Jo Daviess County Agritourism
Farmers, tourism officials team up on agritourism
By Lynne Finnerty, Editor FBNews
Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau in Illinois is working with the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) on ways to promote farm tours and farm stays in the county.
A few farms and vineyards in the area already offer tours and even lodging. The Farm Bureau and CVB are conducting a survey to gauge local farmers’ interest in offering more agritourism services. The results will guide the focus of a new agritourism program to boost farm visits, agricultural education and economic development.
The program could go in a number of directions, according to Annette McLane, manager of the Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau.
“We want to see what types of things people are already doing, what they are open to and what they think would or would not work,” McLane explained. For the Farm Bureau’s leaders and members, increasing the public’s opportunities to see what happens on a real, working farm was a key goal.
“That is a huge factor,” said McLane. “Our board of directors wanted to find ways to help educate the public about agriculture. Jo Daviess is already a big tourism county so, we figured, what better way to capitalize on that?”
For the CVB, it’s about bringing more tourism “product” to the visitor—more things for tourists to do and, thus, more reasons for them to make Jo Daviess County their destination (video). With agriculture being the region’s leading industry and tourism coming in second, it made sense to connect them.
Located about 160 miles west of Chicago and nestled in the rolling hills on the Mississippi River between the northwest corner of Illinois, Iowa to the west and Wisconsin to the north, Jo Daviess County boasts beautiful scenery. Galena, the county seat, features historic architecture. Many Chicagoans have second homes in the area. There are 14 million people, i.e. potential visitors, within a 500-mile radius of the county.
“They receive about 75 percent [of visitors] from the Chicagoland area—urban and suburban visitors—many who have never been on a farm,” said Dorian Dickinson of marketing agency SotaVenture, which is working with the Farm Bureau and CVB on the agritourism program.
Dickinson spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Development Conference in May. He says agritourism is the segment of tourism that is seeing the strongest growth, with 30 percent increases every year from 1987 to 2009. Americans are taking shorter vacations and staying closer to home, he added, and vacationers want “experiential” trips. The growth in “foodie-ism” or interest in all things food-related also is driving the interest in farm visits.
“Local farmers have said that they receive calls from people out of the blue asking if they can come and watch cows being milked, etc.,” Dickinson said. “Winery and vineyard tours are popular. Experiential travel is huge and a great opportunity for rural communities everywhere to take advantage of the agritourism trend.”
The organizations are planning an agritourism conference in November. The conference will give people involved in either tourism or farming a chance to get together. “They can do some networking and see how a BB could partner with a farmer, for example, to do some sort of lodging-farm tour package,” said McLane. “We want to put those things out there. Anyone from either side is welcome to participate. We want to include everyone to get more options we would not have thought of.”
The groups will look into applying for rural development grants to pay for marketing efforts. The program may include education opportunities for local entrepreneurs, farmers and small businesses, as well as putting them in touch with financing to build the agritourism components of their businesses.
“We feel that agritourism and being able to put people back in touch with their rural roots is an economic opportunity for rural communities,” said Dickinson. “Taking an economic development approach to agritourism—how farmers could use it as an economic development engine for their own businesses and the county as a whole—is refreshing.”
This entry was posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011 at 12:12 pm and is filed under Community Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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