- Education and Training: technical assistance, farmer to farmer, mentoring, workshop
- Farm Business Management: agritourism, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, feasibility study, agricultural finance, risk management, value added
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, analysis of personal/family life, sustainability measures
Agritourism—one of the fastest growing segments of agricultural direct marketing—allows farmers to diversify their core operations and keep farmland in production while preserving scenic vistas and maintaining farming traditions. By providing authentic farm experiences for visitors, agritourism helps educate the public about the importance of agriculture to a community’s economic base, quality of life, history, and culture. Agritourism is growing rapidly in the Northeast region, however the industry remains underdeveloped in many states, lacking technical assistance support, infrastructure, and networking opportunities to ensure best practices. The proposed project will provide tools to help farmers (1) determine whether an agritourism enterprise fits with a farm’s core business and at what cost; (2) prepare business and marketing plans; (3) assess and manage the risk of farm visitors; (4) comply with local, state and federal regulations; (5) leverage promotional activities of tourism and other agencies and organizations; (6) develop and deliver effective media tools; and (7) make use of technical assistance opportunities. To accomplish these objectives, collaborators from several states in the Northeast will develop a curriculum of core business skills training modules and deliver these modules through agritourism workshops and follow-up assistance. Workshops will be held in seven locations in the Northeast (Maine, Maryland/Delaware, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island/Massachusetts/Connecticut, Vermont, and West Virginia). Follow-up assistance for farmers interested in adopting new agritourism practices will be provided by agreements with agricultural, tourism, and business development staff in each state. Standardized surveys at workshops and one year later will form the basis for outcome measurement. Performance target: By the end of the two year project, at least 70 farmers in the Northeast will have adopted new agritourism practices that contribute to farm viability.
Performance targets from proposal:
1. A minimum of one farmer and one service provider from each of the participating locations in the Northeast region (Maine, Maryland/Delaware, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island/Massachusetts/Connecticut, Vermont and West Virginia) commit to coordinate involvement in the proposed project for their respective states. This will ensure beneficiary input throughout the project and promote peer interaction and sustainable state-based leadership development (July – September 2008).
2. Collaborating farmers and service providers will develop curriculum of core business skills training modules, state-specific modules, and evaluation tools (September – December 2008).
3. Over 700 farmers in the Northeast region currently engaged in agritourism or considering diversifying into agritourism will participate in workshops and complete benchmark surveys (January – March 2009).
4. Over 140 farmers will identify agritourism practices they are considering adopting, including new venture concepts and areas for improvement. They will work with agricultural, tourism, or business resources in their respective states to plan and implement the changes. These farms will take at least one action that helps them (1) start a new agritourism venture, (2) improve an existing venture, or (3) decide not to begin a venture or activity based on business analysis (January 2009 – March 2010).
By the end of the two year project, at least 70 farmers in the Northeast will have adopted new agritourism practices that contribute to farm viability.