Tourism Day at the Legislature featured the "Discover NC Farms" statewide agritourism map
From the Farm –
Greetings to all y’all ANA farmers! Our farm is getting ready for the fall and we're anxious to start seeing folks at Lewis Farm.
I know a lot of you have been busy already with spring farm stands and other activities that you have for visitors in the spring. We’ve had a few groups, but most of our business is after school starts. For those of you whose farms are open in the fall, I hope the economy doesn’t slow things down.
The new word in the tourism world is good for us agritourism farmers. It’s
“staycations.” That means people stay close to home with day trips that are inexpensive. This is really a boon for us small ‘fun farms’ since tourists and local friends still want their fresh produce, pumpkins, apple cider and Christmas trees. It will be interesting to see how our receipts compare with last year’s.
So, here’s to success for each and every one of you this year! I hope to see a big crowd in Greenville at the City Hotel and Bistro for our 2010 ANA Conference! More on that further down.
Best to y’all,
~Cathy Lewis, 2008-09 NC ANA President
The City Hotel in Greenville has offered ANA a package similar to our Caraway and Hickory conference arrangements. In addition, we can have a wine tasting the evening before the conference at the hotel at no charge, and we can provide refreshments without having to use hotel fare. This location is next door to the Greenville Convention Center and Campus, but enjoys a smaller facility with the same amenities. Rooms will be around $90.
The other location we considered was the Rocky Mount Conference Center, but that location would not allow a wine tasting event.
The Northeast and Southeast Districts will be ‘hosting’ us this year, so those of you who are in those two districts, get ready to take charge!
Start thinking about how we can improve on last year’s best conference yet! For instance, this year, we could have a “Country Store” in one of the rooms where members can bring items from their farms or gift shops to display. The idea is that members could arrange to share sale items with each others’ farms or wineries to show visitors at one farm what would be available at another farm, hopefully increasing visitor numbers by giving more visibility to farms and vineyards.
Think about new speakers and new topics. This year we may want to have a speaker from the Travel and Tourism Division at the Department of Commerce. There are efforts now to help tourism supporters, such as the Rural Center, the Travel and Tourism Division, Extension, the Agritourism Office and the ANA, collaborate with each other and increase tourism numbers across the state, with a special emphasis on rural tourism.
Stay tuned! We’ll really be busy getting ready for our fourth annual conference – this year in eastern North Carolina!
Participants at West District workshop at The Orchard at Altapass
Our final two workshops were held at Duplin Winery in Duplin County on April 23 and at The Historic Orchard at Altapass on April 30 in McDowell County. ANA members, potential new members and invited guests attended both.
At Duplin Winery, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and video of the history of the Fussell family and their famous winery. We also heard the latest on liability insurance from new member Brad Brown – fortunately for the agritourism industry, it is getting easier to find and afford – some of the time. That’s better than five years ago when we could hardly find any insurance agents who knew what it was. Glenn Boyette also entertained and educated the group about his “Clayton Fear Farm,” its growth from slim beginnings, its success, the good publicity it has gotten, and its potential for growth. (Note: I regret that my camera malfunctioned at Duplin Winery...)
Our visit to The Historic Orchard at Altapass, owned by Bill Carson and his wife and sister, started off with a hayride along the mountain side and Bill's story of the orchard, its families, and battles of the Revolutionary War near there which ended in the famous battle at Kings Mountain. Altapass is the only farm open to visitors on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Again, the most popular workshop subject, according to all workshop surveys, agritourism liability, was on the program with ANA member Chris Johnson leading the discussion. Art Campbell, owner of The Cottages at Spring House Farm, talked about his cottages and how he was preserving and sustaining farmland while bringing in tourism dollars.
Bill Carson's picture was featured at the 2008 State Fair
Your Executive Director, Martha Glass, was on the planning committee for a four-state workshop held at Fletcher April 27 – 29. The workshop was a train-the-trainer workshop for extension agents in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee on the business aspects of beginning and sustaining an agritourism farm. Farmers and Extension professionals covered topics such as Evaluating an Agritourism Enterprise; Market Evaluation – with our own ANA member Russ Vollmer; Financial Analysis; Insurance and Risk Management, with ANA members Will Johnson, Insurance, and David Kendall, Extension, Risk Management; Making Your Website Work for You, with ANA member Michelle Patterson; and Why and How to Collaborate, with Samantha Rozier, ANA member and Extension staff as one of the two speakers.
