May 28, 2010

Since 1992, Jim and Jan Bravard have produced locally grown wines on their northern Christian County farm. With 6.5 acres of vines, 14 different varieties and 11 different wines, the Bravards have products in stores all over the state, and their winery is open to the public for tours, tastings and picnics on the weekends.

Just 1.5 miles down the road is the Corleys' farm, where Milton and Janie Corley educate people about food production using hands-on, seasonal farming activities. During the past 10 years, they've taught children from local school systems and summer day camps as well as families.

These two agritourism sites have marketed themselves for years, but with help from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, they combined their marketing resources and that of 26 other sites in a five-county area. The cooperative arrangement, known as the Pennyrile Region Agritourism Association, allowed them to promote their businesses better and reach a larger audience.

"According to a tourism study, we found the majority of people are coming from the northern states to the lakes area," said Kelly Jackson, horticulture extension agent for Christian County. "We're hoping to attract those people to our sites, and of course with Fort Campbell in the area, we're hoping to appeal to groups of people or families who are looking for short day trips."

The association includes sites in Caldwell, Christian, Lyon, Trigg and Todd counties.

With Jackson's help, the group recently developed a brochure to promote the area's agriculture-related attractions. It's now available in rest stops and hotels west of Interstate 65. The group secured county-level funds from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and received additional monies from Kentucky State University and local businesses to pay for brochure printing and rack placement.

"The brochure was one way to connect the different sites," Jackson said. "Each place has a brochure, but can't afford to put them in all the rest areas, but by being part of a group, they can."

Extension helps provide educational information that association members can then use to make wise decisions on promotion and marketing. Speakers with experience on topics such as tourism, website development and grant writing are invited to present information during the group's quarterly meetings.

Over the years, the Bravards and Corleys have used extension for a variety of things including insect and disease identification and management and access to information from UK specialists. Although they had established agritourism ventures before the association was formed, both say they have benefited from belonging to the group.

"We've always wanted to raise blueberries, and through the association, we met a farmer who grows blueberries. He taught us how to grow them," Janie Corley said. "Now we buy our plants from him. The association helped us find a blueberry source here in Kentucky who we can call when we have problems, and for him, it's provided a customer."

"It was important for us to be included in the agritourism association with other local businesses so we can educate each other on how best to deal with the public or learn about different farming techniques, and it was a really good source of advertising," Jan Bravard said.

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