The goal of this professional development program is to establish and train a cohort of leaders, the Montana Agritourism Fellows (“Fellows”), who will educate farmers, ranchers, and communities about sustainable agriculture and agritourism. Program content and experiences will emphasize sustainable agriculture operations and detail integration strategies with agritourism. Potential participants will be agricultural operators and professionals uniquely poised to educate about sustainable agritourism, including extension and tourism professionals, economic development specialists, agricultural educators, and government officials. Nominations will be solicited from the Montana Agritourism Steering Committee and follow-up letters will be sent to targeted participants. Strategies for selection of the fellows will be based on their community leadership, occupation—with preference for agriculture, tourism, and educators— dedication to sustainable agriculture, and interest in agritourism. An application process, with final review by the steering committee, will be used to select the cohort.
Using a hands-on, participatory learning approach, fellows will gain sustainable agritourism knowledge and skills transferable to Montana communities through exposure to complex industry issues and experts. The program will be offered as a two-year cycle of four seminars across the state consisting of workshops, tours, and networking of sustainable agricultural organizations and agritourism operations. A majority of program costs associated with travel and lodging will be paid with grant funding. Outcomes will include the creation of a community education digital repository, an educational outreach plan, a sustainable agritourism conference, and initial formation of a statewide agritourism association. These resources will allow fellows to effectively educate others on diversification opportunities for Montana businesses on sustainable practices and the economic, environmental, and social impacts of agritourism. The professional networks created between fellows, experts, and organizations will ensure the continuation of outcomes beyond the scope of the project and transfer of knowledge to communities that desire to advocate for sustainable agritourism.
Project objectives from proposal:
By the end of this program, participants will:
- Increase knowledge of critical agritourism industry areas in program content by 25% as measured by W SARE outreach survey;
- Increase awareness of at least 10 integration strategies for merging sustainable agriculture practices into an agritourism enterprise as measured by post-pre-survey;
- Increase knowledge of at least 10 communication practices to better educate farmers and ranchers about sustainable agritourism opportunities as measured by the post-pre survey;
- Increase their sustainable agritourism network consisting of at least 100 people as measured by a post pre survey;
- Increase outreach teaching to at least 50 agricultural professionals considering agritourism as measured by a post-pre survey;
- Increase communication skills by 25% through conference planning as measured by a post-pre survey.
- Increase leadership skills by 25% through formation of an association team as measured by a post-pre survey.