Assessment of Virginia Agritourism Operations

Gustavo Ferreira, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
Chris Lucha, Graduate Student, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
Martha Walker, Extension Specialist, Community Viability, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Gordon Groover, Extension Economist, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Introduction

Agritourism is a value added activity that generates additional net farm income and creates a loyal consume base for branded farm products (Hawkes, 2013). Agritourism also allows for diversification from production agriculture, making it a low-risk mechanism for farmers to cope with the rising cost of agricultural inputs and technology (Tew and Barbieri, 2010). Agritourism is also a good strategy to cope with bad crop years, disasters, and drought (Hawke, 2013). Other economic and non-economic benefits from agritourism include the preservation of agricultural heritage, maximization of productivity and resources, and improvements in the economic situation of a community (Tew and Barbieri, 2012).

Agritourism in the United States has increased in popularity along with its economic importance. Bernardo (2004) cites that 62 percent of all U.S. adults have taken a trip to a rural destination in the last 3 years. According to the 2012 USDA Census, agritourism income more than doubled since 2002, and it generated an average of about $21,230 per farm for 33,161 farms.

Agriculture is the largest industry in Virginia, with an economic impact of about $52 billion, providing over 357,000 jobs to Virginia’s residents (VDACS, 2013). On the other hand, the tourism sector in Virginia has exhibited a positive market outlook with large impacts in terms of employment, income, and tax revenue both directly and indirectly. With this in mind, Virginia’s agriculture has the opportunity to capitalize on the growth of the tourism sector via agritourism development.

Survey

A study led by agricultural economist and extension specialists was funded by Virginia Tech College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. The goals of this study are to update the knowledge base of Virginia’s agritourism industry, and to identify factors leading to its financial success. Such factors range from operators’ demographic background to the farm’s characteristics.

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Figure 1: Agritourism Operations in Virginia  Source: VDACS Virginia-Grown 2013; Virginia Wine 2013; Pickyourown.org; extension agent correspondence; ArcMap 10.1)

An initial database of Virginia agritourism operations included 511 enterprises supplied by a combination of sources, including; VDACS, 2013; Virginia Wines, 2013; Pickyourown.org, 2013; and extension agents. The final database consists of 471 operations (figure 1), as 40 names were removed from the database for not meeting research protocols. It is important to note that wineries account for nearly half of all Virginia agritourism operations.

A survey was administered based on methods described by Dillman (2014), and it included 33 questions that were separated into six sections: (1) demographic attributes, (2) operation characteristics, (3) financial positioning, (4) obstacles to success in the industry, (5) factors of success in the industry, and (6) future plans and feedback. A total of 243 valid responses were received, which represented a 52 percent response rate. A summary of the survey results will be presented in the next issue of this newsletter. Additionally, an Extension publication will be soon published, and will include a detailed discussion of the findings from this study.

References

Hawkes, Logan (2013). “Tis the Season for Extra Cash.” Southwest Farm Press, Sepetember, pp. 1-3
http://southwestfarmpress.com/management/tis-season-extra-cash?page=1

Dillman, Donald A; Smyth, Jolene D. and Leah melani Christian. Internet, Mail, and Mixed-Model Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.,2014.

Tew, Christine, and Carla Barbieri (2012). “The Perceived Benefits of Agritourism: The Provider’s Perspective.” Tourism Management, 33: 215-224.

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (2013). Virginia Agriculture Facts and Figures. 2012. Web. 25 May
http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/agfacts/

 

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