshop, extension agents and other agricultural professionals will have the background to identify issues that are significant to agritourism. The agents and farmers will use the manual to evaluate the economic feasibility of potential agritourism operations. The manual will allow the agents and farmers to work through the various regulatory, legal, marketing and financial issues facing agritourism operations and enable them to more effectively evaluate the business opportunity.

2. One hundred extension agents will learn how evaluate the feasibility of a new agritourism enterprise, identify legal and regulatory issues, and develop a marketing strategy in two-day agritourism workshops in Georgia and North Carolina. Tennessee and South Carolina extension agents will be invited to attend.

3. Fifty extension agents who cannot attend the workshop will complete the agritourism training via a web based and CD-ROM training.

4. The one hundred training participants will utilize the training and resources in their county. Twenty-five extension agents will organize agritourism programs as a result of the training.

5. Twenty farm families will explore agritourism as an opportunity to diversify their operations by using the resources developed from training.

6. As a result of this training, Georgia and North Carolina will conduct an agritourism workshop. In addition agents will work with 10 farmers from each state.

Introduction:

In May of 2008 advisory committees of extension agents and agritourism operators met in each state. A North Carolina advisory committee developed the agenda and select the speakers for the two day workshop. In July of 2008 the Georgia advisory committee researched available materials and plan the content of the agritourism manual and select the topics for the other materials. An hourly staff person will be hired to help develop agritourism materials and help organize the two day workshop. The agritoursim workshop was be conducted in April 2009 in in North Carolina. The agritoursim workshop participants asked to evaluate the workshop and educational resources developed as part of the project. The workshop participants were be surveyed after one to evaluate how they have used the educational resources and workshop training.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Gary Bullen
  • Kent Wolfe

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

The agritourism project involved three main goals.

1. Conduct a two day in-depth agritourism training for extension agents and agricultural professionals.

2. Develop a web based and CR-ROM training materials for extension agents unable to attend workshop.

3. Develop agritourism manual and other resources to prepare extension agents and agricultural professionals to assist farmers and entrepreneurs interested in evaluating an agritourism enterprise.

Train and support a network of extension agents who can initially assist farm families as they consider developing an agritourism operation. The hands-on training will focus on evaluating potential agritourism opportunities, identifying legal and regulatory issues and developing marketing strategies for an agritourism enterprise. The target audience will be Georgia, North Carolina extension agents and other agricultural professionals. The workshop anticipates 80 extension agents from Georgian and North Carolina and additional 20 from South Carolina and Tennessee. An advisory committee of North Carolina extension agents and farmers will be organized to identify the topics and select speakers for the workshop. The workshop advisory committee will meet two times to plan the workshop. Travel scholarships will be provided. Successful farmers will be invited to speak at the workshop.

Fifty additional extension agents will be training via web based or CD-ROM approach. The same workshop materials and presentations will be used for the web and CD-ROM based training. The web based and CD-ROM training will be the promoted and distributed to other state. North Carolina IT staff will develop the web based and CD-ROM training.

To supplement the training and enhance the capacity of the trainees, an agritourism manual and other educational material and will be developed. A part-time staff person will be hired to develop an inventory of agritourism resources. Agritourism fact-sheets will be compiled on conducting feasibility studies, legal and regulatory issue, developing marketing and promotional plans, developing budgets and financial statements, and case studies. The education resource materials and agritourism manual will be evaluated by an advisory committee made up of extension agents, farmers, and state agency representatives and other agricultural professionals from Georgia. Farmers and extension agents will help develop the fact-sheets and case studies.

Outreach and Publications

A comprehensive how to agritourism manual was created. It outlines the process of thinking about an agritourism operation to actually developing one. The manual has been used by many folks, over 300 copies have been distributed and more have been downloaded online. In addition, we created a food regulation guideline was developed for Georgia since many operators and potential operators are trying to incorporate food into their businesses.

Outcomes and impacts:

1. The project was responsible for training over 100 agricultural professionals in four southern states. The first workshop/conference was held in Asheville, North Carolina on April 27-29, 2009. The workshop had a total registration of 86 people. The grant paid for these peoples travel and related expenses. See appendix A for a copy of the save the date flier and agenda. From this workshop, County agents in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina decided to have workshops in their respective states to pass along information to other agricultural professionals and producers.

