Florida agritourism is a growing opportunity for agricultural producers that allows consumers to experience the agricultural industry. The number of agritourism operations in Florida has almost tripled in the last five years, with many more opportunities in the future to expand and reach new people.
The UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (PIE Center) conducted research in five locations in Florida to better understand what opportunities exist for producers and identify consumers’ current awareness of and preferences for agritourism.
The researchers found consumers had low familiarity with the terms agritourism or agricultural tourism, and were unable to name local agritourism opportunities. But when they were given more information about agritourism and the types of activities considered to be agritourism, many indicated that they had visited agritourism operations, such as u-picks, crop mazes, farmers’ markets, or wineries and breweries.
“The lack of understanding of the term agritourism showed the need to think about how we discuss and promote agritourism activities,” assistant professor of agricultural education and communication Joy Rumble said. “There is an opportunity to grow agritourism awareness and interest by using terms that appeal to a consumer audience.”
Rumble, who specializes in agricultural communication at the University of Florida, was the lead researcher for the project.
Consumers identified the Internet, newspaper, social media, TV, signs and printed advertisements as methods of finding out about agritourism operations. Social media, signs and email were among the popular preferences for how consumers would like to learn about agritourism operations.
Consumers visit agritourism operations for a variety of reasons, including entertainment, nostalgia, learning and exercise. Consumers discussed wanting to learn about different types of agriculture or specific skills such as learning to grow crops, identifying plants, or selecting ripe produce.
As consumers visit agritourism operations to learn, agritourism operations offer many educational opportunities. Preferences for educational opportunities varied among consumers. Some valued self-guided tours, while others valued guided tours or scheduled programming and some just wanted educational materials they could take home.
Consumers wanted an affordable experience, acknowledging that different activities would cost different amounts, but preferring to pay between $10 and $20 per person.
Consumers also preferred the operation to be easy to get to and located away from the city. Most consumers were willing to travel one to two hours to visit an agritourism operation, but some were willing to travel anywhere in the state or travel out of the state.
When consumers were asked what characteristics would create a perfect agritourism experience, consumers described an affordable, kid-friendly, fun and educational experience. Good weather and animals were also part of their ideal experience.
In addition to learning more about consumers’ preferences, two agritourism workshops were held. These workshops attracted current agritourism operators, potential agritourism operators, local government representatives, tourism boards and extension personnel.
The workshops allowed participants to visit agritourism operations and hear directly from speakers about the opportunities and challenges of owning an agritourism operation. The findings from the research and the information shared during the workshops informed the development of a statewide strategic plan for agritourism.
“The strategic plan provides a vision for moving agritourism forward in Florida and we hope that it will be a resource to agritourism operators and those providing services to agritourism operators,” Rumble said.
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This story was featured in the January/ February 2018 FloridAgriculture Magazine.Download the full story