Putting Pike on the Map
The first year of our project to develop an agritourism map for Pike County produced a groundswell of interest among farmers and consumers alike. The focus in this first year turned out to be an internal one where producers grappled with the notion of marketing and Pike County consumers discovered the diverse array of homegrown products available in their backyards. The data gathering and map production stages provided a platform for coalition building among formerly isolated farmers. The community embraced the map as a viable response to our declining agricultural sector–simply seeing the listing of over 30 agriculturally-based businesses have countered the mistaken notion that “farming is over in Pike County.” Now, we hear “farming is not dead, it’s changing.” Our Farmers Market is growing and entering its third year. Now, the task of the Project’s second year is to focus on reaching potential consumers from the Atlanta regional and inviting them to experience our rural renaissance.
The primary goal of creating the map as a marketing tool to support agriculturally-based enterprises in Pike County was accomplished in October, 2003. The process behind its creation actually achieved the companion objective of creating a partnership among the farm and non-farm communities of Pike County. Local media, the Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau and local businesses supported the map sign-up phase. The local artist who volunteered to design the map spent the better part of the summer of 2003 getting the graphics and art just right. He also provided countless hours for the actual production of the map–this was a phase whose complexity was not anticipated.It was accomplished on time and within budget through volunteers in graphic design, production, art and logistics. We were able to print 50,000 four color pieces that have already been distributed to every major Visitors Center in Georgia and many smaller city centers. It is a primary marketing piece for our Chamber of Commerce and is available throughout the county in businesses and government offices. Farmers and consumers participated in several workshops to increase our producer base and encourage entrepreneurial activity.
The first year of the project accomplished the dual goals of creating a sense of hope and legitimacy among our small, non-traditional producers and the successful production of the map itself. The broadest accomplishment was to dispell the mistaken notion that agriculture was dead in Pike County. The map’s secondary focus on our agricultural history via a “driving tour” has served to link our past as a pre-eminent ag region to the farmers of today. Our workshops introduced our producers to successful sustainable growers and to the possibilities of value-added products through “certified kitchen” status. Participation of farmers by listing on the map has created a community of sorts–many never considered marketing as a necessary ingredient of their operations. The second year of our Farmers Market coincided with the recruitment of map participants and lead to many connections and conversations about how to grow and market their products.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The over-riding impact of the first year of the project was the collaboration between farmers and the community at large inside Pike County. There’s a growing sense that agriculture has a place at the table among policy makers and our economic development people. Our producers are beginning to consider alternatives to conventional agriculture. There’s interest in agritourism opportunities and value-added products. The county has hosted a very successful grass-fed beef workshop that drew participants from all over Georgia. One of the unanticipated findings during this first year was the amount of internal, homegrown development that had to occur before we were ready to invite guests to our county–the process leading to the map’s production was invaluable in this process. The focus for the second year will be to disseminate the map throughout the region and to create additional marketing tools such as the companion website and distinctive signage that identifies producers as participants in Pike Country Pathways.