In July, I had the opportunity to travel to Thomaston, Ga., to represent Louisiana at the Southeast Agritourism Regional Committee meeting. Representatives from North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana were in attendance. Participants included extension agents, tourism officials, state agricultural departments, agritourism associations and a few owners of agritourism operations.
Below are the highlights from the meeting:
– Agritourism is not a fad; it’s been in existence for 35 years and is going strong.
– “Agritourism is expanding and re-packaging other forms of tourism originally not promoted as agritourism. Agritourism now encompasses ecotourism, nature-based tourism and gem finding,” according to Charlie Touchette of the Association for Farm Direct Marketing and Agritourism.
– States involved in agritourism the longest work as a team with their state departments of tourism, agriculture and highways and cooperative extension service agents.
– The tourism department in most states provides websites and printed marketing materials for tourists. Some state tourism departments assign a person to promote agritourism.
– State agritourism associations are very helpful in states where they exist; they lobby the legislature, work with insurance underwriters and mentor to agritourism operators.
– Most states have familiarization (fam) tours for travel writers to see agritourism operations. These are generally hosted by their tourism office. Cooperative Extension Service agents connect the tourism office with the operator.
– Insurance was discussed at great length. Someone said it best – the insurance agent is your business partner and you need to know him and invite him regularly to your farm so both of you have confidence in each other.
– Most states have agritourism websites hosted by their tourism offices.
– Zoning issues have surfaced in some states where the land is more valuable for housing than agritourism operations.
From the meeting, I concluded that Louisiana is definitely on the right track by suggesting that agritourism operators become certified through the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. This certification process is important to insure safe, well-run operations. Louisiana’s certification process suggests that agritourism operators assess their farms for safety and demonstrate how they will mitigate any unsafe practices. To learn more, log on to: www.lsuagcenter.com/agritourism. The 2008 agritourism limited liability law is voluntary and requires a completion of a plan of operation before certification is granted.
The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety has compiled an excellent resource, “Creating Safe Play Areas on the Farm.” This guide created by the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wis., describes safe play activities generally termed “agri-tainment” and shows how to incorporate them into your operation.
For more information, contact the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety by calling 800-662-6900, emailing email@example.com or logging on to their website: http://marshfieldclinic.org/nccrahs/
Six paddling workshops are planned for September and October. John Williams, owner of Pack & Paddle in Lafayette, will teach classes in Monroe and Delhi on three separate days. The morning classes begin at 10 a.m. and afternoon classes begin at 2 p.m. Although the classes are free, preregistration is required. Participants must be 18 years of age or older. All equipment will be provided. Classes are scheduled as follows:
September 29, 2012Poverty Point Reservoir State Park1500 Poverty Point Parkway, Delhi, LA 71232318-878-7536 or 800-474-0392 October 5, 2012Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge480 Richland PlaceMonroe, LA318-387-1114Ann Bloxom SmithBloxom51@gmail.com
October 6, 2012Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge480 Richland PlaceMonroe, LA318-387-1114Ann Bloxom SmithBloxom51@gmail.com
The workshop will focus on the revenue potential of recreational riding, managing liability, developing trail rides and marketing your venture. A legal expert will discuss the equine law, liability issues and insurance.
The workshop is $10 payable at the door.
For a more information, contact Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator, at (318) 927-9654 Ext. 229 or email her.
The ranch is open for field trips and weekend fun for families, including viewing the farm and also taking advantage of agri-entertainment activities: train rides, zip lines, jumping pillows, cane fishing, paddle boats and horse rides.
It’s located just one hour south of Atlanta. Check out their website for the best times to visit.
To learn more about agritourism in Louisiana, contact Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator, at (318) 927-9654 Ext. 229 or email her.
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