Agritourism Basics: Tell Your Farm Story
“Keep the farm first,” is one piece of advice Victoria Patterson has for farmers with agritourism operations. Victoria, the administrator for the Visit NC Farms app, an effort of the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), speaks from both professional and personal experience.
“Farmers who are doing agritourism are wearing a lot of hats between farming, event managing, leading tours, and hiring. Remembering what makes your farm unique, what you are doing to farm, your history of farming, and keeping that part of your story at the forefront of your agritourism business is important. That connection is what people really crave. They want that authentic experience.”
In addition to her role with the popular app that connects people with farms statewide, Victoria is part of the fourth generation working at Patterson Farm Market & Tours, Inc., in Mount Ulla, where she serves as the shipping/receiving and quality control manager. She has a degree from N.C. State in agriculture business and minor in parks and tourism.
“It’s important to remember that you are definitely not alone in this,” she adds. “There are so many resources out there to be connected.” Victoria shares a few ways farmers can expand their agritourism knowledge and connect with other farmers and with customers.
- North Carolina Agritourism Networking Association. The nonprofit organization is composed of farmers with a wide range of experience levels, from beginning farmers to seasoned pros with great advice to share. The organization hosts an annual conference and farm tours, opportunities to showcase agritourism efforts and offering farmers a chance to network.
- Monday Marketing Message, brought to you by NCDA&CS, is a weekly email message geared to help agritourism farmers achieve results through proven promotional tools to gain new visitors, enhance farm experiences, and increase sales and overall farm value.
- NC State Extension provides resources at the state or county level. Check with your county about possible workshops, tours, and other resources.
- Visit NC Farm App, is one of many ways you can market your business. It is a marketing tool to help customers find you and know how and where you operate. It is versatile to all different agribusinesses and includes farms from 80-plus counties in the state. In addition to being a great way to get your farm information at the fingertips of people seeking a farm experience, it can be a great way to learn about what other farms are doing. The app includes information in eight categories: farms and fisheries; farmers markets; shop local; itineraries and trips; pick your own; local food & drink; farm stays and lodging; and special events. In addition to having your farm listed on the app, with links to the farm website, any social media channels, and a phone number, the farm can also take advantage of push notifications for anything the farm wants to promote, whether it is a new product in the farm store or tickets for a special event. To learn more, reach out to Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be glad to help put you in touch with your county’s administrator for the app.
- Shoot some videos. Videos help grab and keep attention of customers and potential customers. Videos help increase traffic to websites and social media channels. Keep them short, interesting, and informative. This link to a webinar on a few video basics can be a good review for those already shooting videos as well as a starting point for those wanting to get started.
- Social media connections. While there are many social media platforms available for farmers – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest – you don’t have to be on all of them. Focus on what works for you. According to Pew Research, more than 70 percent of adults use at least one social media site. Being on social media puts you at customers fingertips. This link shares some helpful tips and reminders.
Promoting your farm is important. “If you ask farms or any business owner, I think they always want more customers,” says Victoria, “so reaching more is an important part of promotion. It’s also a way to tell your story. So many people are removed from agriculture that it’s really important for farmers to be able to use their voice and share their story. That helps people get more connected back to agriculture and hopefully realize why it’s important to support local farms and buy food locally.”
In parts 2 and 3 of this 3-part series on agritourism, Lee Cobb, Carolina Farm Credit corporate attorney, will share important considerations when it comes to agritourism, liability, and how to protect your farm.
By Leah Chester-Davis