A. Georgia
As a result of the 2009 workshop in Asheville, Bob Waldorf and Billy Skaggs, County Extension agents, decided to hold an agritourism conference in Georgia. There was a conference held in Dillard Georgia in November 2009. These workshops hosted 85 and 94 participants respectively. Thus a total of 179 producers were exposed to agritourism marketing, management, financial and regulatory information. The SARE funds were used to pay speaker travel to each of these events and also for agricultural professionals to attend. These people received the SARE manual prepared for this grant project. See Appendix A

The Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development held a small workshop with agritourism professionals in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. This meeting focused on sharing ideas that worked in promoting and developing agritourism in each of the respective states. It also functioned as a networking opportunity for agricultural professionals in the four states. As a result, there has been some cross sharing of ideas and even presentations in the various states. Appendix A.

Georgia – The County agents from Georgia that participated in the Asheville Conference organized a second conference in Dillard Georgia in November, 2010. This meeting attracted over 86 participants. A major outcome of this conference was the formation of the Georgia Agritourism Association. The exposure has resulted in the Georgia Department of Agriculture hiring a full-time agritourism coordinator, the first ever in Georgia. Appendix A.

In addition, county agents that attended the Asheville, North Carolina Workshop and the one in Oakhurt, Georgia have developed an agritourism ordinance in two Georgia counties. See Appendix A.

B. North Carolina
As a result of the Asheville, North Carolina workshop, agents in the state become more involved in agritourism. North Carolina agents in Western North Carolina developed two different agritourism workshops as a direct result of the Asheville Conference. These workshops were held in 2010. One of the workshops focused was held on January 28th, 2010 in Waynesville. The workshop had 32 participants from all over the state. The program focused on Minimizing on Farm Risk and Liability, Rules and regulations for Food and Activities for Agritourism Businesses. The second workshop was held in Lillington on March 10, 2010. This training focused on marketing, to include internet and social media. These two workshops had a total of 68 participants from all over North Carolina. See Appendix B.

C. Tennessee
As a result of the Asheville, North Carolina workshop, Dr. Michael Best (a speaker) became active in agritourism. Dr. Best is an agribusiness professor at Tennessee Tech University. Dr. Best starting talking with his Unit’s Director and invited her to the workshop for agritourism state professionals in Savannah, Georgia in the spring of 2010. As a result of that workshop, Tennessee Tech decided to create a position and curriculum featuring agritourism. They are interviewing potential faculty member in July, 2011. See Appendix C.

D. South Carolina
Dr. David Lame with Clemson University organized a workshop in Columbia South Carolina as a result of attending the Asheville, North Carolina workshop. The workshop in Columbia was held January 5-6th, 2010 and had a total of 28 agricultural professionals participate. It was a one day workshop. See Appendix D.

2. Evaluations
Asheville, Evaluations –
Overall, the Asheville evaluations were very positive. The content appears to be appreciated by the participants and the vast majority of the participants learned something new during the workshop.

Post Workshop Evaluation Summary.
The participants of the original workshop in Asheville, North Carolina were called one year after the workshop and asked a series of questions regarding agritourism development in their areas. The majority of the participants indicated the workshop provided them a better understanding of agritourism, and 77% have used the materials in their planning and programming. An additional 70% have assisted clientele with agritourism related questions. One third have used the workshop materials to develop a presentation and 47% have developed a class or workshop as a result attending. Seventy percent of respondents indicated that they have helped explore the possibility of starting an agritourism operation. See Appendix E.

Following Workshop evaluations (North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) were not available as the agents did not share them with us.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

1. One workshop in Asheville, North Carolina.
2. 2- new workshops were developed and held in North Carolina.
3. 3- New workshops were developed and held in Georgia, 2 in
Dillard and one in Oakhurt, Georgia.
4. Workshop in Clemson, South Carolina.
5. Symposium in Savannah Georgia.

Agritourism Manual
Food regulations in GA
All materials are available online at NCState and UGA

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

There are a number of potential contributions arising from this grant. The Georgia Association and Tennessee Faculty position will continue to contribute the the efforts provided in this grant. The Tennessee Tech faculty position will train students on how to operate and manage agritourism venues. This is currently not available in a formal education in Tennessee. In Georgia, the association has been working closely with the GA Deportment of Agriculture who is currently seeking to hire a full time agritourism coordinator. This position will allow agritourism to be officially represented as a state ag commodity and will allow additional state resources to come into play.

Future Recommendations

From working on this project, it became aware that regulations and zoning play a big impact on the viability of an agritourism project. Counties in "transition" from rural or suburban have a hard time incorporating agritourism into their regulations. These counties like the green space but feel the need to tax agritourism operations as a commercial business. Agritourism operations cannot afford to pay commercial taxes on their operations and this had caused some conflict and hardship. This is an area that needs additional research and review.

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.