- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop
- Farm Business Management: agritourism, cooperatives, feasibility study, new enterprise development
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
- Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, community services, employment opportunities, leadership development, new business opportunities, partnerships
A retreat held in February 2009 by the Business of Birding Institute taught 25 participants representing Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee the basics of nature-based agritourism. With this understanding, landowners were equipped to determine the feasibility of beginning a nature-based agri-tourism business on their farm operation. Agency and community personnel were able to return to their communities and continue the education of local landowners to encourage agritourism related industry. Ideally, cooperation and collaboration among different sectors of a community will create an integrated product for tourists. Work by Audubon Arkansas and other partners has continued this endeavor in eastern Arkansas.
The Business of Birding Institute is an educational outreach effort for farmers, private landowners, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and Cooperative Extension educators in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. The Institute will help participants learn about nature-based agri-tourism, and conduct outreach to their communities. As a result of this outreach effort, participants will demonstrate a better understanding of nature tourism’s potential to improve farm income and rural economies while also conserving natural resources and increasing the public’s appreciation of agriculture. With this understanding, participants will be equipped to determine the feasibility of beginning a nature-based agri-tourism business on their farm operation. Ideally, cooperation and collaboration among different sectors of a community will create an integrated product for tourists. Steering and Working Committees comprised of farmers; local community leaders; and private, state, and federal agency staff, planed, implemented, and evaluated a week-long Business of Birding Institute. Visits to Arkansas’ Grand Prairie and southeast Mississippi River Delta regions highlighted the benefits of integrating nature into agri-tourism, and examined the potential of nature tourism to impact rural communities and their economies. After completing this course, graduates will: –have a deeper understanding of nature tourism; –be able to evaluate and make informed decisions about starting a nature-based business as an additional income source; –be familiar with business management and service industry “best practices;” –understand sound land management practices and how they benefit agricultural lands, wildlife habitat, natural resources, farm families, and rural communities; –understand how resource management and economic versatility can benefit future generations; –return home with the knowledge that building partnerships within the community develops civic pride and results in marketing strength for entrepreneurs, farmers, and landowners; and –understand how including youth in nature tourism development will bring insight, fresh perspective, and technological skills, and provide opportunities for rural youth to remain and work in their communities.
1. Plan a week-long Business of Birding Institute with Steering and Working Committees comprised of local farmers, private landowners, and businesses and regional experts from the tourism industry and Cooperative Extension Service. The Institute will be held in February 2009. 2. Develop an outreach plan and central message to educate the target audience about nature tourism and to recruit participation in the Institute. At least 25 people from the four-state region will register for the Institute. 3. Implement a week-long Institute that will provide farmers, private landowners, and entrepreneurs the tools necessary for determining the relevance and feasibility of pursuing a nature-tourism business, while also providing community leaders and Extension educators with educational materials and an action plan for outreach to rural communities. All participants will receive a certificate of completion and complete an individualized action plan. 4. Conduct formative and summative evaluations to measure program impact and outreach. Evaluation results will be compiled by October 2009 with a goal of an 80 percent survey response rate.