This project provided a research-based, Colorado-specific curriculum and strong local producer networks to establish and support agritourism as a viable alternative enterprise for Colorado’s ag producers. Nine one-day training workshops educated 264 participants, including producers (63%), federal, state and local agency staff (14%), educators (7%), community tourism members (8%), media (3%), and other support organizations (7%). Sixty-four percent of participants reported that they had formed new partnerships in their communities related to agritourism. Several regional initiatives are now supported by professional staff who received training and resources under this project, 44% of whom indicated that they had been contacted by farmers and ranchers interested in learning more about agritourism, 63% had been able to discuss ideas with producers, and 53% had referred producers to the project materials.
The two primary objectives of this project were to:
1. Directly impact the economic sustainability of producers in Colorado by providing business technical assistance to producers and their business support systems (Cooperative Extension, NRCS personnel, Chambers of Commerce, economic development corporations, small business development centers, community college staff) on the unique business, land resource and customer managements issues associated with agritourism enterprises in different areas of Colorado. We will highlight alternative marketing approaches and assess the managerial economics of alternative agricultural systems such as those integrating service-oriented and conservation-based agritourism.
2. Contribute to the economic viability of rural communities by providing professional development to producers’ business support systems on topics such as joint marketing and promotional programs, necessary investments in tourism infrastructure (lodging, regional visitor centers) and enhanced referral programs among businesses and organizations.
Tourism based on agricultural resources (agritourism) and local history and lifestyles (heritage tourism) is a growing sector in Colorado, with strong potential for income generation in rural counties. Smaller-scale agricultural producers have long struggled to maintain profitable family-based businesses in the face of rising input costs (especially transportation and labor), variable commodity prices, highly seasonal income streams, and uncertain access to water for production agriculture. As a result, Colorado agricultural business owners desiring to remain in production agriculture increasingly look to diversify their operations by marketing new products and services directly to customers interested in leisure and tourism.
Successfully tapping a service-oriented market requires a different skill set than production-based agriculture. For example, adding an agritourism enterprise involves: a) changing farm or ranch financial and business management; b) understanding visitor tastes and preferences; c) developing new marketing techniques; d) adapting land and water management to the new enterprise; e) knowledge of private and public resources to support these management changes; and f) understanding potential liability and risk issues. Communities across the state have begun exploring opportunities to expand the presence and economic impact of agritourism and related enterprises, based on significant natural amenities or cultural/historical sites and events. Yet in many rural areas, attracting and retaining tourists is a major obstacle, given the lack of cooperative promotion, planning and visitor hosting skills in rural communities, as well as the geographic dispersion of agricultural businesses. To build and sustain successful agriculture-based tourism, communities must integrate knowledge and provide leadership for joint planning about: a) visitor perceptions and needs; b) local goals for protecting and promoting community assets and culture; c) local tourism infrastructure (transportation, hotels, dining, shopping); and d) improved producer-level business planning, management and marketing skills, in order to bring non-resident tourists to Colorado’s rural areas, and grow a strong resident consumer base.
A 2005 Colorado Department of Agriculture survey of 105 producers engaged in agritourism shows that many of their identified constraints involved a lack of information on liability, insurance, visitor safety, advertising, county regulations, and funding options. There are existing resources that could, in part, meet the information needs of agritourism business owners. Many state Departments of Agriculture and tourism offices now specifically advertise agritourism businesses through print materials and Web sites. There are also general resources for agritourism and related businesses (nature tourism and heritage tourism) directed at agricultural producers and other agriculture professionals (see literature cited), as well as compilations of references. These resources provide a starting point from which to further build a training and assistance program for agritourism and related businesses, and to create regional business partnerships, based on Colorado’s unique geographical and land use attributes.
A review of these existing materials reveals, however, that certain topics must be more fully addressed to meet Colorado’s diverse agritourism industry, including: a) assessing cost and management implications of adding specific agritourism services to an existing business (i.e., developing budgets for enterprises such as bird-watching, hunting, fishing, special events hosting, corn mazes and other agritainment); b) accessing Farm Bill Title II Conservation program funding (as well as private sources of funding) to enhance the natural resource base of agricultural operations for sustainable, low-impact tourism; c) using current consumer market research to effectively reach in-state and out-of-state visitors to increase visitation; d) helping communities understand the costs and benefits realized by promoting and providing agritourism and heritage tourism experiences; and e) building regional partnerships and co-promoting agritourism businesses with other rural tourism businesses to develop a regional identity (brand) and to build market share. A Colorado-specific training curriculum—delivered through three hands-on workshops and bolstered by producer-to-producer mentoring—is essential for producers and communities if Colorado hopes to successfully meet the needs of its diverse and expanding agritourism industry, and develop regional capacity to nurture agritourism businesses.
