February 18, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
BOWLING GREEN, Ky.

Chaney's Dairy Barn in Warren County

When Carl Chaney wanted to learn more about ice cream making and how to have a successful agritourism venture, he looked to other farms doing similar enterprises. Today, his family operates a successful ice cream shop at their Warren County dairy and are helping share their experiences with others.

Chaney hosted a recent agritourism leadership forum conducted by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Joanna Coles, chairman of the Agritourism Quick Response Team for the Cooperative Extension Service’s western region, said the team identified three major areas to concentrate their efforts. One is a learning module for Extension agents to use in helping clientele with what is agritourism, what are the opportunities, the legal issues, business planning and marketing.

The quick response team also is developing marketing workshops.

“We hope to bring farmers in and give them some hands on marketing – making displays, signage and brochures,” Coles said. “So we can help them not only as individuals but maybe as a group marketing effort for their region which leads to our next goal of regional agritourism leadership.”

The goal is to develop a core group of clientele that wants to work as a group in their particular area to promote agritourism. These leaders also will be able to tell Extension what their needs are and work with them on agritourism projects, she said.

Chaney’s Dairy Barn was the site of one of these leadership forums.

Educational opportunities such as those provided by the Cooperative Extension Service are a must, he said.

“The thing about Extension is that they aren’t trying to back anybody, so you can go to them without feeling like they are trying to swing you one way or another,” he said. “You have a place where you can go and you have confidence in what they are going to tell you. So with them getting involved in agritourism it is really fantastic and it will really help it grow, I think.”

The Chaney family has operated a dairy on their farm since 1942. In 2001, they reduced the size of their herd and began searching for a way to add income.

“Our first thought was we wanted to process milk,” he said.

They found there wasn’t anyone in Kentucky doing this on a small scale, so he visited dairies in North Carolina and Alabama and discovered they were processing milk and making ice cream. Chaney then visited with a dairy in Ohio where he became interested in making ice cream and he went to Penn State for a two-week course on ice cream making.

The result is the Ice Cream Shoppe. In addition to lots of ice cream flavors, the shop contains a restaurant and sells a variety of local products such as country ham, cheese and sorghum. They also are planning to do tours of the dairy farm.

“People are so interested in getting back to their roots and once we started seeing all this, it was just a natural,” said Chaney, a member of the Kentucky Agritourism Advisory Council.

Janet Johnson, chairman of the subcommittee on leadership, said the committee organized four forums in the western region to allow easy access for people involved in agritourism enterprises as well as people involved in marketing and promotion on a local and regional level.

“The idea was to bring these people together to look at forming networks from cooperative buying and selling of products to networking for marketing opportunities to share marketing dollars or simply marketing each other,” she said. “That can be anything from organizing markets and festivals where they all reach out on a specific date to the consumer market or developing a seasonal brochure or web site link showing various tourist locations within an area.”

The forums are aimed at encouraging participants to take ownership of individual marketing and yet be less competitive and see the advantages of forming regional networks, Johnson said.

“Kentucky is famous for its 120 counties and sometimes those boundaries in our minds inhibit marketing opportunities that we can have by joining and crossing those county lines,”Johnson said.

Cooperative Extension’s role in agritourism is education, she said. It has always been and will continue to be about education – improving skills and knowledge, and that involves looking at anything that provides an opportunity for the farm. That may include helping clients to understand the skills involved in linking and developing a better relationship with the consumer market beyond just traditional commodity marketing.

“Agritourism is heavily dependent on marketing to the consumer so the Extension service, as it would with any niche market in agriculture, is willing to help improve producers’ skills and knowledge to make them more profitable,” Johnson said.

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Joanna Coles, 270-842-1681; Janet Johnson, 270-237-3146