Agritourism Opportunity for Farm Diversification in Nevada

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                                                                            Fact Sheet 05-38

                 Agritourism: Opportunity for Farm
                     Diversification in Nevada
  Kynda R. Curtis, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Resource Economics, College of
                 Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno
               Joseph Monson, Undergraduate Research Assistant, University of Nevada, Reno

     When you hear the word “vacation”, you                common tourism activities. Typical
may picture sunny beaches in Maui,                         attractions at agritourism destinations
historical monuments in Washington D.C.,                   include farm tours, hay rides, educational
or twisty roller coasters at Six Flags.                    demonstrations, fresh produce markets,
Although these places can be relaxing,                     picnic areas, and cozy cafes. Elaborate
enlightening, and entertaining, they are                   agritourism destinations usually provide
nearly always crowded with other                           overnight accommodations in the form of
vacationers. As a result, vacations can often              bed and breakfasts, bunkhouses, or
end up being more stressful than the hectic                campgrounds.
everyday environment left behind.
     For those who wish to enjoy a peaceful
and edifying getaway and want to avoid
urban crowds in the process, rural tourism is
a unique alternative. Rural tourism is
defined as “the natural life tourism, through
which the customer may access the natural
environment as opposed to commercially
developed tourist activities and locations”
(Hill et al., 1996, pg. 50). In general, rural
tourism encompasses any recreational or
leisure activity in the countryside. One of                Why Agritourism?
the fastest growing sectors of rural tourism                   The majority of farmers choose
is farm tourism, which is also commonly                    agritourism enterprises to develop an
referred to as agritourism.                                additional source of income to their
     Farm tourism has taken on several                     traditional agricultural practices. Over the
definitions throughout the years. Two of the               past century, farming has become more
more recent definitions are: “rural                        technologically advanced than ever before.
enterprises which include both a working                   In turn, many small-scale farmers, due to
farm environment and a commercial tourism                  economies of scale have been forced out of
component” (Weaver and Fennell, 1997, pg.                  the industry completely or have found
357), and “an alternative farm enterprise                  alternative sources of revenue. Thus, many
comprising one of several possible pathways                small-scale farmers have found farm tourism
of farm business development” (Ilbery et al.,              to be an efficient means to supplement their
1998, pg. 355). The list of attractions that               declining farm incomes, while still running
can be found within the farm tourism                       their valued farming operation. Other
industry is extensive, yet unparalleled to                 farmers have completely abandoned their
traditional farming processes, because the
                                                        Why Agritourism in Nevada?
profits from their agritourism business
                                                   o   Large population centers and
vastly outweigh those of their previous                tourist destinations to draw from.
operation. However, in order to have a             o   Opportunity to expand farm income
successful agritourism enterprise, it is               and decrease risk through
necessary for farmers to maintain a level of           diversification.
real agricultural activities on their land to      o   Community economic development
preserve the traditional farming ambience              opportunities.
(Busby and Rendle, 2000).                          o   Satisfying interaction with learning
    Along with maintaining a sense of                  motivated visitors.
authenticity, individuals involved in the
farm tourism industry must also be aware of       Approaching Agritourism
specific elements of the servicescape                 One way to gain knowledge about
(Coomber and Lim, 2004). The                      tourists and the tourism industry is to
servicescape consists of ambient conditions       network with individuals who run similar
that affect one or more of the five senses.       agritourism businesses. In Georgia, a group
On a farm tour, variables such as the noise       of ten winery owners recently joined
level, the amount of odor lingering in the air,   together to form Southwest Georgia
the outdoor temperature, the number and           Escapes, a cooperative that aims to market
size of signage around the farm, and              south-western Georgia as a single
convenience all affect the servicescape and       agritourism destination (Scroggs, 2004).
can play a major role in the customers’ level         Along with sharing information with
of satisfaction with the tour (Coomber and        analogous suppliers, farm tourism
Lim, 2004).                                       enterprises can also benefit by networking
                                                  with complementary businesses that can add
                                                  to the overall experience. For example, if an
                                                  agritourism operation is close to a lake, it
                                                  may be advantageous for the owner to form
                                                  a relationship with a local charter fishing
                                                  company. By networking in this manner,
                                                  not only would the tourists’ experience of
                                                  the countryside be more complete, but both
                                                  neighboring businesses would be able to
                                                  earn revenue from the same customers.
