- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, market study, value added, whole farm planning
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, wildlife
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, urban/rural integration, community services, social networks
Tourism based on agricultural resources (agritourism) and local history and lifestyles (heritage tourism) is a growing sector in Colorado, with strong potential for income generation in rural counties. However, successfully tapping a service-oriented market requires a different skill set than production-based agriculture, including changing farm or ranch financial and business management, understanding consumer tastes and preferences, developing new marketing techniques, adapting land and water management to the new enterprise, accessing private and public resources to support management changes, and understanding potential liability and risk of each alternative. Although communities across the state have been exploring how to increase the economic impact of agritourism and related enterprises, attracting and retaining tourists is a major obstacle in many rural areas, given the lack of cooperative promotion, planning and visitor hosting skills, and geographic dispersion of agricultural businesses.
This project will train 60 agricultural professionals, 60 ag producers and 90 community/economic development staff to build a broad information network and set of sustainable partnerships. This project will combine existing general resources on agritourism with specific information tailored to Colorado’s unique geographic and land use attributes, developed in response to a 2005 Colorado Department of Agriculture survey of agritourism business owners to: 1) directly impact economic sustainability of Colorado producers, and 2) contribute to rural communities’ economic viability by providing professional development training (to Cooperative Extension, NRCS, economic development staff, community college faculty) on joint promotional programs, tourism infrastructure investments, and referral programs among businesses.
Project partners include: Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado State University (CSU) Department of Ag and Resource Economics, CSU Cooperative Extension, the Southeast Regional Tourism Group, Colorado Tourism Office, and five agricultural producers. The primary output, a training curriculum, will cover: a) assessing the cost and management implications of adding specific agritourism services to an existing business (i.e., developing budgets for enterprises such as bird-watching, hunting, fishing, special events hosting, corn mazes and other agritainment); b) accessing Farm Bill Title II Conservation program funding (as well as private sources) to enhance the natural resource base of agricultural operations for sustainable, low-impact tourism; c) using current consumer market research to effectively reach in-state and out-of-state visitors to increase visitation; d) helping communities understand the costs and benefits realized by promoting and providing agritourism and heritage tourism experiences; and e) building regional partnerships and co-promoting agritourism businesses with other rural tourism businesses to develop a regional brand identity and build market share. This curriculum will be delivered through three workshops throughout the state, a producer mentoring program (experienced agritourism producers who assist peers in developing or expanding their own agritourism businesses), a Web site (containing the curriculum, workshop video segments and resource information), and presentations at other professional meetings across the Western region. A three-year project evaluation will provide ongoing analysis of the training events and curriculum to improve their quality and ensure the project effectively reaches its intended audiences.
Project objectives from proposal:
- 1. A synthesis of existing curricula, drawn in part from sources listed above and covering an evaluation of the operation’s resource base, options for business organizational structure, business plan development, general marketing principles, risk and liability considerations, will be adapted to Colorado’s diverse landscapes and potential agritourism enterprises. 2. An inventory of all agritourism enterprises in the state to determine the universe of businesses in existence which will: a) give communities a point of departure for agritourism planning; and b) initiate community-level discussions about options for regionally-based agritourism promotion and development (in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Tourism Office). 3. New curriculum chapters, including consumer marketing profiles and targeted marketing strategies for specific agritourism businesses in Colorado, based on analysis of agritourism consumer market information (data collected by National Family Opinion survey research firm and analyzed at CSU in January 2007) that will reveal the tastes and preferences of visitors to Colorado. Existing and new curriculum chapters will be merged into a comprehensive training program targeted at agricultural professionals and producers. 4. Three (3) workshops conducted in different areas of Colorado featuring producer discussion panels and a field visit to an agritourism operation (i.e., eastern plains, northern mountains, western slope). In addition, selected materials will be presented at state and regional meetings that annually draw producers and other professionals together (Colorado Ag Outlook Forum, Southwest Marketing Network-four state conference, Colorado Department of Agriculture Marketing seminars and CSU Cooperative Extension Annual Forum). 5. Three (3) presentations given at conferences not traditionally targeted at agricultural stakeholders, but drawing essential partners for developing agritourism enterprises, including Colorado Counties Inc. (local policy and economic development), Governor’s Tourism Conference, and the Colorado Community Revitalization Association. 6. A broad information network built on physical (Web-based, print materials) and human resources (producer-mentor group, trained agricultural professionals, economic developers). 7. Example regional plans and community processes that link agritourism with heritage tourism sites and events to broaden visitor appeal and increase frequency and economic impact of tourists’ visits, thereby increasing financial returns to agricultural producers across the state.