Federal grant helps create more agritourism initiatives

May 03, 2016 No Comments by

by Sara Kim

With more than 400 farms within 40 miles and more restaurants per capita than New York City, it is no wonder Ithaca, New York, is ranked as the sixth foodiest town in America by Bon Appétit magazine, according to an agri-culinary tourism website, Ithaca Fork.  

Now, with a new grant, Tompkins County is focusing on its agritourism efforts by increasing farm sales and helping farmers prepare for visitors, according to the USDA project description file.

Agritourism is a way to promote the area’s economic development through emphasis on visits to local farms and established agriculture sites.

In 2015, Tompkins County received a $49,390 Agricultural Marketing Service Farmers Market Promotion Program grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. Thomas Knipe, senior planner and tourism coordinator at the Tompkins County Planning Department, said the department plans to distribute the grant in several ways in order to continue agritourism efforts in the area.

“This summer and next summer, the grant will also support cooperative extension to provide direct technical assistance to 40 farms,” Knipe said.

He said one strategy toward developing agritourism is through training programs for local farmers, where they will learn about how to become a part of the growing agritourism industry.

“We’ll actually go out to those farms, talk with the farmers, look at their business operation, and help them think through the next steps for improving agritourism,” Knipe said.

Kristy Mitchell, former integrated marketing manager for the Ithaca and Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said New York State is an agriculture hub, and through agritourism, there are opportunities to showcase areas with an agricultural focus for visitors to visit and communities to benefit.

“In this community, in particular, agritourism is an opportunity to promote economic development by bringing outside visitors to experience farms and restaurants that are fueled by local farms,” she said.  

Melissa Madden, owner of the Good Life Farm, said her farm is an established destination rather than a farm because farming and hospitality are two different industries. She said the implementation of the Finger Lakes Cider House on her farm is an agritourism destination.

“And our tasting room falls squarely in the hospitality industry, so by opening a hospitality site, we are required to be both farmers and bartenders and restaurant owners so it’s a totally different business than owning a farm,” Madden said.

Knipe said agritourism is a way to represent the goals of the 2020 Tompkins County Strategic Tourism plan, which are to promote economic development and local quality of life simultaneously through similar investments.

Knipe said Ithaca is a place with both a cultural and natural landscape, which would be supported through successful farm businesses.

“We want farmers to be successful, so that they can keep that land in farming,” he said. “And of course, people who live here also get to enjoy the agritourism experiences that are developed the same way visitors might so it adds to quality of life.”

Agriculture, Business, Farming

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