                                                      Another marketing necessity employed
                                                  by many successful agritourism enterprises
                                                  is an easily accessible Web site. According
                                                  to an article published in USA Today, web
    For many farmers who have lived on a
                                                  sites can provide a more valuable channel
farm for most of their life, ambient
                                                  for advertising agritourism businesses than
conditions such as farm noise and smells do
                                                  radio or television (Groppe, 2004). With a
not bother them. Conversely, for tourists
                                                  Web site, owners of farm tourism operations
who have never previously set foot on a
                                                  can efficiently keep prospective visitors up-
farm, these surroundings may adversely
                                                  to-date about events and products at their
influence their enjoyment. Hence, when
                                                  farms. However, one major drawback to
farmers decide to make the transition from
                                                  this marketing method is the lack of Internet
traditional agricultural to agritourism, it is
                                                  access in many rural areas where farm
necessary that they understand their
                                                  tourism thrives (Groppe, 2004). Yet, while
customers (Busby and Rendle, 2000).
                                                  many farmers may be without Internet
access, the majority of tourists can easily     have been selling fresh produce to farm
connect (Ribeiro and Marques, 2002). New        visitors. Today, while they continue to sell
tourists are more experienced travelers,        products from farm produce stands, they
more educated, and wealthier. Thus,             also service a larger customer base by
Internet marketing on behalf of agritourism     attending ten nearby farmers’ markets.
destinations is a highly effective way to       Along with fresh produce, the Lattins also
reach this audience. Additionally, by           sell specialty breads, muffins, brownies,
capturing an audience with an above average     homemade jams, and dill pickles.
purchasing power, owners of farm tourism            Other than purchasing high quality food
enterprises can expect higher cash inflows      products, visitors at Lattin Farms can enjoy
(Ribeiro and Marques, 2002).                    a hayride around the farm, a walking antique
    While many modern tourists lack an          tour, multiple flower and herb gardens, a 10-
understanding of farming and farm life, their   acre pumpkin patch, and a spacious picnic
desire to be educated on and show an            and barbeque area. In addition to the
appreciation for the subject seems to be        complete farm ambience, Lattin Farms is
increasing. In fact, a recent survey            home to one of the largest corn mazes in the
conducted by the University Georgia Center      state. This five-acre attraction is open
for Agribusiness and Economic                   annually from August through October,
Development, shows that agritourism is          while the corn is high. Each year, the
gaining popularity among people, especially     challenging corn maze takes on a new
those who want to take different types of       theme. Last year’s space-themed maze (A-
vacations (Scroggs, 2004).                      Maze-in Space) was designed by Adrian
                                                Fisher, a world famous maze-designer from
            Steps to Agritourism
                                                London who holds multiple records in the
 o   Determine the potential attendance at
                                                Guinness Book of World Records for his
     your farm. Is the farm near a major
     population center?
                                                work in maze design. According to Rick
 o   Network with others in your local          Lattin, the twelve-foot high corn maze is the
     agritourism industry.                      biggest draw of visitors to his farm.
 o   Investigate marketing avenues, such
     as farmers’ markets and Internet
     Web sites.
 o   Consider visitor friendly adjustments
     that may need to be made on the
 o   Investigate legal and financial
     aspects of converting your farm to a
     tourist destination.