Overall, tourism is growing in economic importance in Colorado, but there are overlooked opportunities that would increase its impact in rural areas. For example, from the 1980s to the 1990s, the basic travel and tourism industries’ share of gross state product grew about 20% in Colorado, and overnight visitors brought an estimated $8.2 billion into the state’s economy in 2005 (Colorado Tourism Office, 2005 Longwoods report). However, 70% of these visitors to Colorado came from out of state in 2005, (2005 Longwoods report), implying a large untapped share of in-state visitors who may be seeking rural recreation in other states and to whom agritourism activities can be marketed. Second, according to the 2005 Longwoods Visitor Profile, visitors to Colorado believe skiing is the state’s primary activity, which concentrates visitors in mountain resort communities to the detriment of Colorado’s other rural areas. Increasing the number of tourists, duration of their visits, and resulting economic impact on Colorado’s agriculture-based and other rural businesses will provide more local tax revenues (i.e., every dollar spent on advertising by the Tourism Board in 2004 yielded $9.12 in local tax revenue), and help to sustain local enterprises (lodging, dining and arts, among others).
However, Colorado’s agritourism industry faces a broad range of geographic and land use challenges and complexities, including federal, state and local policies that predetermine (or at a minimum, directly influence) available financial resources, effective promotional strategies, possible collaborative partnerships and regional economic development strategies. For example, non-renewable energy development in some Colorado counties is changing the recreation value of public lands which may, in turn, alter the potential for tourism development on associated private lands. At the local level, county land use policies may preclude certain types of agricultural businesses from operating within rural residential areas or may prohibit certain types of promotional signage. Furthermore, sheer distance between agricultural operations in some areas of Colorado shapes how rural areas can define themselves, and effectively integrate and promote agritourism enterprises within their tourism sectors. Producers need to be aware of all constraints and opportunities influencing future viability of any proposed agritourism business in order to make balanced, knowledgeable decisions.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
The methods used to meet these objectives involved the following:
1. Studying the programs and publications that were already in existence at the time this grant was awarded. We found that, although there was increasing awareness about the producer opportunities for agritourism, there was little recognition of the community implications and possibilities, and little in-depth, organized information on building a sustainable agritourism business in Colorado, nor the professional supports that would be helpful to agricultural producers. Ultimately we located several programs whose progress we decided to emulate and whose materials we built upon. One program which provided us with a good procedural example was the Oklahoma Agritourism Program; in addition, the Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture allowed us to use some of their research as a springboard for our own Colorado-specific materials.
2. Developing a complete curriculum to guide the supporting organizations working with agricultural producers and making that curriculum widely available through training, handouts of the curriculum chapters in notebook format, and CDs. This curriculum is also available on the dedicated website we developed and intend to maintain in partnership with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, www.coloradoagritourism.com.
3. Holding 9 training workshops around the state to bring a diverse group of participants together, including key service providers for agricultural producers (see agendas in Appendix A). Each workshop lasted one day and was tailored to the needs of the community. We used a panel of experienced agritourism producers to stimulate discussion about realistic opportunities and constraints facing farmers and ranchers who integrate a non-commodity oriented product or service into their traditional agricultural operation. This also provided participants with the chance to meet one-on-one with an experienced agritourism operator.
4. Attending and presenting at 19 conferences and meetings where our team was able to present information on Colorado agritourism, including the results of our consumer survey, our producer inventory (which helped focus on the issues most relevant to creating successful agritourism businesses). These meetings and conferences ranged from a local ag advisory board to a state conference on tourism or agriculture to a national risk management meeting. We also used project materials and experiences to guest lecture in Colorado State University courses on marketing and integrated resource management.
5. Supporting regional tourism initiatives that are based on community and agricultural development goals. Four regional initiatives directly benefited from this project, including Northwest Colorado (now comprising 5 counties), Southwest Colorado (3 counties), Southeast Colorado (6 counties) and Northern Colorado (2 counties). Another region, the San Luis Valley (6 counties), benefited from 2 presentations on opportunities in agritourism but hasn’t advanced much in terms of agritourism promotion compared to the other three regions.
6. Providing leadership to encourage the national MarketMaker network to integrate agritourism enterprises and designations into the development of Colorado MarketMaker (www.comarketmaker.com). Colorado MarketMaker is a web-based tool for locating and mapping agricultural producers, farmers markets, restaurants, and wholesalers and retailers. The primary advantage of this integration is moving all the agritourism enterprises listed in the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s text directory into a searchable, easily-updateable format. Also as more states adopt MarketMaker, Colorado agritourism enterprises will be searchable to potential visitors and customers from those states, providing another (low-cost) vehicle for marketing Colorado agritourism.
Outreach and Publications
1) Gascoigne, W., M. Sullins and D. Thilmany McFadden. 2008. “Agritourism in the West: Exploring the Behavior of Colorado Farm and Ranch Visitors. Western Economics Forum. Fall. Vol. 7.
2) Sullins, M, D. Moxon and D. Thilmany McFadden. 2010. “Agritourism in Colorado: A Cluster Analysis of Visitors” Journal of Agribusiness (forthcoming).
EDR 07-15. D. Thilmany, M. Sullins, and A. Ansteth. Of Wine and Wildlife: Assessing Market Potential for Colorado Agritourism. June 2007. 8 pp.
