More than 100 farms come together to make Third Annual Agritourism Conference a success

By Christie Welch
Direct Marketing Specialist

Nearly 100 farms from all across Ohio met Monday, March 25 at Maize Valley Winery in Hartville, Ohio to learn how agritourism is having a positive impact on Ohio’s farms.

Collaborating with OSU Extension, Wright & Moore Law, LPA, and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation to offer information and education to Ohio farmers, the day began with Bill Bakan, owner of Maize Valley Winery, sharing information with attendees on how to manage customer expectations.  Throughout the day he and his wife, Michelle, shared information on how they have grown their once dairy farm into the successful agritourism destination it is today.

What is agritourism? The USDA defines agritourism as “any business activity that invites visitors to come on the farm, ranch, or into a rural community to enjoy agriculture and the natural resources” (2004). And for many farmers and ranchers across the county, agritourism is proving to be a beneficial addition to the farm’s bottom line, as well as for spreading awareness of how food is produced.

There is a great deal of interest by consumers in how and where their food is produced.  Agritourism operations invite these consumers onto their farm in a variety of ways to help them learn about food production and farming in Ohio.  Agritourism is an agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activity, including you-pick operations or farm markets, conducted on a farm that allows or invites members of the general public to observe, participate in, or enjoy that activity (Kirk-Hall, 2018). And since most Ohioans do not live on a farm, their interest in visiting farms is high.

But don’t just jump right in. You need to do your homework and some planning to ensure you are managing the associated risks of having the general public come onto your farm to enjoy the setting and the products you produce. March’s conference was designed to assist new and existing farmers learn about agritourism trends; how to evaluate and manage risks; understanding Ohio’s laws, rules, and regulations; how to work with your community; and see how others have successfully incorporated agritourism into their farming operations.

If you are considering adding an agritourism activity to your farm, the OSU South Centers Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing team can help.  There are a number of agritourism resources on the team’s website, southcenters.osu.edu/direct-marketing, or they can meet with you to discuss your new enterprise.