SMITHFIELD, NC (April 6, 2015) - A grant through the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and partnerships between the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Johnston Community College, and NC Cooperative Extension are providing the opportunity for a new generation of local farmers to train for agritourism. The program hopes to provide the most current information on all aspects of agritourism for the county's farmers, vintners, brewers, and distillers.
The project consists of 3 free seminars and a tour of local successful agritourism businesses. The first seminar held in March discussed the history of agritourism in Johnston County and the resources of the Tourism Extension office at North Carolina State University. The second seminar will be on April 28 at 7pm in the Lampe Meeting Room in Smithfield and will focus on Farm to Table strategies and success. Among the speakers will be Neha M. Shah, Director of Travel & Tourism, from the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Johnston County has previously offered workshops on agritourism with the hope of assisting local farmers who may be seeking ways to utilize their land and equipment to serve tourists. Thanks to these previous agritourism classes, many of which took place 10 years ago, right here in Johnston County there exists all types of agritourism options for visitors and locals. Families who owned farms like the Boyettes, the Thompsons, and the Browns utilized knowledge gained from attending the classes to set the foundation for agritourism in the county.
On that foundation exists old and new local businesses that have only grown with the consumer demand for farm to table experiences. Current trends show increased interest in agritourism surrounding the beer and wine market. Here in Johnston County we have 4 wineries, 2 breweries, and one moonshine distillery where visitors can learn about the local ingredients that go into the beverages they get to enjoy in the tasting rooms.
One local farmer, Caroline Hines, stated both the benefits and obstacles that agricultural enterprises face when entering into and remaining profitable in agritourism. She has a family-owned farm outside of Micro called Hines Farm. They grow tobacco mostly and have not expanded into agritourism, but Hines is one example of the farmers that exist in the newest generation of agricultural professionals considering the opportunities and particulars involved in agritourism. According to Hines one of the most important aspects, and often the most baffling to farmers, is marketing and branding. She continued, "agritourism takes people visiting your operation and that takes branding your farm as a place people want to go. With most conventional farms you have a product and you sell it and that's it. You don't have to market your crops."
Note: According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, "Agritourism is activity that incorporates tourism and agriculture by bringing individuals to farms, ranches, vineyards, and other agricultural enterprises. Agritourism helps to educate the public and often generates income for farmers and agriculturalists. There are many types of agritourism enterprises, including pick-your-own farms, agriculture museums, corn mazes, hay rides, winery tours, barnyard animals, etc."