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Best Management Practices for an agritourism business include: 1) providing an authentic farm or ranch experience, 2) providing an educational experience, 3) providing excellent customer service, 4) providing adequate public facilities, 5) maintaining a safe and accessible environment, 6) creating good community relations, and 7) planning for your financial future.
Always remember these seven tenets of sound agritourism businesses from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center:
- Authentic Farm or Ranch Experience – An agritourism business can be defined as any person, farm, or corporation actively engaged in the operation, management, or promotion of an agriculturally-related tourism business open to the public. This business provides visitors with an educational experience aside from one that is solely commercial. It is important to keep in mind that your farm/ranch is often the “face of farming and ranching” in your community, region, or state. A product you offer to visitors may be the experience of farm or ranch living. It is also important to understand what aspects of agriculture your local associations (agricultural, tourism, and marketing) emphasize in your region so that you can develop your own niche in coordination with other farms and attractions nearby.
- Educational Experience – Farms and ranches can offer an agriculturally-oriented educational experience suitable for different ages. Food and fiber production, land stewardship, and history of agriculture are common topics that visitors enjoy learning about. Another way to diversify your operation and educate guests maybe on-property recreational activities (e.g., fishing, hunting, trail riding, cross-country skiing, or hiking).
- Customer Service – This should be an integral part of your business planning. Training your staff to interact with customers in an appropriate way will ensure a safe and high quality experience for customers. It also ensures these customers will return and tell other potential customers about your business.
- Adequate Public Facilities – Your farm/ranch needs to have sufficient capacity (staff and infrastructure) to provide basic services such as parking, transportation, signage, customer assistance, education, and roads. In order to maintain a safe and customer friendly business, provision of services and facilities like restrooms becomes necessary.
- Safe and Accessible Environment – You should ensure that your property and facilities are maintained and in compliance with zoning, health, food safety, and environmental regulations. It is useful as well to create a risk management plan for your farm/ranch. In addition, depending on your type of business, consider compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates equal customer access to certain facilities (entrances, exits, and bathrooms).
- Community Relations – To create good community relations, it is important to regularly provide opportunities for organized groups and individuals in your community to visit your property (e.g., schools and business associations).
- Planning for your Financial Future – Regularly review your business plan and appropriately add value (price) to all farm/ranch services, products, and experiences in order to provide for the long-term sustainability of your business.
The sky is the limit when it comes to on-farm events, and there are exciting models throughout Vermont. Browse the resources below to get ideas, and if you have an idea you’d like to add to the list, let us know!
On Farm Classes Workshops
Farm Tours and Tastings
Marketing Your Enterprise – Key Points from University of California Cooperative Extension
Marketing 101 for your Agritourism Business – Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Marketing Agritourism While Providing Quality Service – Training Module by Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Creating a Social Media Strategy – From Good Egg Marketing
Marketing Your Farm to Schools - Video from Farm and Countryside Education
Dig In Vermont - DigInVT is your portal to Vermont’s agriculture and culinary experiences that are open to the public.
Rural Bounty - A site to share the rich bounty of farm fresh fruits and vegetables, outdoor activities, and family fun that our rural countryside has to offer.
Farm Stay U.S. – A site designed to connect guests with farm and ranch stays throughout the United States.
Localvore Today - a locally owned and operated marketing service for local businesses. In addition to emailing their extensive list of followers about your business, they will promote your offer in their social media campaigns.
Eatwith.com, eatfeastly.com and bookalokal.com are online sites that connect travelers looking for authentic dining options with hosts who offer meals in their homes. If your farm offers meals more than one time per month, a food service establishment license is necessary for operation. Consider partnering with these sites to promote your unique dining experiences. It is also important to remember to collect meals tax from your diners.
Do you offer
Social Media and Tech Learning Opportunities
Girl Develop It – Burlington Based Classes for Women looking to Learn Simple Software Development
Integrating Social Into Marketing and Communications – Vermont Department of Travel and Tourism
Customer Relations – Cornell Cooperative Extension
Customer Service – Purdue Extension
Why People Vacation – University of California Cooperative Extension Small Farm Program
On-Farm Customer Relations – University of California Cooperative Extension Small Farm Program
Farm-Based Education Network for resources and referrals
Edible Schoolyard Project for curricula and activities
Shelburne Farms Newsletter – sign up by clicking on the envelop on the home page. Receive news of upcoming farmer-educator trainings
Farm to Community Mentors, a program of NOFA Vermont through which each county is assigned a mentor, who helps connect farms and farm-based educators with schools and the broader community. Learn who your mentor is and connect with her today!
