What happens when you bring together a winery, a pumpkin patch, farmers’ market vendors, on-farm retail and vegetable production, a corn maze and a hunting preserve? You find out far more than you knew before about the needs and challenges of Iowa’s agritourism industry. This meeting-of-the-minds was orchestrated by the Iowa Agritourism Working Group. This new ISU Extension-led effort offers value-added agriculture businesses help in developing and promoting their agritourism and “agri-tainment” businesses.
More and more working farms and other value-added ag businesses are taking advantage of growing consumer demand for ag-related tourism and entertainment opportunities, said Christa Hartsook, with ISU Extension Value Added Agriculture and a member of the Iowa Agritourism Working Group.
The group also conducted an online producer survey during spring 2007, gathering information on the types of businesses represented, their busy seasons and the number of guests they host annually.
Ninety-two businesses completed surveys, Hartsook said. Eighty-four percent wanted educational programs in agritourism, and 95 percent wanted information on marketing, Internet sales and financing. As a result, the group is planning an educational workshop for producers and developing an online resource guide.
Extension’s partners in the Iowa Agritourism Working Group include the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Ag Innovation Center, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Tourism Office, Iowa Farm Bureau, Practical Farmers of Iowa and Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.