For March 12’s #onthefarm, I visited with Pamela Bartholomew http://twitter.com/pj8seconds) with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture as a Agritourism Marketing Speialist. She works with farmers to promote their farms and businesses for visitors to come to the farm–whether the farms are wineries, pick-your-own pumpkins or farm bed and breakfast residences.
It was a very interesting conversation, as Pamela offered good insights into how Tennessee works with farmers who want to invite the public to their farms. It’s a lucrative industry, as Pamela noted that the Volunteer State’s 600 agritourism farms has a total income of $6.5 million in 2009. Check out the chat transcript below to learn more about how one state has been successful in promoting its farmers and their efforts in earning additional income by opening their farms up to the public.
Thanks for reading!
n_web: OK, Pamela is here, I’m here, @celestelaurent is following from whatever class she’s blowing off. Let’s begin! Q1 Give us some background on yourself and what you do.
pj8seconds: Q1 Grew up on a livestock farm w/cattle, goats, sheep, & pigs. Luv to show & raise Hampshire pigs. We have fainting goats 2. My family sells sausage from our pigs we raise. We are looking at selling it in local grocery stores. I was a State FFA Officer, National Collegiate Ambassador, Sigma Alpha President n college. Graduate of @UTMartin n Ag Ed. Been working at TN Dept. of Ag almost 3yrs as the Agritourism Marketing Specialist. I work w/farmers to help promote their Agritourism farm & work w/them on issues pertaining 2 their farm. We promote Agritourism through PickTnProducts.org , @PickTnProducts, and Facebook. Along w/other marketing.
n_web: Q2: OK, let’s start there: what is agritourism? Then we’ll get into Tennessee.
pj8seconds: Q2 Agritourism is anything that brings people to a working farm. Agritourism=Pick Your Own fruits & veggies, cornmazes, on farm B&B, wineries, Christmas tree farms, educational tours…..
n_web: Q3: How do you work with farmers for agritourism? I guess, walk me through the process of if a farmer wants to be in agritourism?
pj8seconds: Q3 If a farmer is interested in agritourism all they would need to do is to get in contact w/ me or their extension agent. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture along w/ the Center of Profitable Ag has lots of reasorces. It is very important that a farmer does their on reserch to see if agritourism is right for them. You HAVE to like working with people to be involved in Agritourism. If u don’t like ppl on ur farm this is not for you.
n_web: Q4: What kind of resources does your office offer farmers? Some have had roadside stands for years. How is agritourism different?
pj8seconds: Q4 We offer a yearly Agritourism Conference with great speakers and topics 4 new & experienced agritourism farmers. We have hands on regional workshops 4 agritourism farmers that cover topics such as safety, media relationas, marketing & more. We also have the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program, which is a cost share program for farmers. The TAEP cost share program can help agritourism farmers with restrooms, parking, lighting, educational pavilions, marketing….. Agritourism farmers who qualify can get 35% cost share up to $10,000 or 50% up to $15000.
n_web: Q5: What are a few things for farmers to consider when hosting visitors?
pj8seconds: Q5 Safety should be the number one concern on an Agritourism farm. It is a working farm w/ working hazards. Before you have the public on your farm look for attractive nuisances- anything that will be attractive to kids & dangerous. It is good to have farm rules posted at an Agritourism farm. Rules are not just great for kids, but also parents. Every Agritourism farm needs a safety plan in case of fire, injury, or bad weather. All employees should practice each plan. Proper handwashing stations around farm animal attractions is a must. It is a learning opportunity to tech kids about health. Let visitors to ur farm know what to expect & wear. They have no clue not to wear heels or to wear sunscreen.
n_web: Q6 (@celestelaurent): Not all farmers have time/$ to be a full-time tourism site. Any advice farms w/ only occassional visitors?
pj8seconds: Q6 Start small and start with something that fits with ur current farming operation. If you don’t have time to put n2 Agritourism then it may not be for you. Agritourism is time consuming, just like farming. If you’re a fall Agritourism farm ur ENTIRE month of October is work 24/7.
n_web: Q7: How have Tennessee farmers benefited from agritourism? What have been the Dept of Ag & farmers’ learnings? follow up: Is the promotion of agritourism relatively new for Tennessee? For all states?
pj8seconds: Q7 Agritourism is a way 2 help build farm income. Many farmers look to Agritourism as another way to help them stay on the farm. There are over 600 Agritourism Farms in Tennessee with an income $6.5 million dollars. That is up from $2.4 million in 2002. TN started a committee about 8 yrs ago for the main purpose of promoting agritourism and helping farmers. This committees goal was to “increase farm income and make a positive impact on rural communities in Tennessee.” Many states do not have a person dedicated to Agritourism, like Tennessee does.
n_web: Q8: So it sounds like you’re seeing growth in Tenn of agritourism? Are most visitors from Mem/Nash/Knox? Or out of state? Would you consider Tennessee on the cutting edge of promoting agritourism? What can other states learn from you?
pj8seconds: Q8 Many TN Agritourism visitors r from in state. Familys love to bring their kids out to the farm & create memories! We do have many farms who get bus tours from out of state who stop for lunch or barn dance. We also see many visitors come to Tennessee for our on farm B&B and our 33 wineries.
n_web: Q9: Are you encouraging the agritourism farms to use social media more? To market themselves? Positive/negative feedback on that?
pj8seconds: Q9 TDA had 3 regional workshops about How to Use Social Media to Market Your Farm. Now many TN farmers have Facebook Fan pages. Social Media fits every farmers marketing plan/budget, because its free! Social Media is a great way to keep customers thinking about your farm in the off season. Parents love to take pictures of their kids at a farm and post them on facebook-its great free advetising! The Tennessee Dept. of Ag has got a great response using social media for promoting Pick TN Products to consumers.
n_web: Q10: What didn’t I cover that you’d like to mention or highlight?
pj8seconds: Q10 Pick TN Products & farmers can use facebook & twitter 2 let consumers know about what is in season, recipes, festivals, & more. A great plus about having an Agritourism farm is having the opportunity to educate ppl about Agriculture. Great 4 the community! 4 every dollar spent at an Agritourism farm, an additionional $.85 of economic activity is generated. 2 find out more about TN Agritourism: PickTnProducts.org , @PickTnProducts, and Facebook.
n_web: This was great, Pamela. Really gave me (and I hope others) a look at how states can promote their farms and farmers. Thanks! Thanks for your time. Best wishes on receiving good weather this year to get folks out to the farm!
pj8seconds: Thx 4 the opportunity to talk about all of the wonderful agritourism farms here in Tennessee!!!