Connecting producer, consumer
Agritourism is quickly becoming a new business option for farmers to interact with local customers.
Wea Creek Orchard, Lafayette, was a family-owned farm that its owner, Perry Kirkham, turned into a tree orchard in 2010. He researched differed ideas, but the orchard seemed most practical for the area.
As consumers become more interested in where their food comes from, it becomes more important for producers to reach out and educate them.
• Research before starting an enterprise improves the odds of success.
• A broad variety of things qualifies as agritourism.
• Agritourism brings producers and consumers together.
Agritourism destinations serve as a liaison between the consumer and the producer. Maria Marshall, a Purdue University Extension ag economist, feels that in this way, the agritourism sector of agriculture is very different from Indiana’s traditional ag.
“By building a marketing strategy and building a reputation to get loyal customers, they bring customers directly to the farm,” Marshall says. “It’s a more hands-on approach.”
Reach the audience
Wea Creek Orchard has both a website and a Facebook page. Marketing to a targeted audience should also include local newspaper advertisements, suggests Kirkham.
He uses newspapers to reach families near his business. He uses Facebook to stay in touch with customers and answer questions. He also promotes hayrides and pumpkin sales in the fall on Facebook.
Many weddings are also held in the rustic setting Kirkham created. The idea started when Kirkham’s own daughter wanted to get married at the orchard.
The website helps Kirkham give customers directions to the farm.
ISDA can help
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture can help potential producers market their agritourism businesses. Marshall says ISDA has offered value-added grants and marketing grants to help producers. ISDA has put together a directory and created Market Maker online; see www.in.gov/isda/2418.htm or www.inmarketmaker.com.
Marshall attributes the growth in agritourism over the past 10 years to diversification in farming and a more direct approach to selling to consumers.
“In Indiana it’s more of a niche market, but it’s an important and strong one,” she says. “I think it’s getting stronger every year, with more people wanting to buy local food and know where their food comes from. It’s also helping to market agriculture and increase the image of agriculture.”
Indiana’s agritourism market can help bridge a gap between producer and consumer. “It’s a small segment, but it has a lot of close ties to the consumer,” Marshall concludes.
Martin is a senior in ag communications at Purdue University.
Photos courtesy of Perry Kirkham
This article published in the March, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.