Integrating Nature into Agri-tourism
Twenty five participants from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana attended a five day Nature of Agritourism Retreat held in February 2009 in DeWitt, Arkansas. Through classroom learning and field trips, participants learned about a variety of topics including wildlife management, bird identification, liability, hospitality, marketing, interpretation, and business and financial planning among others. Partnerships were created between the local community college, federal, state, and local agencies and organizations, who all provided instructors or logistical support to the workshop. Participant evaluations were positive, and many subsequent projects involving nature tourism, agritourism and landowner education have been implemented since the workshop.
1. To plan a week-long workshop. Most of the planning for the workshop was completed and reported in 2008. Many last minute items included further distribution of the press release, posters, and e-postcard. Workshop logistics such as finalizing meals, lodging, and transportation for instructors and participants were finalized.. The committee designed t-shirts and notepads related to the workshop to be given to participants. All classroom and A/V equipment, copies of instructor class materials, and contracts with instructors for mileage reimbursement were finalized. 2. Develop an outreach plan and central message to educate the target audience about nature tourism and recruit participation in the Institute. Much of the outreach was coordinated, implemented, and reported in 2008. By January, we had most of the participants already registered, and were sending out final communications to participants as to what to expect, what to bring, and other information. A copy of the e-invitation as well as the promotional poster are attached with this report. 3. Implement a week-long Institute This objective was successfully completed in February 2009. Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, Audubon Arkansas, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and Elaine Nesmith with 4Sight Development, Inc. were the primary partners in this Nature Tourism project. These initial partners loosely organized themselves by calling the joint program The Business of Birding Institute. Additional partnerships were created among federal, state, and local agencies and organizations, who all provided instructors or logistical support to the workshop. Twenty five participants from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana attended the five day Nature of Agritourism Retreat held in February 2009 in DeWitt, Arkansas. Through classroom learning and field trips, participants learned about a variety of topics including wildlife management, bird identification, liability, hospitality, marketing, interpretation, and business and financial planning among others. The grant budget was amended in order to spend the remainder of the funds on a follow-up workshop in October of 2009, however, due to the lack of availability of the Retreat participants at this time of year, the workshop could not be held and the remaining funds will be forfeited. 4. Conduct formative and summative evaluations to measure program impact and outreach. This objective was met in March through May of 2009. Participants completed both written and oral evaluations before leaving the retreat. They were contacted 6 months later to see if they had begun any agritourism programs on their property. See “Outcomes” for more information about the evaluations.
The Business of Birding Institute was successful in obtaining funding from the Lower Mississippi River Delta Initiative to assist with lowering the cost to participants by funding lodging and meals. The Retreat was held from February 8-12, 2009. There were 25 participants, some of which stayed for the entire week, while several others were only able to attend for one-two days. Participants came from Quitman, Pocahontas, Eudora, Star City, Forrest City, and Harrison, Arkansas as well as Vicksburg, MS and Homer, LA. They included pumpkin patch operators, Extension agents, NRCS personnel, Elderhostel leaders, community developers, and landowners. Participants stayed in Fowl Play Lodge, a local hunting lodge whose proprietors also provided many of the meals. Another local lodge, Bayou Meto Lodge, was also used to host Retreat meals, classes, and housed the instructors for the duration of the program. It was important to the organizers to use locally owned lodges that normally focus on attracting hunters so that they could learn of different business opportunities that exist in the area. Participants learned about topics such as how Texas has been so successful with its Nature Tourism industry, wildlife management, bird identification, risk management, liability, hospitality, marketing, understanding birders, interpretation, photography, dutch oven cooking, youth involvement, asset mapping, business and financial planning, technical resources, and partnerships. They also were able to visit the White River Refuge in St. Charles, the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Five Oaks Lodge and Schoolhouse Lodge in Bayou Meto. Documents that are attached include the Agenda, Speaker biographies, and other information that was sent to participants prior to the Retreat.
- E-invite and registration
- Participants at Fowl Play Lodge
- Participants at Five Oaks Lodge
- Birdwatching at Five Oaks Lodge
- Bird identification class
- Participants at Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie
- Retreat Field Trip descriptions
- Storytelling around the campfire
- Retreat What to Bring list
- Retreat Course Agenda
- Retreat Speaker Bios
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Evaluation of the workshop from the participants’ perspective indicated that the Retreat was well received and accomplished its goal of helping landowners lean about agritourism in order to make informed decisions about pursuing such a business venture. A copy of the evaluation comments made by participants at a roundtable discussion at the end of the retreat is attached with this report. Activities that have occurred since the Nature of Agritourism retreat that can be directly related to the success of the initial workshop include: The Nature of Agritourism: Exploring Nature Tourism and Birding as a Business Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Feb 19-21, 2010 In 2009, the Business of Birding Institute collaborated with the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute University of Arkansas System to bring our workshop framework to Petit Jean Mountain in Central Arkansas. WRI took the lead on workshop planning, and they have the ability to host future workshops, therefore the Business of Birding Institute has successfully transferred its concept to an independent organization. The February 2010 workshop format included panel discussions, a birding seminar (taught by Dr. Dan Scheiman), a tour of WRI’s Heritage Farm, and a visit to Petit Jean Farm. Twenty people from across Arkansas attended the workshop, including those considering developing their own land or business into a nature tourism operation. Waterfowl Management In-service Training University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Feb 16-17, 2010 In February 2010, Fowl Play Lodge hosted an in-service training session for Cooperative Extension agents, organized by Dr. Becky McPeake. Agents learned not only about waterfowl biology and wetland habitat management, but also about developing a wildlife enterprise (taught by Dr. McPeake) and the business of birding (taught by Dr. Scheiman). Agents can introduce nature tourism concepts to their constituents. Wildlife Habitat Restoration on Private Lands Conference U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Feb 2-3, 2010 The conference was intended to improve communications among organizations, offer cross-training about private lands programs, share landowner success stories, learn about successful on-the-ground techniques, and provide updates about Farm Bill programs and other information of relevance to those working with private landowners. Dr. Scheiman described some of National Audubon Society’s private land bird conservation projects, including the Business of Birding Institute. He described the concept of avitourism, the opportunities for private landowners, the Institute’s accomplishments, and the importance of partnerships. Natural Resource Enterprises for Limited Resource Landowners Audubon Arkansas 2008-2010 Through an agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Audubon Arkansas is delivering a series of workshops for limited resource landowners in the Delta of Arkansas and Mississippi. Although the emphasis is on increasing minority enrollment in Farm Bill programs, workshop topics have also included nature tourism and other natural resource enterprise opportunities. Even owners of small parcels of land can diversify their income by offering a variety of recreational activities such as birding, camping, and pick-your-own farming. Audubon hopes to continue and expand this work for the next three years through a grant from the USDA.
SARE grant consultant
Phillips Community College UA
3503 Shoemaker Rd.
Hazel, KY 42049
Office Phone: 2707520061
Phillips Community College UA
P.O. Box 427
DeWitt, AR 72042
Office Phone: 2709463506