Louisiana Agritourism: An Industry with Potential

Maria Bampasidou and Denys Maksymov

Louisiana offers many opportunities for agritourism. The agritourism and recreational services industry grew substantially in the state from 2007 to 2012, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture reporting that the number of operations increased by 110 percent, from 170 to 361. Income from these ventures increased even more during the same period, up from $2,486,000 to $8,996,000, a 260 percent increase. Additional increases are expected when the 2017 data are in, which should be in late 2018.

LSU AgCenter researchers conducted a survey of Louisiana’s farm agritourism industry in the spring of 2017 to compile a profile of farm agritourism and common agritourism activities, analyze motivations for engaging in agritourism, and determine industry challenges. Data were collected from 50 individuals — attendees at AgCenter agritourism workshops and owners of operations listed on MarketMaker, Facebook and Google, as well as through referrals from parish extension agents. A sample of 32 current agritourism operators and 18 who are planning to add agritourism activities was used for the analysis. The survey does not necessarily reflect the state as a whole.

In the first part of the survey, respondents were asked to select activities offered in their agritourism operations in 2016 and activities they were planning to offer. Figure 1 presents the responses. In the vertical axis are the activities, and the horizontal axis presents how frequently each activity was selected. Educational tours, selected 17 times, and school field trips, selected 13 times, are at the top of the list of activities. Field rides, mazes, event hosting, Christmas tree farms and pick-your-own berry fields were also high on the list, as well as farm animal exhibits, bed and breakfast, petting zoos and wildlife observations. This shows a diversity in what Louisiana farm agritourism operations offer.

On average, Louisiana agritourism businesses operate 123 days a year. The month in which most operations were open was November. The industry peaks in the late fall and holiday season, with a smaller rise in the spring. These peaks reflect the reality that some agritourism businesses are cyclical and connected to agricultural production cycles. Most Christmas trees farms, for example, operate in November and December. Those who offer fresh produce-related activities, pumpkin patches and pick-your-own activities, for example, follow the seasonality of particular crops. At the same time, accommodations and educational activities may be less sensitive to production patterns.

Louisiana farm operators engage in agritourism for both monetary and nonmonetary reasons. The motivation behind entering the agritourism sector was of a special interest of the study. The study results indicate that key motivators for entering the industry include educating consumers about agriculture (96 percent indicated it to be important or very important); interacting with customers (88 percent); capturing new customers (85 percent); enhancing quality of life (78 percent); and generating additional income (67 percent). A more detailed list of motivators is presented in Table 1. While each agritourism enterprise is different, most activities offered are a combination of both economic and noneconomic needs and interests of the farm household.

Respondents reviewed a list of financial, marketing, legal and management problems and rated each as “Not a Problem,” “Somewhat of a Problem,” “A Moderate Problem” or “A Serious Problem.” If the issue did not apply to their venues, they selected “Not Applicable.”

Financial and marketing issues are the main concerns of 32 current operators. Financial issues are a moderate or serious problem for 36 percent. As for marketing-related issues, 30 percent of current agritourism operators indicated the issues within this group to be a moderate or serious problem. Legal and management issues account for the lowest levels of concern among current farm agritourism operators (16 percent and 12 percent of the respondents, respectively).

For 11 people who indicated they are interested in offering agritourism activities, perceived risk is higher. Forty-six percent of the respondents ranked the financial risks as moderate or serious problems. Also, 36 percent ranked the marketing risk as moderate or serious, 32 percent said the legal risk was moderate or serious, and 25 percent said potential management problems were moderate or serious.

This report should not discredit the importance and attention given by current agritourism operators, but it should reinforce that there is a learning curve in the agritourism industry, and the importance of these issues decreases with years of experience.

The plethora of activities that fall under the umbrella of agritourism are a strong incentive for farmers and ranchers to consider incorporating agritourism activities in their existing farming and ranching operations. Monetary and nonmonetary motivators are equally important, and that allows for flexibility in the type of activities offered. Nevertheless, particular attention is needed to address marketing, financial, legal and managerial risks that may be prevalent. This study suggests potential operators may be holding off engaging in agritourism because of risk perceptions.

Maria Bampasidou is an assistant professor and Denys Maksymov is a graduate student in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness.

(This article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

Heather Hughes wasn’t familiar with the agritourism business when her family opened their pumpkin patch in Tangipahoa Parish about 15 years ago. Since then Mrs. Heather’s Farm has expanded from a pumpkin patch to strawberry picking and weddings, becoming an example of a prosperous agricultural attraction. She now helps others learn how to be successful in the agritourism business. Read her story.

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The Fast Food Farm in St. James Parish, Louisiana, is a nonprofit organization that offers facilities for organizations to use for educational events to learn about the importance of agriculture. The LSU AgCenter helps sponsor two Ag Days a year for school groups in the parish at the Fast Food Farm. These Ag Days are a collaborative effort of the AgCenter, St. James Parish 4-H, the Fast Food Farm board of directors, the St. James Parish Public School System, the ProStart restaurant education program, the Capital Area United Way, agriculture classes at the St. James Parish Career and Technology Center, and other local businesses and industry partners. Mosaic Louisiana operations is a corporate sponsor. Photo by Johnny Morgan

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Figure 1: Types of activities offered by current Louisiana agritourism operators and activities to be offered by interested farm operators.

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9/18/2018 9:32:37 PM
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