Tammi Arender | 5/17/2016 2:04:48 PM
(05/16/16) KEACHI, La. – Keachi Acres in DeSoto Parish is more than just a destination. It’s recreation in its most natural form that was started by Mary Nesbitt as an agritourism business in 1999.
“This is 200 acres that I inherited and had always wanted to live here,” said Nesbitt, owner of the certified agritourism operation. “I have hiking trails, a stocked pond, horses, ducks, chickens and an organic garden. My guests even collect their own eggs for their breakfast. They love it.”
Nesbitt hosted the LSU AgCenter’s 2016 agritourism business workshop for landowners on May 10.
This workshop attracted about 50 people from all over Louisiana who wanted to know more about using their property as an agritourism destination.
“The workshop focused on teaching agritourism operators how to engage their visitors through a variety of topics: recreation, lodging, food systems and nature," said AgCenter agritourism coordinator Dora Ann Hatch.
“Agritourism offers an experience for those who are not familiar with farm settings to learn in a fun atmosphere where food and fiber comes from,” she said.
The workshop featured guest speakers who already own an agritourism business, like Nesbitt and Evan McCommon, who owns Mahaffey Farms in Princeton, in Bossier Parish.
Also on the program was AgCenter agent Grace Peterson, who talked about growing a healthy regional food system in the Ark-La-Tex.
Daryl Jones, with the Natural Resource Enterprises program at Mississippi State University, talked about the recreational and income potential of rural property.
Several more speakers touted the benefits of combining agriculture and entertainment, or agritainment.
“After attending the agritourism workshop in Keachi, I believe we have five properties in Allen Parish that have potential,” said Adagria Haddock, director of the Allen Parish Tourist Commission.
A focus of this workshop was to encourage potential operators to get their state agritourism certification, Hatch said.
As workshop participants walked around Keachi Acres, Hatch pointed to signs placed on the property in accordance with the agritourism limited liability law (R.S. 9:2795.4), which is intended to limit the liability of a agritourism professional for injuries that occur at no fault of their own.
To comply with the voluntary law, agritourism operators must complete a plan of operation and submit it for approval to the AgCenter's agritourism coordinator.
Once the plan is approved, it is forwarded to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry for certification.
For Nesbitt, who just started a bed and breakfast on Keachi Acres, sharing her love of the land with the public has been more than just bringing in value-added income from the property.
“I think it’s important to get people outside so that they learn to love nature,” Nesbitt said. “They can’t love nature by just seeing it on TV. They have to experience it.”
For more information on agritourism or getting certified as an official agritourism destination, contact Hatch at firstname.lastname@example.org , 318-927-9654 ext. 229, or 318-245-6791 cell phone. More information is also available at www.lsuagcenter.com/agritourism.
Attendees of the Agritourism Business Workshop in Keachi, Louisiana, look at Mary Nesbitt’s asparagus. Asparagus is just one of several vegetables Nesbitt grows on Keachi Acres, LLC, a certified agritourism operation. (Photo by Tammi Arender, LSU AgCenter)
Donna Cagle of Keachi, Louisiana, admires the strawberry patch on Mary Nesbitt’s certified agritourism operation in DeSoto Parish. Nesbitt’s Keachi Acres offers a bed and breakfast, an organic garden, a stocked pond, ducks, chickens and horses for visitors to enjoy. (Photo by Tammi Arender, LSU AgCenter)
Mary Nesbitt, owner of Keachi Acres, LLC, and her cat, Oma, in the foreground. Nesbitt has liability signs posted on her property. This is for her protection when guests visit her certified agritourism operation in DeSoto Parish. (Photo by Tammi Arender, LSU AgCenter)