Agritourism and Natural Resource Tour and Resource Development
PROJECT LEADER(S): Tiffany Harrelson, NCCES Johnston County & Gary Pierce, NCCES Harnett County
TYPE OF PROJECT: Educational
LOCATION: Onslow County
One impact of this tour was the creation of a Harnett County Steering committee, comprised of four members of the County Planning Dept (head planner, head inspector, head of zoning, and one other inspector), Asst. County Manager, Head of Environmental Health Dept, a representative from the Fire Marshal’s office and a Cooperative Extension Agent. Twenty-four of the participants are starting to develop or continuing to enhance tourism operations. The participants also increased their networking skills. Sixteen participants gained knowledge of agritourism and increased their ability to utilize their resources in assisting entrepreneurs.
With the onset of urban sprawl from Raleigh, NC and their location adjacent to the I-95 and I-40 corridors, Johnston and Harnett counties are prime targets for population expansion. This situation is generally at odds with conventional farming practices. Farmers need to implement alternative enterprises, and the urban population needs to understand agriculture. Agritourism is one means to address both of these needs.
Extension agents in Johnston and Harnett counties cooperated with extension agents in Onslow County to organize a tour of successful agritourism operations in Onslow County. The target audience was comprised of farmers and local government officials. This gave both parties an opportunity to better understand the development of agritourism as a bona fide alternative farming enterprise.
Farmers were able to talk with farmers who are currently successful in implementing agritourism about developing an agritourism enterprise. Government officials were able to learn about agritourism and some potential concerns in the developmental stages. Both parties were able to establish a network where information, ideas, and concerns can be exchanged and understood.
Agritourism can be successful. It involves a lot of work on the farmers’ part, and they must gain many new skills. Government agencies need to be aware of on-farm activities to avoid any zoning issues, etc. Visitor’s Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce need to be aware of agritourism activities so they can help promote them. Agritourism is a win-win situation if all the key people are involved from the start!