Bruce Schultz, Hatch, Dora Ann | 10/8/2009 10:34:34 PM
News Release Distributed 10/08/09
CROWLEY, La. – Agriculture producers attending an LSU AgCenter seminar Oct. 6 learned how they can make extra income by opening their farms and ranches to tourists.
“Across the state, people are learning they can make money off the family farm,” said Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter rural community development agent.
She said agritourism is a well-established industry in Europe, and the U.S. market is just getting started. People will actually pay to stay overnight on a farm and help with chores, she said, just to find out what is involved in agriculture. Accommodations can range from plush to rustic, she said.
“People today want to have an experience when they are on vacation. People like to get away from their hectic lifestyles.”
Hatch said a limited liability law and a certification process will help provide agritourism operations with extra protection against lawsuits. Operations can be certified through the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and the LSU AgCenter will assist with the process.
“We want to work with people to do this,” Hatch said.
Getting certified requires identifying potential risks and steps that can be taken to prevent accidents. Hatch said certification also requires that warning signs be posted to notify visitors of possible risks.
Rice farmers in Arkansas have provided birdwatchers and photographers with blinds to view birds, she said.
Other examples of agritourism include roadside fruit and vegetable stands, Christmas tree farms and fishing.
The offerings may only be seasonable, she said, mentioning a pumpkin farmer in Louisiana who only opened his business to visitors for six weeks, making $24,000.
Visitors will also want to buy items from a farm and not just food products. Hats, bandanas and T-shirts are big sellers, she said.
“People go prepared to spend that money,” Hatch said. “You have to have something to see, something to do and something to buy.”
Hal Moser, tourism manager for the Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, was among the dozen individuals who attended the session. He said the potential in his area for agritourism is huge with seafood and sugarcane producers.
“There’s so much we can do,” Moser said. “I think it’s definitely worth our while.”
The LSU AgCenter is maintaining a directory of agritourism opportunities. For more information, contact Dora Ann Hatch at (318) 927-9654 or firstname.lastname@example.org and go to www.lsuagcenter.com/agritourism.