EDR 07-16. D. Thilmany, A. Ansteth, and M. Sullins. Colorado’s Agritourists: Who are the Adventurers, the Seekers, and the Explorers? July, 2007. 10 pp.
EDR 07-17. M. Sullins and D. Thilmany. Agritourism in Colorado: A Closer Look at Regional Trends. July, 2007. 7 pp.
EDR 07-24. D. Thilmany, M. Sullins, and A. Anseth. The 2006 Economic Contribution of Agritourism to Colorado: Estimates from a Survey of Colorado Tourists. November 2007. 9 pp.
EDR 08-09. Y. Onozaka, M. Sullins, and D. Thilmany. The Future of Colorado Agritourism: A Look at Current and Future Participation Decisions. September 2008. 10 pp.
AMR 09-05. M. Phillips, D. Thilmany McFadden, and M. Sullins.
Social Networking and Marketing for Colorado’s Agricultural Producers
December 2009. 9 pp.
AMR 10-01. M. Phillips, D. Thilmany McFadden, and M. Sullins. Possible Roles for Social Networking in Agritourism Development.March 2010. 9pp.
1) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Agritourism in Colorado: Exploring the Market’s Potential. Presentation to Larimer County Agricultural Advisory Board. March 2007. Fort Collins, CO. 20 participants.
2) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Agritourism in Colorado: Exploring the Market’s Potential. Presentation to the Arkansas River Basin Water Users Forum. April 2007. Rocky Ford, CO. 85 participants.
3) Thilmany, D., J. Wilson and M. Sullins. The Contribution of Agritourism to Colorado’s Economy: Initial Results from a Regional Survey. Selected paper presented at the 2007 Western Agricultural Economics Association meetings. Portland OR July 2007.
4) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Assessing the Market Potential for Colorado Agritourism. Presentation at Gamma Sigma Delta seminar. August 2007. Fort Collins, CO. 8 participants.
5) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. What Are Tourists Looking For? Presentation at the 2007 Governor’s Conference on Tourism. October 2007. Grand Junction CO. 75 participants.
6) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Agritourism in Colorado: The Visitors, the Economics and the Opportunities. Presentation at 2008 Governors Conference on Agriculture, February 2008, Denver, 35 participants.
7) Thilmany, D. and M. Sullins. “Agritourism in Colorado.” Invited Speaker to the National SARE Conference. Kansas City, MO. March 2008.
8) Thilmany, D. “Agritourism in the West: Understanding the Visitors and Emerging Opportunities.” Invited Speaker to the Southwest Marketing Network Conference, Santa Fe, NM. May 2008.
9) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Positioning for the Future: Agritourism in Colorado, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention. June 2008. Colorado Springs, 30 participants.
10) Thilmany, D., M. Sullins and W. Gasciogne. “The Economic Contribution of Agritourism to Colorado.” Selected Paper for the 2008 Western Agricultural Economics Association meetings. Big Sky, MT. June 2008.
11) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Agritourism and Risk Management for Business Owners. Presentation at the first annual Colorado Entrepreneurial MarketPlace. October 2008. La Junta Colorado. 30 participants.
12) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Diversifying Ag Operations: The Role of Agritourism. Lecture in CSU AREC 311 marketing class. November 2008. 65 participants.
13) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Mitigating Risk in Agritourism Enterprises, presentation for Western Center for Risk Management Education and National USDA RMA conference, March 2009. Reno, NV. 20 participants.
14) Thilmany McFadden, D. and M. Sullins. “Agritourism in Colorado: The Visitors, the Economics and the Opportunities.” Presentation to CSU Integrated Resource Management graduate class. March 2009.
15) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Agritourism in the San Luis Valley, presentation to San Luis Valley Tourism Association on community-level benefits of agritourism development for the region. April 2009. 43 participants.
16) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Value-Added Enterprises on CRP & Managed Grasslands, presentation on value-added agriculture (including agritourism) at Conservation Reserve Program Summit for Southeastern CO in Lamar. May 2009. 30 participants.
17) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Diversifying Ag Operations: The Role of Agritourism. Lecture in CSU AREC 311 marketing class. November 2009. 60 participants.
18) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Let’s Talk Agritourism, Presentation at San Luis Valley Tourism Conference, Alamosa, February 2010. 85 participants.
19) M. Sullins and Thilmany McFadden, D. Colorado Agritourism, Colorado, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention. June 2010, 45 participants.
1) Interviews on agritourism:
a) Colorado Public Radio (August 2007)
b) CSU TV (September 2007)
c) Interviewed by Ed Maixner of the Kiplinger Agriculture Letter, January 17, 2008 on agritourism in Colorado
2) Popular Press:
a) Great American Agriculture (August 2007)
b) Boulder Eat Local publication (August 2007)
c) Boulder Daily Camera (November 2007)
d) Western Center for Risk Management Education, Interview for article on agritourism project (September 2009)
In summary, project outreach includes 9 regional workshops each featuring curriculum presentations and producer panels, 19 presentations to state, local and business organizations, distribution of 230 workbooks and 145 CDs containing the curriculum, and 264 individuals who received direct training through one-day agritourism workshops. Evaluations conducted during, as well as 6 to 12 months following the workshops, point to the following learning and behavior outcomes for producers and ag professionals who benefited from this project:
• Prior to attending the one-day workshops, participants reported that they had the least knowledge in understanding resources available for agritourism operations (mean knowledge level of 2.7 out 5) and in assessing their liability exposure and ability to mitigate risk (mean knowledge level of 2.6 out 5). Following the workshops, participants reported their knowledge levels to be 3.8 and 3.9 respectively.
