Food tourism has been hailed as a vehicle for regional development that can strengthen local production through backward linkages in tourism supply-chain partnerships (Telfer and Wall, 1996; Renko, Renko and Polonijo, 2010). In rural areas where food production constitutes a large percentage of the economic output, food tourism offers new opportunities to promote and distribute local produce while providing an enhanced visitor experience through the expression of community identity and cultural distinctiveness (Rusher, 2003). Food tourism is important in strengthening a region’s identity, sustaining cultural heritage, easing fears of global food homogenization, supporting a region’s economic and socio-cultural foundation (Everett and Aitchison, 2008), and facilitating support for family farms (Chesky, 2009). Communities that embrace agritourism activities have shown to have an enhanced quality of life due to increased recreational opportunities, diversified economic bases, and retention of farmland (Ollenburg and Buckley 2007). The ultimate policy agenda for uniting food production and tourism are two-fold: to fulfill utility goals that involve the contribution of the farming sector in the overall health of the economy; and enhance equity goals that focus on the provision of satisfactory incomes for rural populations (Pretty, 2002).
This project aims to disseminate best practices in food tourism enterprise development to Extension, Agency, and others working with agricultural producers and agritourism operators through development of a curriculum, web resources, and five workshops to be offered in Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. The audience for these workshops includes Extension educators, tribal staff, Department of Agriculture personnel, NRCS employees, county employees, conservation district staff, FSA personnel and other agribusiness and tourism professionals in Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. The project’s end goal is to encourage participants to work with producers and agritourism operators to implement food tourism enterprises as a diversification and revenue enhancement strategy.
The primary project goal is to increase participant knowledge and skills regarding farm and food tourism opportunities, as well as to enhance their ability to effectively deliver knowledge and skills to agricultural producers and small food processors. The following is an overview of expected program short, medium and long-term outcomes for program participants.
- Understand of economic, political, and environmental benefits of implementing food tourism enterprise
- Understand the basic economics of diversification strategies, especially food tourism markets available to producers in the Intermountain West
- Understand the components of evaluating the economic feasibility of food tourism
- Understand tourist and tourism business purchase behaviors, needs, and motivations in relation to purchasing local foods
- Create plan to introduce seminar curriculum and other SARE resources into producer programming
- Work one-on-one with producers/agritoursm operators to evaluate the economic feasibility of food tourism for their operation
- Assist producers/agritourism operators in developing a marketing plan that supports tourism promotional messages and strategies
- Assist producers/agritoursm operators in implementing food tourism strategies for their operation
- Assist producers/agritoursm operators in accessing food tourism networks and distribution channels
- Assist producers/agritoursm operators with the measurement of changes in profitability and economic sustainability of their food tourism diversification strategies
Food tourism is defined as “the desire to experience a particular type of food or the produce of a specific region” (Hall and Sharples, 2003, p.10) and covers a vast number of gastronomic opportunities for tourists (Okumus, Okumus and McKercher, 2007). Incorporating local food in the tourism sector has been achieved through a number of different initiatives. Through the promotion of wineries/breweries, agritourism, farmers’ markets, fresh produce, or locally sourced restaurant meals, local food promoted to the traveling public has become a cornerstone of regional development (Schnell, 2011). Schnell writes, “Nearly absent in 1993 promotions, ‘eating locally’ is now a cornerstone of tourism advertising by states” (p. 281). However, the incorporation of food into the tourism industry has shown to be problematic in some areas. In Canada, Poitras and Getz (2006) recognize the need for local investment and document the inherent risk associated with food tourism development. Thurston et al. (2002) revealed that the major obstacle to agritourism participation in New Hampshire was the lack of awareness and identification of farm locations for tourists. McGehee (2207) furthers, “a lack of marketing and promotion are at the forefront of agritourist concerns, which supports the need to foster and cultivate communication between agritourism providers and tourism organizations in order to develop marketing strategies that will contribute to rural economic diversification” (p. 117). Visitors are interested in convenience, diversity of attractions, and value-added product purchasing opportunities both during and after visits, therefore agritourism providers need to offer greater access of information in order to capture visitor spending (McGehee, 2007). In Michigan, Veeck et al. (2006) criticize the lack of personnel and organizations in the US tasked with disseminating knowledge about food tourism and helping tourism and agricultural businesses understand the complexities of food tourism networks.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Five one-day workshops designed to inform the target audience about food and tourism partnerships, regional initiatives, and best practice in uniting food production and tourism were held across the Intermountain West region. Workshops were held in Utah (2 workshops), Nevada (2 workshops) and Idaho (1 workshop). The workshops included classroom sessions, hands-on activities, and tours of food tourism businesses. A total of 97 participants attended the workshops.
The materials created for the workshops included a full-color participant workbook, PowerPoint presentations for all curriculum modules, and a set of worksheets for each module. All materials were distributed in paper form to participants and are also available online. Additional participant workbooks (500) will be distributed to the 13 members of the Western Extension Marketing Committee for distribution and use in their state.
Outreach and Publications
All curriculum materials are available at: http://diverseag.org/htm/farm-and-food-tourism
- Full-color participant workbook
- PowerPoint presentations for all curriculum modules
- Participant worksheets
- Curtis, K.R. and S. Slocum, “Farm and Food Tourism: Exploring Opportunities in the West.” Selected paper presented at the 2015 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference, Minneapolis, MN, April 2015.