Example of Nevada Agritourism
    Located in Fallon, Nevada, Lattin Farms
offers a complete farm experience for
tourists of all ages. Though its current            Due to the popularity of the corn maze,
owners, Rick and B. Ann Lattin, are             the Lattins have taken extra precautions over
relatively new to the agritourism business,     the past few years to ensure the safety and
they are both experienced farmers.              wellbeing of the farm visitors. Specifically,
According to Rick Lattin (March 2005), the      they have hired extra part-time workers to
Lattin family has farmed in the Lahontan        monitor the maze, installed better lighting
Valley for five generations. Since Rick and     around the maze, and expanded the parking
B. Ann took over Lattin Farms in 1977, they     area. Not only have these changes made
    Lattin Farms a safer place to visit, they have                                      The NRCS publication “Taking the First
    also helped to enhance the overall                                              Step: Farm and Ranch Alternative Enterprise
    experience for tourists at the farm.                                            and Agritourism Resource Evaluation Guide” is
        Along with tourist visits, Lattin Farms                                     available online at
    hosts tours for several thousand elementary                           
    school students each year. For many                                             tenterprise/.
    students, an educational field trip to Lattin
    Farms is the first time they have ever been                                     References
    exposed to agriculture and the systems of a                                     Busby, Graham, and Samantha Rendle.
    working farm. To aid in the learning                                                “The transition from tourism on farms to
    process of the students that visit the farm,                                        farm tourism.” Tourism Management
    employees of Lattin Farms have compiled a                                           21.8, 2000:635–642.
    series of related educational topics that meet                                  Coomber, L., and C. Lim. “Farm Tourism:
    the state standards for each grade level. For                                       A Preliminary Study of Participants’
    example, a first-grader should be able to use                                       Expectations and Perceptions of Farm
    his or her five senses to investigate the                                           Tours.” International Environmental
    natural aspects of the farm, while a sixth-                                         Modelling and Software Society, 2004.
    grader is expected to be able to describe how                                   Groppe, Maureen. “Farmers strike pay dirt
    farm machinery uses motion.                                                         with Web.” USA Today May 19, 2004.
                                                                                    Hill, D., E. Sunderland, C. O’Cathain, and
                                                                                        G. Daily. “Rural Tourism Development
                                                                                        in Ireland.” Tourism and Hospitality
                                                                                        Research, 1996.
                                                                                    Ilbery, B., I. Bowler, G. Clark, A. Crockett,
                                                                                        and A. Shaw. “Farm-based tourism as
                                                                                        an alternative farm enterprise.” Regional
        As Lattin Farms and other agritourism                                           Studies 32.4, 1998:355-364.
    enterprises prepare for another successful                                      Lattin, Rick. Interview conducted at Lattin
    growing season and tourist rush, many other                                         Farms in March of 2005. Also, see the
    traditional farms are beginning to take                                             Lattin Farms Web site, last updated
    notice. For many small-scale farmers,                                               November 14, 2004, at
    agritourism provides an efficient alternative                             
    source of income to their conventional                                          Ribeiro, Manuela, and Carlos Marques.
    agricultural practices. Moreover, the                                               “Rural Tourism and the Development of
    establishment of farm tourism destinations                                          Less Favored Areas.” International
    has given farmers an opportunity to support                                         Journal of Tourism Research 4,
    their livelihood and continue to be a part of                                       2002:211-220.
    an industry they love. And for tourists and                                     Scroggs, Craig. “Great Escapes:
    vacationers alike, agritourism is an exciting                                       Agritourism co-op helping Georgia
    and unique experience that cannot be found                                          farmers diversify.” Rural Cooperatives,
    at popular urban attractions.                                                       September/October 2004.
                                                                                    Weaver, D. B., and D. A. Fennell. “The
    Additional Information                                                              vacation farm sector in Saskatchewan: A
        The UC Davis Small Farms Center has                                             profile of operations.” Tourism
    publications on agritourism and a directory                                         Management 18.6, 1997:357-365.
    of agritourism sites in California. See
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