- Farm Business Management: economic/marketing
Virginia Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with tourism agencies, the State Congressman’s office, farmers, and existing entrepreneurs in agri-tourism identified several needs related to economic development in Southwest Virginia. They included: the need for farm families to generate new income in order to retain family farms and sustain or improve their standard of living, the need for innovative strategies such as agri-tourism to combat unemployment and poverty in the area, the need for planned development and growth of communities, and the need for education for existing and potential entrepreneurs.
To address these needs this project: (1) developed and implemented an asset mapping tool to determine existing and potential agri-tourism businesses, (2) mapped the local tourism infrastructure, (3) assessed educational needs of existing and potential agri-tourism businesses, (4) conducted educational programming according to the educational needs determined through assessment, (5) provided consultation with individual existing or potential agri-tourism businesses.
As a result of this project we identified area agri-tourism businesses, determined their immediate educational needs, provided four educational opportunities which addressed their needs and two that were designed to educate the tourism industry, and developed new data bases.
The definition of Agri-tourism, that this project used, is offering a product/s AND/OR a service/s for profit, in a rural or farm setting, to tourists in a manner that will give them an “experience” while on vacation.
Virginia Cooperative Extension has many collaborators who share the idea that agri-tourism is an opportunity to value-add our local economies and a way for the farm families to generate more income for their farm and family budgets. Some of the collaborators in the district that extension worked with include: Blue Ridge Travel Association, New River Valley Visitors Alliance, Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority, farm committee members of several chambers of commerce, current and potential agri-tourism businesses, the Nature Conservancy, representatives of RC and D's, and representatives of some local governments.
The majority of accomplishments were reached within an eighteen month period and several additional goals were also accomplished.
OBJECTIVE 1 - Develop mapping instrument of existing and potential agri-tourism businesses.
OBJECTIVE 2 – Develop and implement a local community asset mapping instrument of local tourism infrastructure. Review data base from Blue Ridge Travel Association and NRV Visitors Alliance and Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority
OBJECTIVE 3 - Educational needs assessment with those identified in objective #1.
OBJECTIVE 4 - Develop and implementation of an educational program addressing identified needs of agri-tourism business owners. Educational Outline; Introduction to agri-tourism, Is Agri-tourism for me?, Where does Tourism Fit into my Farm Plan?, What do I have to offer my guests?, How do I operate an agri-tourism enterprise on my farm?, Your Agri-tourism plan, Risk Management and other legal issues & One on one ‘evaluation’ of business to identify a) what they need b) interested in agri-tourism c) where are they in process d) what do they need
OBJECTIVE 5 - Provide educational assistance to agri-tourism business owners in implementation of their business plan.