This conference alsoresulted in a greater understanding of the resources available from the Agritourism Office and ANA for Extension offices across the state.
I was also able to distribute close to 10 boxes, or 3000 “Discover NC Farms” agritourism maps, to Extension agents who had requested them to take back to their counties to distribute. A huge “THANK YOU” to our Extension friends! This was the first wide-spread distribution of the maps as they had just been delivered to the Agritourism Office on April 15.
The Stepp's exhibit at the SARE workshop
As of the end of June, over 59,000 of a total of 100,000 maps have been distributed across the state, and some out of state. From individual maps to requests for several boxes, the maps have been steadily sent out by the Agritourism Office.
My greatest appreciation to the ANA Board which agreed to donate first $500 to helping with the mailing costs, then another $500 when the first amount quickly ran out. At this point, we have about $42 left which will buy stamps for individual map mailings. The state budget for the fiscal year ending June 30 really caught the mailing process in a bind. The trouble started when the estimated amount of printing the maps was a July 2008 figure and the final cost of printing was a February 2009 dollar amount. The grant application used, from necessity, the July figure, and the amount requested for map mailing costs had to be moved to the printing costs.
In early May, after the Marketing Division had spent over $500, in just three weeks, to mail two boxes each of maps to the nine state Welcome Centers, we were told there was no more mailing money for maps in the division budget. That was when the ANA Board came through for agritourism farmers and vineyards on the map. Approximately 65% of those on the map are members of ANA. Approximately 25 non-ANA farmers on the map have joined ANA, bringing the total percentage close to 70%.
Friends, the map paid off for us! At this time, there is well over $9,000 in the ANA bank account.
Again, a huge “THANK YOU” to the ANA Board, as your elected representatives, for making the decision to step in and help us distribute this popular map. At this time, late June, we are once again using division funds to mail maps. It is cheaper to mail a box from the department mail room than it is to mail it from the Post Office or outside UPS. The Department’s contract with UPS is through state government and is an efficient use of funds.
Note about the map: Over 770 invitations were sent out to farmers believed to be involved in agritourism in North Carolina in mid-November 2008. The deadline to return the enclosed application was January 9, 2009. The Marketing Division Art and Design Shop laid out the map, and with text supplied from the applications, the Agritourism Office determined that there was space for 213 farms and vineyards on the map. Before January 9, over 260 applications had been received from the invitations and applications sent out. For that reason, there was no room on the map for some farms and vineyards that applied.
If the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission retains its funding, that is, the funding is not moved into the state budget to make ends meet in the budget fiscal crisis, the Agritourism Office will complete an application for another Tobacco Trust Fund grant to develop three state agritourism maps – one for each of the three state regions – Mountains, Piedmont and Coast.
Recently the Agritourism Office sent a short survey to Extension agents who are 2009 ANA Sponsor members; 2008 ANA Sponsor members who have not yet renewed; agents who attended “The Business Side of Agritourism” conference and are not ANA members; and several tourism professionals in the Department of Commerce who are active in rural tourism.
The survey is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses of the Agritourism Office and the ANA as perceived by those surveyed . Of course, some of those surveyed have not known about the Agritourism Office or ANA.
The surveys are due back July 6. The results will be published as soon as possible.
President Cathy Lewis has asked that a survey be developed to determine how ANA members perceive the ANA – its strengths and weaknesses and other items of interest to the Board. That survey will be distributed via the ANA list serve and will be mailed to members without email.
In addition to the ANA blog which Kristi Marshall designed, Jonathan Bullock has put ANA on Facebook. If you have not used Facebook, it is easy to use, and interesting to check out when you are interested. I now have the ability to promote the Agritourism Office and ANA on Facebook.
For further information on the ANA blog, email email@example.com or for the ANA Facebook page, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Agritourism Office will have a booth at the Goodness Grows in NC tent at the Mountain State Fair this September. If you are interested in helping out at the booth, pick a date and let me know! We will have a different set-up this year – plans are for Marketing Division to have a large tent with different sections’ booths in the tent. More fun, more traffic than in previous years. The Agritourism booth will once again have Sponsors whose farm names, and pictures, are visible to fairgoers. Sponsorship levels will be determined soon.