- Slocum, S. and K.R. Curtis, “Food Tourism: A Vehicle for Agricultural Diversification in the Intermountain West.” Selected paper of the 2014 National Value-Added Conference, Baltimore, MD, May 2014.
- Curtis, K.R., M. Bradshaw, and S. Slocum, “The Role of Food and Culinary Tourism Demand in the Western US.” Selected paper presented at the 2015 National Value-Added Agriculture Conference, Austin, TX, May 2015.
- Curtis, K.R., S. Slocum, and D. Deepayan, “Expanding Direct Marketing Opportunities through Farm Shops in Western Tourism Destinations.” Selected paper of the 2014 National Value-Added Conference, Baltimore, MD, May 2014
Detailed tables of the post-workshop retrospective evaluation results have been uploaded below. Summary results include:
- Attendees: Ag producer/food producer – 69%, Extension/Agency – 31%
- Rated workshop helpful/very helpful – 91%
- Will use workshop materials in job/operation – 87%
- Would recommend workshop to others – 99%
- The value of attending exceeded $500 – 51%
- The level of understanding/skills increased (from 25 to 75% on average)
- Mid-term actions look promising (greater than 3.4 or better out of 5)
Medium and Long-Term Impacts
Detailed tables of the one-year follow-up evaluation results have been provided below. Summary results include:
- Respondents: Ag producer/food producer – 46%, Extension/Agency – 54%
- Incorporated workshop materials in job/operation – 82%
- Would recommend workshop to others –100%
- The value of attending exceeded $500 – 50%
- Participants completed or planned to complete six activities within one year – 44-56% depending on activity
- Participant level of understanding rated from moderate to high for 13 items – 63-90% depending on item
- 12% of producer participants increased operational profits, 38% increased customer numbers, and 25% increased the number of employees
- Online needs assessment and focus groups completed Fall 2013/Spring 2014.
- Draft curriculum presented at the June 2014 workshop.
- Finalized curriculum (PowerPoints and worksheets) presented in the February 2015 workshops.
- Full-color curriculum book completed and printed December 2015, distributed to all workshop participants February 2016.
- All curriculum posted to USU website at: http://diverseag.org/htm/farm-and-food-tourism.
- Brochures and press releases were created and distributed through Extension networks and media in Utah, Nevada, and Idaho for all five workshops.
- Programming was completed in Nevada (2), Utah (2), and Idaho (1) with 97 Extension employees, producers, agriculture servicers, and tribal/agency personnel participating. Workshops were held in Las Vegas in June 2014 and Salt Lake City, Pocatello, Reno, and St. George in February, 2015. All five workshops have been completed.
- A retrospective program evaluation was designed and administered to all workshop participants at the end of the workshop.
- A one-year follow-up evaluation was designed and administered to participants via SurveyMonkey from June to December 2015.
Additional Grant Funding (Expanded Research and Outreach)
- Principal Investigator/Project Director: Western Center for Risk Management Education Grant, 2014-2015. $32,000. Expanding Direct Marketing Opportunities in the Intermountain West through Farm Shops.
- Principal Investigator/Project Director: Utah Extension Program Grant, 2013-2014. $10,000. Expanding economic development and diversification opportunities for Utah’s farmers and ranchers through food tourism.
Participants were asked to describe changes to their job/operation and financial and social benefits resulting one year after the workshop. Responses to these questions are provided below.
A. Please describe the primary factors that contributed to the achievements made by yourself or others as a result of participating in this workshop.
- I gained greater understanding of the subject.
- I learned much, met interesting people from different regions of the state. I plan on staying in contact with them and hopefully learning more, expanding from their ideas also. It was a great outlet for learning from your peers who were happy to give information.
- Helped us to know a little bit more about commercial kitchen requirements.
- I learned about businesses that promote ecotourism that I was not aware of prior to the workshop.
B. Please describe the financial benefits to your operation, family, or community which resulted from your participation in this workshop.
- During the event, I learned what needed to be done, what I could expand on with any amount of land, small or large. It put me in a spectrum of where I needed to begin again with better ideas.
- We did add a part time employee to do the cooking.
- Was able to tell people about Staheli farm and encouraged them to visit.
C. Please describe the social benefits (standard of living, environmental quality, etc.) to your operation, family, or community which resulted from your participation in this workshop.
- A greater knowledge of subject.
- This will help tremendously, whether I am selling locally or out of state. I think it will boost my dependability on the land for healthier products and educating my customers and others on my reliability.
- We provided an alternate lunch venue for locals.
- Was able to plan trips with other to visit the Staheli farm.
As part of the evaluation process participants were asked, “Would you attend future workshops on agritourism/food tourism? If yes, what topics would you like to see covered?” Participants stated that they would like information on local resources, such as local producers involved in farm and food tourism operations, information on business management best practices, techniques for involving the local community, specific marketing ideas, and ways to find and purchase land. Based on these suggestions it seems case studies describing successful food and agritourism operations in the Intermountain West would be a helpful addition to the curriculum.