• Participants described a wide array of possible actions they intended to take following the workshops, but all indicated that they would collaborate with neighbors and network in their communities.
• When surveyed several months following the workshops, on average, 62% of producers said they had studied the impact of agritourism on their businesses since the workshop, and 25% of those who said they had not wanted additional technical assistance to study agritourism with respect to their own businesses.
• 44% of ag producers said they had evaluated how agritourism affects their labor and managerial situations, while 58% had developed either a new agritourism enterprise or had targeted a new potential visitor segment following the workshop they attended.
• 61% of producers indicated that they had either applied new information or tools for managing risk or started to apply it to their businesses, and 48% said they were using new marketing channels since the workshop.
• 100% of ag professional respondents saw opportunities for agritourism in their communities, and 38% had received requests for marketing assistance from producers, while 25% had received requests for information on financial planning for agritourism. Only a few (13%) had received requests for information from ag producers about their production plans or evaluating their resource base.
• 60% of ag professionals had visited the www.Coloradoagritourism.com Web site since attending the workshop, and another 7% intended to do so. Fifty-six percent had referred to their “Planning for Success” workbook or other materials they received during the workshop, while another 25% said that they intended to do so. Lastly, 53% had referred ag producers or other community members to resources presented in the workshops or workbook/materials, and another 13% said they intended to do this.
- Colorado’s Agritourists: Who are the Adventurers, the Seekers, and the Explorers?
- Agritourism in Colorado: A Closer Look at Regional Trends
- The Future of Colorado Agritourism: A Look at Current and Future Participation Decisions
- Social Networking and Marketing for Colorado’s Agricultural Producers
- Agritourism in the West
- Of Wine and Wildlife: Assessing the Market Potential for Colorado Agritourism
- Possible Roles for Social Networking in Agritourism Development
- The 2006 Economic Contribution of Agritourism to Colorado: Estimates from a Survey of Colorado Tourists
1. In order to create an agritourism curriculum, we integrated diverse information sources and created new documents and worksheets to help agricultural producers and their advisors better assess their resource base for agritourism, understand the legal and regulatory risks involved in agritourism, and understand market research and access for agritourism products and services.
Curriculum development team: Resource assessment (Dennis Kaan, CSU Extension Golden Plains area director), assessment worksheets (Martha Sullins, CSU Extension County Information Service); Engaging Family and Community (Deb Alpe, CSU Extension Jackson County); Business Planning (Merle Rhoades, Morgan Community College); Marketing and Evolving Your Business (Dawn Thilmany McFadden, CSU Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics); Risk Management (Kathie Riley, attorney; Linda Phillips, attorney; Martha Sullins); Regulations (Martha Sullins); Safety Considerations (Martha Sullins); Agritourism Resources (Wendy White, Colorado Department of Agriculture Markets Division; Martha Sullins)
2. The curriculum we compiled and developed contains the following elements:
1) Planning for Agritourism
(a) Agritourism Resource Assessment
(b) Potential Agritourism Enterprises Worksheet
(c) Farm Ranch Work Calendar
(d) Example Task Analysis
(e) Defining Your Servicescape
2) Engaging Your Family & Community
(a) Engaging Family and Community
(b) Family Business Partner Worksheet
(c) Community Resource Worksheet
(d) Resources and References
3) Business Planning
(a) Business Plans
(b) Financial Management and Analysis
(c) Financial Statements
(d) Risk to Resilience Financial Analysis Worksheet
4) Marketing Agritourism
(a) Branding and Positioning Your Product: Marketing for Success
(b) Marketing Planning
(c) Niche Markets
(d) Marketing and Promotions Factsheet
(e) Strategic Marketing Worksheet
5) Evolving Your Business
(a) Growth, Change or Exit: Strategic Positioning of your Firm for the Future
6) Risk Management
(a) Risk Management
(b) Liability Issues
(c) Top Ten Ways to Limit Your Liability
(d) Insurance for Agritourism Enterprises
(e) Agritourism Business Structures
8) Safety Considerations
(a) Safety Considerations
(b) Worksite Guide
(c) Policies and Procedures
9) Agritourism Resources
(a) Agritourism Resource Guide
(b) County Health Departments
(c) Colorado Birding Resources
This curriculum has been presented at 9 CSU-led workshops (see Appendix A for workshop agendas), and elements of it have been presented at 19 other national, state and local meetings and conferences.
Curriculum delivery team: See Appendix A for workshop agendas and speakers.
