Exploring Consumer Interest in Agritourism Venues Located in the New River Valley

Gustavo Ferreira, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
French Price, Undergraduate Student, Virginia Tech
Amanda Mitcheltree, Undergraduate Student, Virginia Tech
Chelsea Abbott, Undergraduate Student, Virginia Tech
Christine Stephan, Undergraduate Student, Virginia Tech
Kim Morgan, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

1. Introduction

Agritourism is a value-added activity that generates additional net farm income and creates a loyal consumer base for branded farm products. Agritourism also allows for diversification of income sources, thus decreasing market risk exposure. Agritourism is a good strategy to cope with bad crop years, disasters, and drought. 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.

Agritourism is rapidly growing in Virginia, especially among existing agricultural operations seeking alternative sources of income and/or mitigation of risk. While there is no universal definition of agritourism in the United States, the current study used the definition outlined by the state of Virginia. The Virginia General Assembly defined an “agritourism activity” as:

“any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, wineries, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions. Any activity is an agritourism activity whether or not the participant paid to participate in the activity.” (Code of Virginia § 3.2-6400).

This study presents the findings of a consumer survey that included questions evaluating respondents’ perceptions and preferences relative to agritourism in the New River Valley (NRV) region and Virginia Tech campus. The main objective of this analysis is to assess consumers’ interest and potential expenditure levels for varying types of agritourism operations located in this region.

Survey Location Survey Responses
Blacksburg Farmers Market 5
Homestead Creamery 22
Roanoke Food Cooperative 23
Virginia Tech Dairy Showcase Sale 26
Joe’s Trees 108
TOTAL 184

Table 1. New River Valley survey responses, by survey location.

2.Survey Results

A survey was conducted by Virginia Tech students in the Kohl Centre to assess the consumer interest in agritourism operating in the NRV area and Virginia Tech campus.  As shown on Table 1, the survey was administered in five different venues in the counties of the NRV region and in Virginia Tech campus.These locations included farmers markets, food cooperatives, agricultural events on campus, and agritourism venues.

2.1 New River Valley

The first two questions gauged respondents’ levels of interest in visiting an education agritourism venue and their willingness to travel to visit such venues. On a Likert scale of 0-4 (0 being not interested and 4 being very interested), the level of interest in visiting an educational agritourism venue was fairly high amongst the five polling locations, with an average score of 3.5. Almost half of the respondents stated that they are willing to travel between 30 and 60 minutes, and only 28 percent are willing to travel beyond one hour.

Table 2: Average respondent likelihood to travel to an education agritourism venue (where 0=very unlikely and 4=very likely).

Survey Location Average Likelihood to Travel to an Educational Agritourism Venue
Blacksburg Farmers Market 3.8
Homestead Creamery 3.6
Roanoke Food Cooperative 3.5
Virginia Tech Dairy Showcase Sale 3.5
Joe’s Trees 3.2

Figure 1: Respondents’ traveling distance to visit an educational agritourism venue.

graph

When asked how much they previously spent at agritourism venues, 36 percent of respondents reported spending between $11 and $30 per visit, with the majority of people spending between $1 and $60 per visit (124 out of 136 respondents).

Figure 2: Average dollar amount spent per respondent visit to an agritourism venue.

graph1

In order to understand respondents’ agritourism preferences, we asked what types of activities were included on the venues they visited in the past year. These included barnyard animals, gardens, agricultural technologies, crops, on-site market, pick-your-own produce, scenery, music and entertainment, adult beverages, education, and others. The top three categories were barnyard animals, pick-your-own produce, and gardens, respectively.

Figure 3: All activities attended during a visit to an agritourism venue in the past 12 months.

graph32.2 Virginia Tech

NRV consumers were also asked about their willingness to visit an education agritourism venue locate in the Virginia Tech campus. With a 3.1 average score, results reveal that, respondents are likely to visit an agritourism venue on campus.

Table 3: Average respondent likelihood to travel to an education agritourism venue located at Virginia Tech (where 0=very unlikely and 4=very likely).

Survey Location Average Likelihood to Travel to a Virginia Tech Agritourism Venue
Blacksburg Farmers Market 3.0
Homestead Creamery 2.8
Roanoke Food Cooperative 3.1
Virginia Tech Dairy Showcase Sale 3.5
Joe’s Trees 3.1

When asked which types of agritourism activities respondents would like to see implemented on Virginia Tech’s campus, the most popular activities were onsite market, barnyard animals, pick-your-own and education, respectively. Such preferences indicate that they value the opportunity to buy local agricultural products on site as well as educational opportunities.

Figure 4. Priority assessment of education agritourism activities offered on Virginia Tech’s campus (where 1=NOT A PRIORITY, 2 =LOW, 3=MEDIUM, and 4 = HIGH PRIORITY).

 

graph4

When asked if they would be willing to purchase-value added products from a Virginia Tech agritourism operation, a total of 89 percent of respondents answered positively. This lends, once again, support to the idea that visitors will be willing to spend money during their visits to an on-campus agritourism venue.

Figure 5. Respondents’ interest in purchasing value-added products such as cheeses, wines, and/or produce during a visit to an agritourism venue at Virginia Tech.

graph5

On the other hand, question 11 assessed the willingness to spend money during a visit to a Virginia Tech agritourism venue. More than half of the respondents (56 percent) claimed that they would spend between $11 and $20 dollars, which shows that consumers are willing to support Virginia Tech branded agricultural-related products. Such amounts are in accordance with previous agritourism expenditure patterns revealed in question 6.

Figure 6: Respondents’ interest in purchasing value-added food products during a visit to an agritourism venue at Virginia Tech.

graph6

3. Conclusions

Results show that many agritourism visitors in the NRV region are willing to travel at least 30 minutes. This information allows agritourism operators to better target their marketing and promotional efforts to a specific geographic area. Marketing efforts should be focused towards activities that are both educational and provide a place for consumers looking to spend up to $20 on value-added products.

Respondents also indicate a strong interest in visiting an educational agritourism operation hosted on the Virginia Tech campus. The most desired on-campus agritourism features include barnyard animals, pick-your-own crops, and an onsite market featuring VT-branded items. With regards to the latter, 89 percent of all respondents stated that they would purchase Virginia Tech-sourced value-added products.

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One Response to Exploring Consumer Interest in Agritourism Venues Located in the New River Valley

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