June 25, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

As Kentucky’s farmers continue to look at new venues to add income to their farming operations, they are looking at agritourism with increasing interest.

Before jumping into this industry, which is very different than traditional agriculture enterprises, people should do an analysis of their farm’s assets.

“Agritourism sounds simple but it is not,” said Lori Garkovich, a rural sociologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “It’s one of those things that requires a different set of skills and different set of attitudes than oftentimes farm owners and farm operators have been working with.

“You’ve got to really think about how having the natural resources or assets are not enough for success.  As important is effective planning and a careful assessment of your own strengths and what you can bring to the experience to make it marketable,” Garkovich told farmers during recent agritourism conferences in Cave City and Hopkinsville.

Basically there are five types of assets. The first is the physical resources of the land. Another is operations and management assets of the owner. People resources, a legal environment and community assets make up the remaining types.

“I believe that agritourism can help rural communities,” she said. “If done thoughtfully and with a coordinated set of partnerships, then it becomes consequential not just for the farmer but the community at large. Because the purpose of this is to make money and you make more money the longer a person stays in the community. So the more you can link things in the community into your place, the longer they stay and the more money that is eventually spent.”

Physical resources include the amount of land owned or leased, type of land, topography, water resources, additional land of neighbors who might be interesting in partnering, accommodations, buildings and working facilities, fencing, on-farm roads, trails and adequacy of parking including space for motor coaches.

Other physical resources include wildlife on the farm, fishing, wildflowers and other plants, birds, natural geological formations and vistas.

When looking at the physical assets look at what kinds of combinations are available at the site, she said.

Operations and management resources include interpersonal skills, knowledge of natural systems and the area, skill at managing others and organizing task performance, attitudes about meeting new people, having new experiences and change, marketing knowledge and skills, and availability of time.

Type of production methods used, types of commodities produced, animals raised, machinery and availability and cost of labor all need to be considered when reviewing operations and management assets, she said.

“One of the first questions you’ve got to ask yourself is, am I willing to spend and invest my time or family member’s time in talking with and answering the questions of these visitors,” Garkovich said.

People resources include family, neighbors and others who are willing to participate in the enterprise as well as supportive professional assistance and availability of technical assistance. Additionally, the proximity of neighboring properties must be considered. For example, how will the neighbors respond to the proposed enterprise?

A critical part of determining whether to move forward with a particular agritourism venture is legal and regulatory issues. Those include planning and zoning ordinances, health regulations, tax structures, environmental regulations and more.

Community assets include places for visitors to stay or eat, other agritourism enterprises in the area, other entertainment, local activities or special events, shopping and historical sites and museums.

After reviewing all the assets, it is time to pull it all together – linking assets to opportunities. That means looking at why people vacation, what do visitors want and what will they pay to see or do.

 Establish goals and a mission. Ask what your reasons are for developing the enterprise; consider what the benefits will be to you and your family, to your visitors and your community. Also, determine what kinds of visitors you want to attract such as school children or motor coaches. And decide how much net profit the enterprise will have to produce for you to feel good about the enterprise.

“The opportunities are limited only by your imagination,” Garkovich said. “The potential returns are significant, but I think the most important thing is that you are building a better understanding of agriculture and the farming lifestyle as well as instilling an appreciation for the work that it takes to bring food and fiber to America. If you are going to have visitors to your farm, think about what story you want to tell about your farm and what you want people to learn.” 

For more information on agritourism, contact a local office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.



Lori Garkovich, 857-257-7581