Vermont Agritourism Project (2019 - 2022)
In 2019, Vermont Fresh Network was awarded a multi-year federal grant by the USDA through the Farmers Market Promotion Program titled...
"Strengthening the Vermont Agritourism Industry Through Expansion of the VT Agritourism Collaborative and Increasing the Effectiveness of DigInVT"
The major project activities of this grant include:
- Open Farm Week: 2020 - 2022
- Create a program to supporting and offer resources to Farm Stays
- Four Regional Mixers with Agritourism stakeholders:
- Partnering with culinary & agritourism stakeholders
- Collaborating with VFN members
- DigInVT Website Dev. and optimization
- Print resources/materials: Technical Assistance
- Marketing & Advertising: Vermont Agritourism
The grant objectives include the following:
Objective 1: Support and expand current efforts to grow agritourism opportunities in VT By strengthening and expanding the technical assistance and educational opportunities available for agritourism businesses the Vermont Agritourism Collaborative aims to improve the ability of farmers to introduce farm stays and other on-farm experiences as part of their business.
- Year 1 2020
- A seven-part webinar series was conducted in response to help Vermont’s farm and food system build resiliency and support safety during the Covid-19 Pandemic and that directly related to our overall project. Subjects included “Direct Sales, eCommerce & Agritourism for Vermont Farms, Virtual Farm & Food Events, and Adapting Your Vermont Pick-Your-Own Operation for Covid-19 Practices, among other important topics relevant to local farms. Led by Lisa Chase at UVM Extension, other partners included Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets, NOFA-VT, Rural Vermont, Vermont Farm to Plate and Vermont Fresh Network.
- “Best Management Practices for Farms Open to Visitors During the COVID-19” University of Vermont(UVM) Extension and Vermont Fresh Network/DigInVT staff worked together on this resource to support agritourism enterprises navigate the regulatory environment. This farmer-friendly publication was shared widely with producers through list-servs and posted on the UVM Extension run “Vermont Agritourism Collaborative” website, DigInVT.com and Vermont Fresh Network for farms open to visitors. A UVM press release announced the publication.
Objective 2: Improve the quality and sustainability of Vermont’s agritourism destinations. Improve Vermont farmers’ and food producers’ knowledge of how to build from agritourism experiences to strengthen customer relationships, resulting in greater product sales, longer farm stays, and return customers.
2021 - 2022 A state wide Vermont Marketing Strategy: (In process)
Objective 3: Host and promote opportunities for consumers to have on-farm and agritourism experiences to increase consumer knowledge of farming and build strong relationships between consumers and farmers.
2020 Year 1
- The 6th Annual Open Farm Week (August 10-16, 2020) included twenty participating farms with thirty unique events. Some of those unique events were offered on multiple days and/or multiple times per day at each farm. 2020 was not like any other year for Vermont Open Farm Week. It was smaller than previous years, because of the added complexity of a Covid-19. However, we believe it was a successful effort. We took the opportunity to develop and to try new types of visitor interaction and farm participation including virtual, socially distant picnics, and events to pre-register for, which we will continue to offer in years ahead. 18 thematic blog posts were published on DigInVT.com, and 32 DiginVT Facebook and 27 DigInVT Instagram posts highlighting participants and promoting the week. In our paid advertising schedule, we utilized digital, print and radio to promote the week long event. 34,000 print inserts run in weekly free independent newspaper Seven Days Vermont. We underwrote a Vermont Public Radio schedule with 40 on-air radio spots for 25,000 impressions and 25,000 digital impressions through their mobile app. We also received earned media through local TV news and print.
- As part of our effort to further develop the experience of exploring farms and the Vermont agricultural community, the Open Farm Week committee began a subgroup to develop a Farm Walk/hike trail network. This program launched during Open Farm Week with 9 farms offering walking trails. (At the end of 2020, we added winter trails to the project.)
- We conducted a post event online survey of farms that participated to assess how they benefited. Of the 20 farms that participated in OFW, 8 responded to the online survey for a response rate of 40 percent. Of those that responded to the survey, 100 percent felt that OFW should happen again. When asked how OFW was beneficial, 100 percent of respondents selected “Very Helpful” or “Helpful” for at least one benefit. Specifically, 100 percent reported OFW was helpful for attracting new customers/visitors, 75 percent said it was helpful for increasing sales, and 63 percent said it was helpful for increasing profits. In addition, 100 percent said it was helpful for building or strengthening relationships that support their farm, 63 percent said it was helpful for gaining experience for themselves and their staff and 100 percent reported that it was helpful for educating customers/visitors about farms and food.
- Year 2 2021
- The 7th Annual Open Farm Week (August 8-15, 2021) came back strong with 45 participating farms and over 100 unique events/ Some of those unique events were offered on multiple days and/or multiple times per day at each farm.
Objective 4: Reduce the perception of regulatory frameworks as a barrier to entering the
- Year 2 2021
- "Guide for Navigating Vermont Agritourism Regulations” University of Vermont(UVM) Extension and Vermont Fresh Network/DigInVT staff worked together on this resource to support agritourism enterprises navigate the regulatory environment. This farmer-friendly publication was shared widely with producers through list-servs and posted on the UVM Extension run “Vermont Agritourism Collaborative” website, DigInVT.com and Vermont Fresh Network for farms open to visitors. A UVM press release announced the publication.
- Farm stay booking site comparison table: University of Vermont Extension, in collaboration with Vermont Fresh Network, Dig In Vermont and Farm Stay USA, developed a comparison table to help agritourism operators make informed decisions about listing and booking farm stays and on-farm experiences This farmer-friendly publication was shared widely with producers through list-servs and posted on the UVM Extension run “Vermont Agritourism Collaborative” website, DigInVT.com and Vermont Fresh Network for farms open to visitors. A UVM press release announced the publication.