I felt bad for the worker at Subway. Foreigners were in line ahead of me, and they didn’t know the procedure for ordering a sandwich. When the woman behind the counter asks, “What cheese?” The couple chats between themselves trying to decipher what she said and finally what cheese they want.
You would think based on the people in line ahead of me and the license plates and cars in the parking lot outside that I was at a Subway near the city, but I was closer to a cornfield than a shopping mall. I had stopped at the Subway next to Fair Oaks Farms for lunch. It’s amazing to think about the variety and number of people that stop at this destination. Whether you’re a fan of Fair Oaks Farms or not (or as locals refer to it- The Dairy) the company has tapped into something with incredible potential. Potential that I wish more local people would pay attention to, Agritourism (capitalized because it’s that important).
So what is this…agri who ha? As defined by Melinda Geisler from Iowa State University, Agritourism is activities like visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural or agribusiness operation to enjoy, be educated, or be involved in what is happening at that locale. Examples include:
- Farm tours for families and school children,
- day camps
- hands-on chores
- self-harvesting of produce
- hay or sleigh rides
- overnight stays in a bed and breakfast.
According to Geisler, the rural United States is a popular tourist destination. As I resident of rural America or as my wonderful friend Michelle said to me…”Sara, you live in the BFE,” I find this shocking. Newton County? Popular? Crazy…
It gets better. Nature-based tourism, or ecotourism , works well with the agritourism market. Ecotourism is usually comprised of activities like hunting, fishing, photography, bird watching and visiting parks. If only Newton County had some of these draws…
We totally have ecotourism destinations and activities.
Other Related Tourism Markets
Weddings are an expensive and big business. I should know, I got married 18 months ago and it still hurts to think about much money we spent. (Our wedding was amazeballs though, even the bartenders said so). Despite our attempt to have a no frills, DIY affair….you just spend money, it’s crazy. Every cute insanely expensive thing catches your eye as the perfect detail for your big day. How can you NOT spend $$$ on adorable cake toppers and pretty stamps and glittering table decorations? Weddings are a $48 billion a year business and the average wedding in America is around $22,000. Guess what is one of the more important items for a wedding? Location, and outdoor weddings are attractive to many couples because the natural decor can’t be duplicated. Also, rural locations are appealing because they can sometimes be more affordable when compared to an urban locale.
Just to be clear though, having your wedding in a rural location can also be a ton of work. This is something I also know about, as we had ours at the county fairgrounds…no real kitchen, restrooms were a bit of a jog from the venue, and the building had power but little else. There are just a lot of details, but people are willing to pay someone else to worry about those details. Meanwhile, the rural location gets some great easy marketing from beautiful wedding photos. Businesses in the area (such as bakeries, catering, photographers) benefit from the money spent on their services and wedding guests represent an influx of new potential customers in possibly untapped markets.
Starting an agritourism business wouldn’t be easy, but no small business is “easy.”
University of Iowa specialists state there are three things to really look at before even considering an agritourism venture:
- Define the attraction
- Create a marketing plan
- Examine important details like extra labor expenses, insurance and biosecurity.
These points are geared toward current agriculture producers and adding an agritourism aspect would require additional diverse resources. More labor may be necessary and the marketing work might take time away from typical farm work. Also a farm’s risk and liability increases when visitors are factored in. Close proximity to a significant population center is another important factor. I think Newton County has that covered…
Many producers who are involved in agritourism note there is synergism in having non-competing agritourism enterprises in the area to increase traffic to the area and provide more tourism attractions for customers.
According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, 23,350 farms indicated they provided agritourism and recreation services valued at $566 million. Of the total farms, 3,637 farms indicated gross farm receipts of $25,000 or more.
Agritourism is valuable, not only for a rural area such as Newton County Indiana but also for people from urban and suburban areas. Visitors can explore, learn and enjoy both the natural resources in our area and the agricultural processes involved in food production. Residents could benefit from the economic and community development agritourism generates.
Just my thoughts…as I enjoyed my Subway sandwich.
***On a side note
This post was slightly delayed due toworking on a friend’s blog (hopefully an update on that soon) and providing my brother with feedback for his own. Woo! I’m inspiring others to write. Fantabulous! Check out my brother’s blog: pokethemonkey.com. Other great blogs to check out that I forgot in my previous post Other Word Connoisseurs include; The Blogess and Hyperbole and a Half. They’ll be added to Blog Love. Enjoy!