Linking Research and Practice: The Role of Extension on Agritourism Development in the United States

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Abstract: Agritourism is a critical farm diversification strategy for farmers to enhance income and profit potential with benefits related to rural community development, increased awareness of sustainability practices, and local heritage preservation. For rural community and economic development professionals, agritourism has become an important strategy to develop local tourism, grow small businesses, and enhance regional economic diversification. We propose that the agritourism ecosystem would arguably benefit from more robust Extension programming and network development. A discussion of two state case studies, Vermont and California, provides an overview of the critical elements necessary to build a statewide agritourism program. The role of Extension in rural development and tourism underscores the opportunity to utilize agritourism as a broader development strategy. Finally, we make recommendations for growing the role of Extension in agritourism. More robust training and education for Extension professionals, stronger connections to state tourism departments, and more robust advocacy with university and state-level decision makers on the value of agritourism investments are all highlighted as crucial next steps.

Challenges for the agritourism sector in the United States: Regional comparisons of access.

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Abstract: Agritourism has become a popular pursuit for farms and ranches in the United States, aiming to diversify revenue sources and meet agricultural edu­cation and community-building goals. How­ever, there has been limited research around the challenges experienced by operators and limited access to resources that can help address these chal­lenges. This article fills that gap in knowledge by examining the challenges agritourism opera­tions currently face in the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West regions of the U.S. In this study, we use a mixed-methods approach to the Five Dimen­sions of Access framework developed by Penchansky and Thomas (1981). We opera­tionalize their model in an ordinal probit regression to analyze data from a national survey of agritourism operators, analyzed by region. Results from the quantitative analysis are sub­stantiated using qualitative, open-ended comments from the same survey. The analyses show that agritourism operators encounter different challenges according to their region. We find that operators in most regions of the United States are concerned about agritourism liability. However, states in the West region experience more chal­lenges with regulations, zoning, and permitting, while operators in the South have more problems with e-connectivity. These results can be applied in three ways: support services for agritourism, policy and regulations, and future research.