Small scale farmers in west Michigan are experiencing ever growing competition for their customers dollars. In an effort to provide additional on-farm income and provide further community involvement, farms are increasingly turning to agritourism opportunities. These opportunities include hosting on-farm dinners featuring local chefs preparing farm-raised food, local music events, weddings, U-pick produce, and several additional strategies. This project will examine three existing small-scale agritourism efforts by farmers involved in the West Michigan Growers Group. This examination will provide valuable information to other West Michigan and NCR region farmers who are interested in best practices for on-farm events and agritourism as well as show the value that each different approach provides for the farmer. The farmers involved in this project are primarily small-scale, diversified vegetable producers with little agritourism experience. This will culminate with an on-farm demonstration event to be attended by both interested farmers and the local community. The project will also include a series of farm field trips to better understand existing models for small and large scale agritourism enterprises. This project will also examine the potential impact on generating and retaining customers through deeper connections with farms who are hosting events.
- Research existing models of small-scale farm agritourism through regional “field trips”.
- Assess the potential ROI of different agritourism activities on small scale sustainable farms and develop case studies of each farm and strategy
- Develop a “users guide” to implementing successful and relevant on-farm events and activities.
- Hold a “demonstration” event for local farmers in the West Michigan region to give practical experience and training for agritourism activities.
This project has included research of specific agritourism related events and activities that have been undertaken by the cooperating farmers in the project. Each cooperating farmer has slightly different activities that they are undertaking in an effort to raise money, supplement income, diversify their farm enterprises and build deeper relationships with customers. During there Fall/Winter of 2018 farm partners worked alongside MSU Extension to develop and refine these survey tools. This survey will be used during the 2019 growing season to assess the impact and effectiveness of agritourism activities. We will specifically be looking at the impact that participation in these types of events has on an individual’s connection to the farm and likelihood to continue to attend future events and support the farm through food/CSA purchases. The grant committee will work to further refine the survey during the spring of 2019 and implement both at events through a paper copy as well as through email follow up survey with link. This will allow the group to analyze how participant impressions of the event and support for the farm might change over a longer period of time.
In addition to survey work with agritourism participants research is being conducted on best practices for small scale agritourism activities on small-medium-scale farms. These best practices are being compiled into a resource guide that will also include brief case studies of each farms agritourism strategies, prepared by each farm. As of the end of 2018, farm partners were still working on the case studies and the guide will be updated and released during spring of 2020.
Results for the described research are still being collected and will be included in a final report for the project in 2020 as well as in the Agritourism guide book that is being developed
Educational & Outreach Activities
Much of the educational materials and outreach for this grant will be conducted during the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020 with the completion of the project. The project team is still working on final development of the West Michigan Agritourism Resource Guide.