- Agritourism is the crossroads where agriculture and tourism meet.
- Current travel trends support agritourism: more short getaway trips, more travel by car, more last minute trips, and more family time.
- The general population is three to five generations removed from the family farm.
- Many people go to agritourism businesses in order to buy direct from the farm.
|The Tri-State Agritourism Conference
lunching at Claythorne Lodge
Those four facts from Jeff Weeks, Oklahoma Agritourism, should whet your appetite for more about agritourism. And I have it, notes from several sessions at the recent Tri-State Agritourism event covering Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.
Let’s start by profiling some ideas from the efforts of those three states to support agritourism businesses.
In Oklahoma, it’s a cooperation of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, and the Department of Tourism. You’ll find Oklahoma Agritourism online at agritourism.TravelOK.com. The Agritourism folks maintain a blog called The Vine. The Facebook and Twitter accounts are handled by Tourism Department folks. When they wanted to launch an email newsletter for consumers, they used a contest to ask people to join the list. It worked. That’s now the list for their consumer enewsletter. Another smart idea: they collect GPS coordinates at agritourism attractions, to get them on their maps, because Google Maps are not always accurate in rural areas.
Kansas Agritourism was represented by Tricia Kensington Rice. They have web presence at Kansascommerce.com, Kansasagritourism.com and Simplykansas (the “made in Kansas” program). They offer value added loans, liability limitations, and scholarships for learning. They also are doing a five part business development workshop. (Cort Anderson reported on this agritourism training for us in February.) Rather than offering it only once in one central location, it is being repeated in different regions of the state. Kansas is currently reorganizing some tourism functions, but departments are still cooperating, no matter where they are housed.
In Missouri, agritourism is not a new thing. In fact, the AgriMissouri program is about 25 years old. Tony Anderson, Missouri Department of Agriculture, said it had become mostly a food product marketing program, with staff specializing in slots like farmers markets, etc. Now they are going back to the drawing board, with a new staff specialized by skills like design, a new website, and a new focus: connecting producers to consumers, and consumes to agriculture. They offer free membership, which offers listing of contact information on the state website. They also offer $25, $50 and $100 memberships based on benefits. The site includes an interactive Google map trip planner. (Nice!) Another interesting program is connecting commercial growers with home gardeners, called the 10,000 Gardens Challenge. They had zero gardens registered on the morning of their announcement press conference, so they put in only the governor and Ag Department gardens. By the press conference announcement, there were actually 12 registered, and people shouted out updates during the press conference. They reached 380 by Monday morning following the announcement.
We’ll have more updates from this conference, as I type up my notes.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.