Although agritourism is often thought of as a niche industry, it can be big business when done right. An upcoming conference in Asheville, N.C., is designed to help newcomers and experienced entrepreneurs alike acquire the tools they need to market their enterprise successfully.
The sixth annual Agritourism Networking Association Conference will be held March 8-9 at Asheville's Crowne Plaza Hotel. The two-day event will feature speakers, workshops and networking opportunities for agritourism entrepreneurs and for those interested in rural tourism in North Carolina.
"There's a nearly endless amount of agritourism possibilities out there for farmers to try on their farms, but the amount of choices can be overwhelming," says N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Events such as this conference give folks an opportunity to learn more about the different types of agritourism from people who have applied it on their own farms."
The range of agritourist ventures in North Carolina vary from petting zoos and crop mazes for children to rural inns and wedding facilities to accommodate newlyweds. Some operate year round while others cater to special events once or a few times during the year. Some based on holidays range from strawberry festivals to Halloween bashes and everything in between. Some festivals feature live bands and helicopter or airplane rides for attendees.
The ANA Conference will highlight a number of expert presenters. Optional mid-afternoon farm tours will be held March 8, with a reception to follow. On March 9, workshops will cover topics such as keeping your farm successful in today's economy, using social media to expand your customer base, using mediation for farm problems, hospitality success and customer service, and maintaining the success curve after year one.
Early registration by March 1 is $75 for ANA members, $85 for non-members and $35 for Cooperative Extension staff. The registration fee increases to $100 after March 1.
For more information or a registration form, go to www.ncagr.gov/agritourism, or call agritourism manager Martha Glass at 919-707-3120.