Our tour stop at The Great Pumpkin Patch last summer. Join us for this year’s Agritourism Workshop!
Last June, we held a training on agritourism to help farmers understand how to invite the public onto their farms. It was a great three days of speakers, tours, and food for over a dozen students. Among them was Michael Adsit, farm advisor at Plymouth Apple Orchards and Cider Mill in Plymouth, MI. I saw Michael again in March at our Organic Grain Transition Seminar and he was raving about his experience at the agritourism training the summer before. So, I got Michael on the phone recently to find out why exactly he came all the way down here for the agritourism training and what he gained from it.
“It actually started a year before, in Chicago at the Good Food Festival,” Michael said. “There was a section on social media marketing, when the guy from Red Meat Market spoke. It really got me hooked on the idea of tying our product to social media.” As I was listening to Michael, I realized he was referring to a session I was also at during the Good Food Festival. Just then he said, “you stood up at the end and announced your agritourism program, and that’s what really motivated me to come.”
“The most important thing I gained [from the agritourism training] was the people’s real-life experiences. Hearing from actual farmers who have done this stuff helped crystallize my thinking.”
Michael was director of the Tourism Division for Illinois in the 1970s and understands what it takes to get people to show up. However, he says he didn’t really embrace social media for Plymouth Orchards until he came to our workshop. “I learned that I should use my website as a business card but that Facebook and the other outlets really need to be pushed out there first. I went home and punched up our Facebook page. Since the workshop, we have gone from 300 followers to over 10,000 with a 15-18% increase in traffic and a huge bump in sales.
He said the value of it can’t be underestimated. “If you’re interested in direct marketing, you’ve got to learn these techniques.”
He also credits Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, where the workshop was held, for setting a good example. “Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband are just geniuses. Their newsletter is perfect; you look forward to it every week. You feel like you’re part of the family. It’s a classic example of email marketing.
“You fall in love with those goats and you don’t even know them!”
In the end, Michael notes that adding an agritourism enterprise is a good idea for almost any farm business. “Agritourism is far more profitable than growing crops. It’s that simple. You can add value to whatever you grow. Normally I can get $10/bushel for my apples, but with the added value, I can get $40/bushel. As a farmer, you have to maximize your income streams.”
This year, we’re doing a slimmed-down, two-day version of our Agritourism Workshop. We’ll still have a lot of great speakers, a full-day tour of local farms including Curtis Orchards and Sleepy Creek Vineyards, and the always excellent cuisine of Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery. Scholarships are available, and early bird registration ends July 1!
Michael (bottom left corner) and the rest of the class listen to Wes Jarrell of Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery discuss his farm’s many events.