3. In order to reach as many agricultural producers, ag professionals, and community groups as possible, we held agritourism planning and business development workshops in the following locations around the state:
1) January 25, 2008: Steamboat Springs, producer and community support workshop (organizers: CJ Mucklow CSU Extension Routt County and Deb Alpe)
2) February 22, 2008: Akron, producer and community support workshop (organizer: Dennis Kaan and Rich Mullaney RC&D coordinator)
3) March 10, 2008: La Junta, producer and community support workshop (organizer: Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Tourism group, Otero Junior College staff)
4) April 21, 2008: Delta, producer and community support workshop (organizer: Robbie LeValley CSU Extension Tri River Area)
5) April 22, 2008: Cortez, producer and community support workshop (organizers: Tom Hooten CSU Extension Montezuma County and Lynn Dyer Cortez Cultural Center/Mesa Verde Tourism)
6) January 21, 2009: Cortez for Montezuma County & Cortez Cultural Center to assist business owners and help communities better support these businesses through coordinated marketing, promotion and developing community-wide business assistance and resources (organizers: Tom Hooten CSU Extension Montezuma County and Lynn Dyer Cortez Cultural Center/Mesa Verde Tourism)
7) January 30, 2009: Byers targeted toward Eastern Plains communities and Denver metro area (Wendy White and Martha Sullins)
8) March 23, 2010: Steamboat Springs, producer and community support workshop (organizers: CJ Mucklow CSU Extension Routt County and Deb Alpe)
9) April 14, 2010: Walsenburg for Huerfano County Tourism, producer and community support workshop (Dean Oatman CSU Extension and Edie Flanagin Huerfano County Tourism)
Key elements to the success of these workshops were that:
• Colorado State University has a very productive and effective relationship with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, in addition to other state and local organizations. These relationships enabled us to leverage additional project resources, and assemble and present a diverse curriculum on agritourism business development in a wide array of venues, specifically adapted to Colorado producers.
• The producer panels we assembled for each workshop showed the importance of networking with other community partners and provided participants with contacts they could use after the workshop. In essence, we believe there is an important balance between building capacity for business owners and for community in our programs.
• We encouraged discussions about community possibilities and constraints and other issues impacting business development in each region that allowed participants to explore potential solutions or compromises (key issues included signage, availability of liability insurance, and barriers presented by planning and zoning regulations in some areas of the state). In some cases, we were able to use other CSU resources to “seed” small projects that were envisioned by regions.
• We held workshops in as many diverse locations as there was interest expressed by a community group. Since producers have limited time to travel, we took the resources to them as much as possible.
Workshops were attended primarily by farmers and ranchers (163 total or 63%), followed by educators (i.e., Extension but excluding any presenters– 18 or 7% total), staff from federal, state and local agencies (36 total or 14%), community tourism members (20 total or 8%), members of the media (7 total or 3%), and other affiliations (mostly of ag support organizations and non-profits – 18 total or 7%). Many workshop participants had some degree of knowledge of agritourism (64%), and 17% were in the planning stages of an agritourism enterprise (see Appendix C for workshop participant evaluation results).
While we did not reach the projected number of agricultural professionals and community development staff we had targeted with intensive education and training, two points bear mentioning. First, in many cases, we were able to reach them through other state and local conferences and meetings (listed later in the report). They gained exposure to the materials and the knowledge that there were agritourism resources available for producers and their supporting organizations. For example, after we presented at the San Luis Valley Tourism Association’s annual meeting, the Huerfano County Tourism director asked us to conduct a one-day workshop in Walsenburg that would reach producers in Huerfano county and also several surrounding counties. Second, we did find even if we didn’t have greater numbers of agricultural professionals and community development staff at each training workshop, we did have the participation of the few who were key support individuals in their communities and were well-known and respected by their client groups. The list of fruitful partnerships formed speaks to the technical and community support infrastructure that was developed under this project.
4. We attended 19 local, state and national conferences and meetings where we had the opportunity to present results from our prior agritourism research and selected elements from our curriculum materials, depending on the audience (see Outreach below), as well as input gathered from our workshops. For example, we discussed specific producer constraints to agritourism development, as well as the information that producers most wanted to locate (see Appendix C for workshop participant evaluation results which helped inform these discussions). This wide exposure generated a lot of publicity and news coverage concerning agritourism, resulting in the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) recognizing agritourism as a niche sector. CTO subsequently featured agritourism at their annual Governor’s Tourism Conference two times and, in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, formed a state level committee to support agritourism with marketing assistance.
5. There are four areas of the state that are currently showing significant potential for agritourism business development, within the context of regional tourism initiatives. The post workshop producer surveys show that overall, 64% had formed new partnerships in their communities related to agritourism. Several participants mentioned collaboration and partnerships as a means to managing risk in their agritourism operations (an important finding since one of the major business constraints/risks mentioned was the economic downturn).
Therefore, we can categorize our most successful and engaged regional project participants as follows: 1) they are open to partnerships with other local and regional organizations; 2) they now have identified one or two specific goals; and 3) they are already doing some marketing of their agritourism enterprise upon which their communities can build and represent important catalysts in community initiatives that have emerged.
