Agritourism Workshop Helps Va. Farmers Connect People & Land

 Virginia Cooperative Extension

Virginia Cooperative Extension

"Agritourism" is a word you may never have heard, but you've probably taken part in it somewhere in the Chesapeake Bay region. It includes activities ranging from winery tours to farm weddings to pumpkin patch hayrides.

A blend of "agriculture" and "tourism," the term is defined as "whenever you come onto a farm for an experience," according to Martha Walker, from Virginia Tech's Virginia Cooperative Extension.

And it's becoming an important part of the tourism industry in the Bay states. In 2016, Virginia agritourism generated a $1.5 billion economic impact, drawing in more than 7.5 million visitors, almost half of whom were from out of town.

Now, the state is offering a workshop to help more farmers get in the game. The free "Agritourism in Virginia's New Economy" workshop, offered on Tuesday, February 13 in Smithfield, Virginia, will give farmers an idea of the possibilities, as well as details from experts on how to make it happen.

Agritourism extends beyond farmland, too: it includes "aquatourism," where tourists can learn about producers on the water, like the oyster farms on Virginia's Eastern Shore and Northern Neck. Virginia's "Salty Southern Route," a cultural and culinary trail, is a joint tourism effort of the towns of Franklin and Smithfield, Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry Counties, and the city of Suffolk, Virginia.

On the land or the water, Virginia tourism leaders say agritourism is a growing opportunity for farmers to build their enterprise. Says Martha Walker, "People are looking for that experience. They want to enjoy the view, see the animals, and connect with the land."

The workshop is February 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Smithfield Center in Smithfield, Virginia. Those interested must register by Monday, February 5. Contact Judy Winslow at the Smithfield & Isle of Wight CVB by calling 757-357-5182 (and tell the operator you are registering for the Agritourism meeting) or emailjwinslow@iwus.net

The workshop is presented by the tourism offices in Smithfield and Isle of Wight County, Surry County, Suffolk Tourism, Franklin and Southampton County Economic Development, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and The Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Bay Bulletin