Sustainability Starts at Home-Building Regional Self Reliance through Agritourism
During 1996, farmers in the eastern Kentucky counties of Lee, Wolfe, Owsley, Powell, Estill and Menifee, working with Commodity Growers Cooperative, formed the Archway Regional Tourism Association (ARTA). The goals of ARTA are:
1.) Serve as a resource for area farmers by providing information and assistance on cooperative advertising through signs, brochures and other marketing campaigns and business-plan development;
2.) Ensure that the economic benefits of farming and agricultural tourism are documented and disseminated to the public;
3.) Create partnerships, to accomplish their goals, with local, state and federal agencies.
Commodity Growers Cooperative, through ARTA, used their SSARE Producer Grant to increase markets for farm products with agricultural tourism marketing in eastern Kentucky. They worked to promote locally and organically grown food through events and promotions in cooperation with Natural Bridge State Park whose restaurant serves almost one-million visitors annually. They worked on agritourism opportunities–including Christmas tree farms, organic produce farms, horse farms for trail rides and other low-impact tourism and agricultural ventures—through educational and promotional materials developed through the project.
ARTA conducted several activities. The first activity was to assist the Natural Bridge State Park Resort to purchase and serve locally and organically grown produce in its restaurant. Secondly, ARTA developed a Christmas in the Mountains” partnership program between area lodges and Christmas Tree farmers. This involved selling Christmas trees along with lodging or bed and breakfast accommodations.
ARTA developed a brochure which emphasized the natural resources, agricultural bases and community spirit of the region. The brochure also pointed out the opportunities for shopping, vacationing and recreating in the area, while supporting local farmers.
ARTA also worked with area radio and newspaper reporters to generate publicity for the project. The Commodity Growers Cooperative prepared a series of camera-ready articles and photos about the farmers growing produce for the park, the value of locally produced food and the challenges to marketing local produce to local restaurants and vendors. Commodity Growers Cooperative also distributed information about the project to its regional network of farmers and consumers.