Region 1-Southwestern Colorado (Montezuma and La Plata Counties): Work in this area is based on contacts with 50 agricultural business entities whose producer/owners are either interested in agritourism or have already been involved in agritourism but are looking to make changes in their enterprises (adding a new enterprise or expanding one). From two workshops that we conducted in this area, it is clear that the producers who have benefited most from this project are those who are in business development transition. Overall, although we did have some very experienced agritourism producers attend our workshops, we concluded that they had very specific legal or insurance related issues that fell outside of our ongoing technical assistance. Instead we referred them to insurance companies that provide coverage for agritourism businesses or to an attorney specializing in agricultural and recreational issues. This attorney was present at all but 2 of our nine workshops to answer general questions on agritourism for the benefit of all participants.
Specific outcomes from this project for agricultural business owners in the Southwest region are:
? Pelican Acres Alpaca Farm-working on their business plan, investigating legislation through the alpaca association to expand the state statute covering equine and llama activities to include alpacas.
? Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch-they have developed a new Web site (new marketing channel), and are looking at enterprise diversification activities such as a bed and breakfast, a residential ranch experience, hiking, camping, producing organic vegetables and fruit to sell at area farmers markets and possibly to restaurants.
? Battlerock Farm-this is an organic farm exploring the development of internships to support an agricultural education program that would allow visitors to learn more about organic production techniques. They are still refining their business plan.
? Blue Mountain Gardens-this is an organic farm operation whose owner is developing a business plan to expand production to sell in farmers markets and looking at how to educate visitors to their farm.
? Turning Beyond Ranch-Currently has a B&B, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The owner is interested in improving marketing and business plan development to produce pork and beef for direct marketing.
? Confluence Farm-Has completed a business plan and taken action on some important organizational legal details as a step toward expanding their CSA, adding a U-pick pumpkin and winter squash patch, and selling produce both on-farm and at Mancos Farmers Market.
Mesa Verde Tourism, along with Colorado State University Extension in Montezuma County, have become the primary professional development contacts for producers in the Four Corners region of Colorado. Mesa Verde Tourism has just launched a page on its Web site entitled “Agricultural Adventures” (http://www.mesaverdecountry.com/tourism/agriadv.html) which shows the new banner (tagline: “Touch the Past, Touch the Plenty”) that will help travelers locate agritourism businesses or plan iteneraries for their visit to the region. This Web site will eventually feature the region’s visitor-ready agritourism businesses. This marketing initiative stems from a $50,000 grant secured by the tourism bureau in August 2008 to support farmers markets and agritourism, resulting from ideas developed following our first agritourism workshop in the Southwest. A recent Denver Post article profiles the development of agritourism in this region, http://www.denverpost.com/coloradosunday/ci_15926703.
Region 2- Southeastern Colorado (Kiowa, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers, Baca Counties): Work in this area involves supporting a handful of emerging agritourism businesses in a very isolated area located approximately 3 hours from Denver. Agritourism operators are supported by an umbrella organization, Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Tourism, and their businesses focus on birdwatching and ranch tours. These operations have significant natural amenities, but the primary obstacle to their business growth is effective marketing to potential visitors, a particularly significant barrier given the remote distances of some locations. Because most visitors find these businesses on the Internet, we have assisted both Arena Dust Tours (Prowers County: lesser prairie chicken viewing and ranch tours/stays, http://www.arenadusttours.com/index.html) and Canyon Journeys (Baca County: bird watching, paleontologic tours, ranch stays- http://www.heritagejourneytours.com/) with Web-based marketing.
We also used a mentor from Oklahoma to help the owner of Horseshoe Bend Ranch in Kiowa County to develop marketing and risk management strategies. The owner, Violet Lane, who offered ranch stays, has put her business development plans on hold following the illness of her father-in-law. We have also been providing business plan development assistance to a group of 6 business owners who want to develop a tour called “Traveling the Granada Wagon Road” which would provide educational journeys depicting life along a part of the Santa Fe Trail, conveyed by local historians, ranch hands, and other professionals. This project is still in its planning stages but represents another way of connecting visitors with the region’s agricultural history.
In addition to geographic isolation, another limiting factor in this area is the very modest dining and lodging offerings which, in combination with the distance, preclude many visitors from traveling to the region. To this end, we focused much of our Southeast Colorado workshop on discussing the possibilities for collaborative marketing and business referrals to other agritourism and heritage enterprises, especially among those offering innovative lodging and dining experiences.
Region 3- Northwest Colorado (Routt, Jackson and Moffat Counties): In this region, the primary indicator of success has been a movement toward community-building around agritourism and agricultural heritage activities. The Community Agriculture Alliance and Northwest Colorado Products have been promoting the region’s agricultural history. The first community event, centered around this new project, is the re-opening of an historic grain elevator in Hayden, in Routt County (http://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2009/jan/25/family_revamp_hayden_landmark_offer_coffee_and_tre/). One of the owners of this elevator is a rancher who attended our workshop and is dedicated to historical preservation and local culture. The grain elevator will be a community gathering place and the owners have already held other activities at the site, including a plant sale and plant exchange, and an artisans market.
