TN Agritourism

In Tennessee, farms aren’t just for farmers. In fact, more than 700 farms give the public an opportunity to do everything from picking fruits and vegetables to riding a horse to enjoying a corn maze. Families can also enjoy fishing, festivals, hay rides and summer camps. Adults can visit the state’s wineries, and even choose a tranquil rural farm setting for their wedding or other special event.

And while time down on the farm can be lots of fun, it can be educational, too, says Pamela Bartholomew, agritourism and farmers market marketing specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).

“One of the reasons that the interest in agritourism has grown so much is because people want to learn about agriculture. They want that hands-on experience that helps them understand and remember where their food comes from and what is required to operate a farm every day.”

That interest stems from the fact that many people are three or four generations removed from the family farm, Bartholomew says. “Encouraging people to see for themselves how today’s farm operates and how that work impacts them directly is especially important to bridging that gap.”

TDA supports the efforts of agritourism destinations by offering marketing assistance and hosting workshops and conferences that bring farmers together to talk about what works well and how best to attract and keep customers.

“Marketing is a huge issue for farmers,” Bartholomew says. “They are used to growing and selling their products, not marketing the farm experience. We help them to learn how to develop a brand for their farm, how to work with the media and how to provide great customer service. They can’t just say: ‘If we build it, they will come.’ They have to be innovative and consistent if they want to get people to visit and return again.”

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The Center for Profitable Agriculture, a partnership between the University of Tennessee Extension Service and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, also reaches out to farmers who are interested in exploring agritourism as a way to add value to their operation, to improve their income, and to increase their share of the consumer’s dollar. Some of the services the center provides include: evaluating the cost of starting a new enterprise, navigating regulatory issues and identifying a potential market.

To learn more about the 700 agritourism destinations, visit PickTNProducts.org and click on Farm Fun and Education.

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