A recently approved Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant will support an agritourism training project taking place in West Virginia.
“Agritourism and Land Use: Good Neighbors and Good Business for Rural Resilience” is led by project leader Jodi Richmond from WVU Extension – Mercer County Commision.
The project received $149,900 through Northeast SARE’s Professional Development grant program. The Professional Development Grant Program funds train-the-trainer projects that develop the knowledge, awareness, skills and attitudes among the full range of service providers who work with farmers.
Richmond and team will train 300 agricultural service providers and to advise agritourism operators in the liability of their operation, risk management coverage and zoning issues. The long-term impact of the program will be increasing the profitability and sustainability of Agritourism operations.
Agritourism operations increasingly encounter conflict with neighbors over noise, parking, traffic, and other issues, as well as with local government regulators on issues involving zoning and land use. The definition of “agritourism” differs from state-to-state and is often unclear. Although the term implies a connection between the farming operation and tourism activities, operators increasingly employ bounce houses and other party games, haunted houses, petting zoos, hay rides, concerts, movies and other activities that lack a clear connection to the agricultural operation. Neighbors are increasingly complaining about the impacts of these operations.
Over the course of the project, Richmond and team will gather information about this important but often overlooked aspect of agritourism, and educates producers, service providers and others on how to minimize conflicts while maximizing returns to the operator. Innovations include targeting land use planners, local government officials, and attorneys in the education efforts.
This project is one of 69 grant projects, representing $7.1m in funding, recently reviewed by teams of farmers, researchers, educators, and industry and nonprofit representatives and approved by Northeast SARE’s Administrative Council. The Administrative Council is a governance body representing a broad constituency of the Northeast agricultural community.