Although there are many competing interests in this region (which encompasses resort communities and those supporting oil and gas extraction), these two organizations are supporting agricultural events and products that tie into the community fabric, including the Villard Ranch (http://www.villardranch.com/home), sheep wagon days and Extension-led ranch tours (http://communityagalliance.org/2009_Ranch_Tour_Media_Info_Sheet.pdf). Villard Ranch and Sheep Wagon Days were the focus of a fact sheet developed on the effectiveness of social media-which we investigated as a low-cost marketing tool for agritourism operators and community organizations involved in agricultural and heritage tourism.
Both of our workshops in this region pointed to planning and zoning issues that can make it difficult for agricultural business owners to enter into certain enterprises such as small-scale lodging (which is regulated so as not to compete with the resort industry), however, a risk management outcome in this region is the possibility for ag business owners to develop other marketable experiences for visitors and residents. There is also a strong interest in redeveloping the local food system, as many people view this as one way to raise interest in agriculture among visitors to the resorts.
Region 4 – Northern Colorado (Larimer and Weld counties) is integrating agritourism into its combined plan economic development plan based on tourism for Larimer and Weld counties. The group, the Northern Colorado Cultural Tourism Alliance (NCCTA) has already identified at least 38 agritourism enterprises in the two counties (see list in Appendix D). Activities to-date include:
1. developing a two-county asset inventory (all current and potential visitable sites);
2. developing an RFP to hire a consultant to write a strategic plan;
3. organizing Northern CO strategic plan development with consultants;
4. holding 3 public meetings across Larimer county to solicit input on sites to include in the strategic plan and in any marketing materials developed by NCCTA;
5. developing Phase I of the regional strategic plan online at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/cis/noco-tourism.pdf, with site maps online at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/cis/site-maps.pdf; and
6. initiating Phase II, Weld County’s strategic plan development.
6. Colorado MarketMaker (CMM), developed under the University of Illinois’ National MarketMaker Project, came online in Colorado in February 2009. Until August 2010, producers and farmers markets were searchable online, but there was no search function for agritourism. We are now encouraging producers to use CMM for two purposes: 1) to increase visibility of their enterprises on the Web; and 2) to research competitors and understand pricing better through CMM’s search engine.
Looking to the future, there are several indicators of long-term sustainability of the foundation laid by this project:
1. Diverse partnerships around the state working together to support agritourism
o Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Tourism group
o Colorado Department of Agriculture, Markets Division
o Northern Colorado Cultural Tourism Alliance
o Colorado Heritage Tourism Program
o Colorado Wine Industry Development Board
o Colorado Tourism Office
o Colorado Division of Wildlife
o Mesa Verde Country
o Cortez Cultural Center
o San Luis Valley Tourism Association
o Delta County Tourism
o Northwest Colorado Products/Community Ag Alliance
o Greeley Convention & Visitors Bureau
o Weld County Planning Department
o Larimer County Planning Department
o Fort Collins Convention & Visitors Bureau
o Rural Land Use Center (Larimer County)
o Department of Local Affairs, Division of Local Government
o Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority
o Rocky Ford Growth & Progress (Otero County)
o Colorado Cattlemen’s Association
o Huerfano County Tourism
2. The State Agritourism Committee, the outgrowth of a new partnership between the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Tourism Office, which includes Colorado State University Extension, as well as the Colorado Farmers Market Association, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, May Farms, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Delta County Tourism, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association, Colorado Council on the Arts, and Desert Moon Vineyards.
3. Regional initiatives around the state which are ongoing and supported by professional staff who received training and resources under this project. It is encouraging that, even in a recession, 44% of the ag professionals indicated that they had been contacted by farmers and ranchers interested in learning more about agritourism, 63% had been able to discuss ideas with producers, and 53% had referred producers to the project materials (see the professional staff evaluation summary in Appendix C).
4. A complete agritourism curriculum and research-based factsheets available in several formats around the state, including on the web site, www.coloradoagritourism.com. The Markets Division of the Colorado Department of Agriculture is dedicated to maintaining this site, and working with National MarketMaker to integrate the two databases.
- Akron Colorado Agritourism Workshop Agenda Feb 2008
- Ag professional post workshop evaluation summary results
- Byers Colorado Agritourism Workshop Agenda Jan 2009
- Cortez Business Tech Agritourism Workshop Agenda Jan 2009
- Delta Colorado Agritourism Workshop Agenda April 2008
- La Junta Colorado Agritourism Workshop Agenda March 2008
- Steamboat I Agritourism Workshop Agenda Jan 2008
- Steamboat II Agritourism Workshop Agenda March 2010
- Agritourism sites in Northern Colorado August 2010
- Example post workshop producer survey form
- Workshop evaluation results summary
- Example workshop evaluation form
- Example post workshop ag professional survey form
- Cortez Colorado Agritourism Workshop Agenda April 2008
- Walsenburg Colorado Agritourism Workshop Agenda April 2010
- Producer post workshop evaluation summary results
The major accomplishment of this project is the recognition of agritourism within the state of Colorado, as a viable tourism sector and a viable alternative agricultural enterprise. This has resulted in new producer networks, most of which are supported by Extension staff who helped to produce the agritourism workshops, and who continue to support producer development through regional initiatives (especially in southwest, northwest, and north-central Colorado).
