Capacity Building Workshops: Developing Regional Agritourism Networks for Agricultural Sustainability and Education
Agritourism is a fast-growing diversification strategy for small and mid-size farms in California, but most agricultural professionals are unfamiliar with the possibilities and challenges of agritourism development. To help develop supportive networks, we organized five regional workshops featuring presentations by experienced agritourism operators, marketing professionals, agricultural advisors and county planning staff and involving agritourism industry partners from multiple counties in each region in small group discussions. All workshop participants received regular newsletters and were invited to join a listserv and use a Facebook page. Preliminary evaluations show increased knowledge, new enterprises planned, new collaborations and changes to county zoning ordinances.
• Increased knowledge by 300 regional professionals of agritourism operation activities, development, marketing and challenges
• Increased awareness by 300 regional professionals of regional agritourism organization development and best practices for organizational sustainability
• Introduction to other regional professionals interested in agritourism development.
• Ability by 100 workshop participants to participate in organizing introductory workshops for farmers and ranchers considering agritourism
• Ability by 100 workshop participants to participate in regional agritourism organization development
• Increased communication and networking among at least 20 workshop participants within each region for the purpose of agritourism development.
• The establishment of 2 to 7 new agritourism operations in each region within 12 months.
• Profitable participation in public sustainable agriculture education programs by 2 to 7 new agritourism operators in each region within 12 months.
• The development of at least 2 new sustainable regional agritourism organizations nurtured or facilitated by workshop participants throughout California within 2 years.
• A statewide coalition of agritourism professionals, operators, promoters, supporters, regulators and advisors.
• Encourage easing of permitting and regulatory barriers to new agritourism operations
• Encourage business planning, risk management, hospitality skill development and effective marketing by farmers and ranchers diversifying with agritourism.
• Organized and promoted, with regional planning teams in each region, five professional development workshops in five different California regions. The workshops involved 355 participants, including:
o 69 agritourism operators
o 106 farmers or ranchers considering agritourism
o 49 tourism professionals
o 65 government staff or elected officials
o 68 community or agricultural organization representatives
o 29 economic development or community development professionals
o 47 farm advisors or other agricultural professionals
(some participants indicated multiple affiliations)
• Organized and promoted to workshop participants four regional follow-up gatherings. These gatherings included presentations by local insurance agents or economic development professionals, small group discussions, and tours of working agritourism operations. The follow-up gatherings were attended by smaller groups than the initial workshops, most likely because they were held later in the year when agricultural production activities kept most potential participants from attending.
• Posted agendas, presentations and handouts from the workshops, and notes from the follow-up gatherings on our website, http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/events/11agritourism/
• Created and distributed to workshop registrants a list of suggested online readings and resources
• Started a Facebook page for networking and communication, http://www.facebook.com/agtourconnections
• Created and distributed five issues of online newsletter, AgTour Connections to all workshop participants
• Completed a poster presentation of project, including initial evaluation results, which was displayed at the UC ANR Sustainable Food Systems Initiative Conference.
• Began telephone and email survey of all workshop participants to measure results.
• Completion of evaluation survey and analysis of results
• Completion and publication online of two guides:
o Issues and recommendations for development and sustainability of regional agritourism organizations
o Changing the rules – a guide to participation in county planning and regulation for agritourism
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
• Workshop evaluations collected immediately following the workshops were compiled to show that participants increased their knowledge significantly about various aspects of agritourism.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing no or very little knowledge, and 5 representing extremely knowledgeable, the following average increases in level of knowledge were reported:
o Range of possible activities –1.5 points increase
o Business planning needs and resources – 1.8 points increase
o Regulatory challenges and issues – 1.6 points increase
o Risk management challenges – 1.5 points increase
o Marketing opportunities – 1.7 points increase
o Association challenges and issues – 1.6 points increase
• Analysis of the initial response to the email and telephone survey conducted 6 months after the workshops shows:
o An increase in participants’ reported confidence in ability to provide useful guidance to agritourism operators and associations.
o An increase in participants’ reported level of involvement with agritourism
o 14 percent of participating farmer or ranchers hosted visitors for the first time
o 30 percent of participating farmers or ranchers have begun planning new agritourism activities
o 24 percent of participants have helped educate farmers or ranchers about agritourism
o 92 percent of the non-farmer participants have helped promote agritourism
• Following the regional workshops, with assistance from a Western SARE PDP program grant for California, we organized a statewide agritourism summit which was attended by more than 120 agritourism leaders from throughout California. Many of the attendees were participants from the regional professional development workshops held earlier in the year. At the statewide summit, regional breakout groups met to discuss priorities for strengthening agritourism support in their regions. The consensus of 6 of the 7 regional groups was that a statewide organization of some kind would be useful for improved communication, collaboration, influence on legislation beneficial to the industry, and for sharing of resources and skills.
• Several attendees who are county planning staff have been directly involved in coordinating new zoning ordinances in their counties that seem to reduce the permitting barrier for new agritourism operations.
California Travel and Tourism Commission
980 9th Street, Suite 480
Sacramento, CA 95814
Office Phone: 9164444429
Small Farms and Agricultural Economics Advisor
UC Cooperative Extension
San Diego North County Office
151 E. Carmel St.
San Marcos, CA 92078
Office Phone: 7607524716
Central Sacramento Valley RC&D
PO Box 606
327 Fourth Street
Orland, CA 95693
Office Phone: 5308655058