ABC’s of Farm-Based Education Course – This is a 3-day workshop for farmers and educators held annually at Shelburne Farms. To see upcoming dates, view the Shelburne Farms calendar of Educator Programs.
Cultivating Joy and Wonder brings Education for Sustainability into your early childhood classroom through engaging activities, essays, and resources that encourage children to explore and engage in the world around them. The book is the fruit of Shelburne Farms’ years of experience in early childhood education and sustainability, both on the Farm and with our partners at the Sustainability Academy and King Street Center in Burlington, Vermont.
Printable Activities from Cultivating Joy and Wonder – Shelburne Farms
This collection of activities is free to download. Just print, then put them to use on your farm!
A Guide For Connecting Farms to Schools and Communities -Vermont Food Education Every Day (FEED)
Designed to help farmers, teachers, and others interested in how to use farms for education, and connect them to the community. Includes strategies to market local food to schools, and 45 hand-on, farm-based, educational activities.
Working With Students of All Ages – Vermont FEED
Teacher-Farmer Letter Templates for Field Trips – Vermont FEED
A bibliography of farm-based education books and activities – Shelburne Farms
Farm Activities from Vermont FEED – Vermont FEED
Animal Ethnogram: A Farm Observation Activity for All Ages – Shelburne Farms
Why Host School Visits? – Farming and Countryside Education
Is Your Farm Ready for School Visits? – Farming and Countryside Education
What Can You Offer to Schools and Others Visiting Your Farm? - Farming and Countryside Education
Developed at Shelburne Farms, Project Seasons is a collection of hands-on education activities for discovering the wonders of the world. It is invaluable in cultivating an awareness and appreciation of agriculture and natural resources.
Agritourism enterprises offer farmers opportunities to diversify and increase their income. Opening the farm to these new opportunities, however, also introduces new risks and legal obligations that should not be ignored. It is important that the safety risks be identified and properly managed in order to minimize the potential for injuries, illnesses and resulting financial losses. – Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Agritourism Onsite Safety Guide
Farm Safety and Risk Assessment
Managing Safety and Risk – Training Module from Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Safety Considerations- Purdue Extension Agritourism in Focus – Purdue Extension
Farm Safety Checklist – Vermont Food Education Every Day (see page 21 of their downloadable guide)
Agritourism Animal Safety Assessment Checklist - Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Farm Building Safety Checklist - UVM Extension
Your Farm’s First Aid Kit from Iowa State Extension
Agritourism General Farm Safety Assessment Checklist – Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Emergency Response and Legal Liability Checklist - Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Agritourism Operation Food Safety Checklist – Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Agritourism Liability – Training Module from Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Top 10 Ways To Limit Your Liability – Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Managing Liability – Virginia Cooperative Extension
Risk Management Overview – Colorado – from Colorado Agency of Agriculture
Best Management Practices in Parking, Lighting, Walkways and General Agritourism Safety - Louisiana State University Ag Center
Risk Assessment and Management and Safety Concerns – University of Tennessee Extension
Agritourism Liability Questions to Clarify with Insurer – Cornell Cooperative Extension
Agritourism Emergency Response & Liability Assessment Checklist - Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Farm Accident/Incident Report Form [Sample] - Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Incident Report Form [Sample] – Shelburne Farms
Agritourism Parking and Traffic Assessment Checklist – Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Printable Signs and Information for the Public - National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety
Legal Issues with On-Farm Events Webinar - Farm Commons
Managing Risk on Your Agritourism Farm: A Farmer’s Perspective - Rutgers – Northeast SARE video
Hayride Safety – Rutgers – Northeast SARE video
General Farm Safety – Rutgers – Northeast SARE video
A list of insurers with experience in Vermont agritourism.
Tom Pyle, Durkee Insurance, Fair Haven
Roy Folsom, Nationwide Agribusiness
Co-Operative Insurance Companies, Middlebury
Financial Management: Budgeting for Agritourism – Training Module from Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Business Planning – University of Tennessee Extension
Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing A Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses – Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
Sample Budget for a Corn Maze Enterprise – Rutgers – Northeast SARE
Crowdfunding Fact Sheet – UVM Extension
Development Resources from the Farm-Based Education Network