The Agritourism Connection June 2014

Dora Ann Hatch  |  6/10/2014 8:57:05 PM

Agritourism

Agritourism, a business venture on a working farm, ranch or agricultural enterprise, is growing in popularity throughout the United States. Agritourism blends entertainment, education and tourism together to provide a fun, exciting and memorable get-away for school trips and family outings. This website provides educational resources to assist new and existing entrepreneurs in developing, expanding and improving their agritourism ventures.

In this edition:

Topics covered in this newsletter include: Thornwell’s designation as the Yellow Rail Capital of the World, online registration for farmers markets, Louisiana Direct, international tourists, Annie’s Project, school field trips, pizza gardens and making the connection between classroom and farm.

Thornwell Named Yellow Rail Capital of the World

State Rep. John E. Guinn recently proposed a resolution before the Louisiana House of Representatives to name Thornwell, Louisiana, as the Yellow Rail Capital of the World and Home of the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival. The eight-year-old event draws visitors to Louisiana from various other states and countries. It is the first festival with agritourism as its foundation. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor.

Register Your Farmers Market Online

Today, so many shoppers don’t have local television stations and don’t get the local newspaper, so having an online presence for your farmers market is important. Start by registering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Their directory includes market locations, operating times, product offerings and accepted forms of payment. Registration is voluntary, and you must enter your own data. But the process is easy. If you are already in the directory, you should have received an email asking for you to update your entry. If not, just log on to www.usdadirectoryupdate.com, and in less than five minutes, you’re done. June 23 is the deadline. Click here for more information.

In Louisiana, contact the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry — they too maintain an online directory. Email or speak to Michelle Estay at 985-345-9483 to learn more. She can also provide information on the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) that allows qualified seniors to receive coupons to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, cut herbs and honey approved by the Louisiana Farmers Market Nutrition Program from farmers at approved farmers markets, roadside stands and farm stands. Act now to meet the deadline.

In addition to government sites, you should register on MarketMaker. Registration is free, and there is a special category just for farmers markets. Another interesting fact about MarketMaker is that it connects you to growers as well. So, if your market needs a certain variety of produce, you can use the online surfing tool to locate a producer and invite him or her to your market. If you are traveling away from home and want fresh produce within or outside Louisiana, you may also use MarketMaker for that purpose.

Louisiana Direct Seafood

The Louisiana Direct Seafood website offers an opportunity to find and buy fresh, wild-caught seafood directly off the boat. Created in partnership with LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant, website posts allow the visitor to see the “fresh catch” of the day and arrange for purchase. This website also provides information about the port locations. Click here for more information.

International Tourists Visit Agritourism Operations

This year, more and more of our agritourism operators have reported international visitors to their farms.

Frogmore Cotton Plantation & Gin in Ferriday has opened its doors to travelers from the United Kingdom, France and Belgium who want to make the connection to their homeland spinning mills where United States cotton was sent to be made into fabrics for more than 150 years.

WesMar Farms, a small goat dairy in Moreauville, is a popular destination with international travelers seeking the experience of on-farm living. In the past three years, WesMar Farms has hosted tourists from Germany, Australia, Israel, Canada, France, Belgium and England.

The Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in Thornwell has hosted numerous international visitors since 2008. Birdwatching, agriculture and the culture of the region draw these international visitors to experience life in Louisiana.

Recently, Go West Tours from California asked for suggestions on tourist attractions en route to New Orleans. Gonsoulin Land & Cattle, LLC and Eddie Romero’s Fruit Orchard were suggested, but bad weather allowed them only to visit the fruit orchard.

In January 2014, a French public broadcasting crew traveled to Louisiana to film two of our agritourism venues. They paddled with the Louisiana Delta Adventures group on the Mississippi River from St. Joseph to Waterproof, paddling by farmland under cultivation and operations on the river. After leaving the river, they traveled to Frogmore Plantation and Gin in Ferriday. To see excerpts from their travels, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI-d_6hozNY.

Annie's Project

Annie’s Project, an educational program dedicated to strengthening women's roles in the modern farm enterprise in Louisiana, is supported through the efforts of the Capitol and Acadiana Research Conservation and Development Council. Deborah Cross-Young, retired from the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana state coordinator for Annie’s Project, along with Angie Fogleman, president of Acadiana Resource Conservation and Development Council, have planned and graduated two classes.

To become a graduate, participants complete six sessions, which include: (1) human resources and time management; (2) business plans, property ownership and leases; (3) financial documentation, retirement, estate planning and using spreadsheets; (4) risk management, insurance and the agritourism limited liability law; and (6) financial records and how to interpret them.

A new class will begin this summer in Hammond. For details, contact Deborah Cross-Young by calling 225-281-9470 or by email. Log on to their Facebook page for more information.

Preparing for Fall School Field Trips to Your Farm

An online publication titled “A Farmer's Guide To Hosting Farm Visits” provides good information on how to plan your field trips. This helpful guide provides ideas for the farmer and also provides ideas to share with teachers. For students to get the most out of a field trip, there must be some preparation in the classroom before they arrive.

The guide suggests you offer hands-on experiences. Divide classes in small subsets or group them for the day, and then make sure each group gets to actually engage in some type of farm activity. It’s the hand-on experiences that make the trip memorable.

By visiting with the teacher, learn all you can about the students who will come to your farm. Explain your ground rules and visit with the teacher about your expectations of her and the other adult chaperones. Provide her with a list of your expectations and rules of conduct.

Explain your payment method and ask for payment in advance. Explain your cancellation policy. Remember, you are a business.

If you offer any items for sale, provide the teacher with a list of items, including pricing, so that students can come prepared to make a purchase.

For more information on this subject, click here.

Connect the Farm to the Classroom

Field trips are designed to enhance classroom experiences. Show students how math, science and English are used in your operation. As you share information about your farm and how it works, bring those subjects into your conversation. For example, select four students to fill peck-size baskets of corn. Once filled, show a bushel basket and ask them, “How many pecks are in a bushel?” Then allow the students to pour their pecks into the bushel basket. Now repeat the question again. Seeing is believing. Use other similar ideas to bring the classroom to your farm.

The Pizza Farm

Harvest Farm in Colorado operates a Pizza Farm. And you can, too. Young people love pizza, and showing them that the ingredients are grown on the farm is an educational opportunity that teachers will love. To get started, decide on how many round pizza gardens you will plant. You will need an area that receives full sun for your garden. Plantings may include but are not limited to onions, basil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, bell peppers, peppers and tomatoes. Divide your rounds into wedges, and after reading planting instructions, decide what to plant in each wedge. Grow several different plant varieties in one wedge or plant one wedge for each ingredient. Make the round appealing and allow for easy harvesting so that students don’t destroy plants as they harvest.

For the educational activity, you can ask students to identify the plants, and then share with them the planting, maintenance and harvesting techniques you use. Allow the students to touch and smell each ingredient. Assemble the pizza before their eyes. If you have the capability, cook the pizza and offer small samples.

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