Second to the recognition of agritourism is the increased availability of resources for both producers and for their technical advisors. This includes additional marketing supported through the Colorado Tourism Office and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, research and producer support through Colorado State University Extension and the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and additional producer support through the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and various chambers of commerce and local tourism entities around the state.
A few outcomes were unexpected during the course of this project. The primary unexpected results of this project are related to how individuals decided to manage risk in planning and developing their agritourism enterprises. First, participants really emphasized community partnerships as a way to share marketing risk (as seen through community Web sites, referrals to other agritourism businesses, and new organizations focused on promotional events). We didn’t anticipate that so many producers had initially overlooked networking with community partners. However, one of the most rewarding outcomes was the number who realized the resources they could leverage, and the market share they could potentially increase by forming new partnerships both with community resource providers (chambers of commerce, economic developers) and with other service providers (especially lodging establishments).
Second we found that, in some cases, it takes a very long time to grow agritourism on an individual business level, as well as a community level, especially since some communities were starting with virtually no agritourism infrastructure and knowledge, and the workshops illustrated the detail and consideration that must be taken to successfully establish and manage all the risks inherent in a tourism enterprise. We did provide project participants with a lot of information to use in evaluating their ability and resources to engage in agritourism, and many participants did consider the resource analysis and planning steps very carefully. Furthermore, the current economic downturn has impacted visitation to many agritourism operations as consumers change their travel behavior, so some producers are estimating that there is not currently enough demand for their service to move past the planning stage into implementation (more than one-third of all producers surveyed 6 months to one year following a workshop stated that economic conditions were constraining their current agritourism business development decisions).
Lastly, we did not anticipate the demand for producer-oriented agritourism workshops in Colorado. We conducted 9 workshops over the course of the project, two half-day seminars for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and many overview presentations about agritourism (including the Governor’s Ag Outlook Conference, Governor’s Tourism Conference, Colorado Entrepreneurial MarketPlace and Northwest Community Ag Alliance, the San Luis Valley Tourism Association, and the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts).
The essential contributions to ag professional and producer understanding of agritourism in Colorado are several-fold:
1. Linking producers to one another and to ag professional staff through local agritourism workshops. Given the limited degree to which producers communicate with one another about agritourism, we were able to highlight some potential mentors for producers (including Extension staff who are playing an extremely important role in regional agritourism development).
2. The curriculum provides an on-the-shelf resource for the technical advisors supporting agritourism around the state. Fifty-six percent indicated that they had referred to their Planning for Success materials, and 31% had distributed handouts following the workshops. One hundred percent of those technical advisors surveyed said they would recommend the workshop to other professionals.
3. The curriculum and factsheets are references for other states interested in stimulating agritourism development. To that end, we sent all the project materials, including survey instruments to Ohio State University for them to use as a springboard for their own programming.
1. Have a method for expecting deliverables within a specific timeframe. Perhaps it is also the nature of this project that people need time to explore agritourism as it might work for their specific businesses, but it was hard for us to deliver an introductory curriculum and then follow up with specific business planning assistance. When we did a second workshop in Mancos in the Southwest, for example, we still had problems getting participants to fill out their business plans, as some had shifted their intentions after the first workshop so they were basically “starting from scratch”. It is fair to say that we over-estimated the speed at which producers would make business decisions based on agritourism, a situation that was exacerbated by the recession that began in 2008. However, evaluations from the follow-up workshop in southwest Colorado indicate that participants gained a lot of knowledge from the process, especially in understanding the role legal business structures to protect business and personal assets and liability coverage for agritourism enterprises. Participants rated their overall change in perceived knowledge higher for this workshop than for any other, illustrating the benefits of more intensive work with individual producers.
2. Our goals for this project were probably too broad in that we wanted to educate a large number of producers and then move into business planning with them, while at the same time develop capacity among ag professional staff as technical advisors. In reality, we were successful in reaching a large group of ag producers and their technical advisors and providing them with important risk management evaluation information and community development networks that they could use to make business planning and implementation decisions. We were also able to respond to requests from organizations that support producer development. However, because we continued to respond to requests for workshops and presentations from around the state, we invested less in following up with individual business owners on the status of their business plans and offering one-on-one technical assistance.
3. Western SARE’s investment in this project was a tremendous asset and helped agritourism become much more recognized as a type of income-generating tourism for agricultural producers, as well as a mechanism for community development. The support also allowed us to bring in advisors with technical knowledge that fell outside the purview of Extension and our other collaborators, such as legal advice on business structures, accounting practices that aid in farm and personal asset protection, and liability coverage. Western SARE’s support provided legitimacy in the eyes of many ag producers and their advisors, and allowed us to leverage state resources to build Colorado’s initial agritourism infrastructure.