There's money in a visit to a farm, in gathering eggs, picking grapes, taking a hayrack ride or enjoying a slower pace. City folks are four generations removed from the farm, said Jane Eckert, a St. Louis agritourism consultant.
There's money in a visit to a farm, in gathering eggs, picking grapes, taking a hayrack ride or enjoying a slower pace.
City folks are four generations removed from the farm, said Jane Eckert, a St. Louis agritourism consultant.
"The majority of people... don't have grandpa and grandma's farm to go visit," she said.
Tourists are willing to come and pay for a "farm and ranch experience," said Eckert, president of Eckert Agrimarketing, who was reared on a family farm in southern Illinois.
From 1988 to 2001, she helped build the Eckert Country Story & Farms from attracting 100,000 people to 500,000 a year.
Eckert spent Tuesday showing people another way to prosper on the farm or ranch during "Agritourism: How to Attract More Customers More Often."
The Tuesday gathering of 50 people at the Kansas National Guard Learning Center, Salina, was the fifth of six sponsored by the Kansas Department of Commerce.
There is interest from the urban population, Eckert said.
"They want to see what we, who have grown up on farms and ranches, have taken for granted," she said.
Things people see every day in Kansas, such as Tuesday's waving wheat in a stiff south wind, might be of value to someone from somewhere else.
Betty Nelson agrees. She's the sales and marketing director at Smoky Hill Vineyard & Winery 212 W. Golf Link -- just north of Salina.
"The mantra I repeat is that if it's mundane to us," Nelson said, "it's an adventure to a visitor." Sometimes the simplest things are of value, said Kay Kindall, who co-owns and operates Trader's Lodge, 11 miles northeast of Minneapolis, with her husband, Neal.
"We have people come to see the birds, or walk around the section," she said. "You can see the stars here. There's no traffic."
In the state's booklet, "Growing Agritourism in Kansas: A Starter Manual for Farmers and Ranchers," readers are reminded that people will pay $5 to $10 for a hand-painted pumpkin. They will pay "top dollars" to buy produce from a farm stand, or $4 to $9 to walk through a corn maze.
Eckert showed how to create a Web site, send newsletters, obtain free publicity, create a "great first impression" and build tourism partnerships.
"Having a Web site is the most important thing you do to promote your business," she said. Agritourism is essential to Larry Abeldt, who has three grown sons and a 13-year-old son. All intend to make a living off of Abeldt Sheep Ranch, near Hope.
"We ... have to figure out ways to generate added income besides commodity agriculture," he said. "It's going to take some innovative thinking to keep the next generation out there."
Abeldt plans a tourism project involving his sheep operation, natural resources and wildlife, and fee hunting.
Progress has been slow, he said.
"Whenever you think you're ready for a project, add a year," Abeldt said. "It takes some time." The state Commerce Department is in the midst of Phase II of its agritourism plan, said Janna Dunbar, agritourism program manager.
"What we've been trying to do the last year and a half is educate agritourism operators," she said, "and increase the quality of agritourism operations that we have in Kansas."
"We have to build the experience," Dunbar said, "before we can sell the experience."
To see more of The Salina Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.saljournal.com.
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
ENN Special Report: Sustainable Travel