Agritourism and Land Use: Good Neighbors and Good Business for Rural Resilience

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $149,900.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2026
Grant Recipient: WVU Extension - Mercer County Commision
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Jodi Richmond
WVU Extension - Mercer County Commision

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Farm Business Management: agritourism

    Proposal abstract:

    Agritourism operations increasingly encounter conflict with neighbors over noise, parking, traffic, and other issues, as well as with local government regulators on issues involving zoning and land use. The definition of “agritourism” differs from state-to-state and is often unclear. Although the term implies a connection between the farming operation and tourism activities, operators increasingly employ bounce houses and other party games, haunted houses, petting zoos, hay rides, concerts, movies and other activities that lack a clear connection to the agricultural operation. Sometimes production and tourism activities take place on different parcels of land. On the other hand, local land use regulations often require a more direct connection between the activity and the production on the premises. Neighbors are increasingly complaining about the impacts of these operations.

    This project gathers data this important but often overlooked aspect of agritourism, and educates producers, service providers and others on how to minimize conflicts while maximizing returns to the operator. Innovations include targeting land use planners, local government officials, and attorneys in the education efforts.

    Land use planners and local government officials play a critical role in the viability of agritourism but often lack knowledge of agriculture and agritourism. Agritourism operators are critically impacted by local land use regulations but often lack knowledge of the regulations or how the regulations are formulated. This project bridges the gap by educating each of these groups on the concern of the other group.

    Four in-person workshops (one in each state) will train ag service providers such as extension agents, government officials and insurance agents.   These ASPs will conduct work with the grant team to conduct at least ten workshops for agritourism operators.  Additional virtual workshops will be held to for both ASPs and agritourism operators.

    At least one webinar qualifying for Certificate Maintenance Credits (CMs) will be held targeting land use planners. Land use planners that are members of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) will receive CM credits, but the webinar(s) will be open to all. The webinar(s) will be held in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Planning Collaboration. Prior workshops with the Collaboration have attracted an average of almost 300 live attendees, with many more viewing the webinar asynchronously on the Collaboration’s YouTube page. A previous webinar on agritourism by the Collaboration drew 275 live viewers, with 197 YouTube views to date .

    The grant will foster collaboration and connection between ASPs and agritourism operators, multiplying the impact of the grant.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    200 agricultural service providers will advise a total of 900 agritourism operators in the liability of their operation, risk management coverage and zoning issues. Of those 900 Agritourism operators, 800 will examine the risk management and zoning issues of their operations and 675 will consult with insurance agents, ag service providers or their neighbors related to these issues as a result. 

    The long-term impact of the program will be increasing the profitability and sustainability of agritourism operations as a lucrative farm diversification strategy as measured in a follow-up evaluation.  Agritourism operators will consult with local government officials and neighbors prior to instituting new agritourism activities and at least 100 will proactively serve on local committees to collaboratively develop local rules and regulations for agritourism as measured in a follow-up survey.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.